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Mistaken Identity

Twice this week I went past what could be called “the hairdressers’ mile”. One street entered my memory as having just as many hairdressing salons, as Indian take-aways: every third or fourth building on both sides of the street would be either one, or another.

This made me remember a true story that happened to me when I was a little girl, between 3 and 5 years old. And so to take your attention off my Carmarthen discoveries for a bit, I’ll tell you this story.

When I was little, I sometimes wished I were a boy. My parents looked well after me, which meant that I was never running on my own. I envied other children, mainly boys, who would climb the trees and played active games. I think my grandma was quite protective, but for a good reason: I was a somewhat clumsy child, which resulted in regular bruises on my knees, even though I didn’t run much.

Subconsciously (at that time), I also loved the male 1970s fashion, and especially the way male actors used to dress. Back then I wasn’t familiar with any big names, but think of Michael Caine in Get Carter, Yves Montand, or Marcello Mastroianni, to get an idea. Those men exuded the traits I found attractive, without yet realising it: intelligence, confidence, sense of humour, elegance, to name but a few. I must have seen a few political thrillers, as well, and I adored those male detectives who worked on the most challenging cases. Once, when I and my grandma with her sister went shopping, I decided to imitate a man’s walk. I was 4 or 5, and I was dressed in trousers, so I shoved my hands in my pockets, bent my shoulders slightly forward, and imagined myself being one of those shrewd detectives. Next I heard my grandma, who was behind me:

‘Yulia, straighten yourself, you’re walking like a bloke!’

Obviously, she couldn’t know that that was the idea…

Anyway, one day the unthinkable happened. My grandma took me to the hairdressers. I wore red tartan overalls and a red turtleneck, and my hair had grown well below my shoulders. Back then I used to wear a bob, although without a fringe.

So, we went to the local hairdressers, and my grandma entrusted me to this voluptuous blond lady in glasses, who put a small bench on the chair and sat me on it, because I was still too small. Then she started working on my hair. When she finished, she called for my gran.

I’ll never forget my grandma’s terrified ‘ah’, as she entered the room.

‘How could you lop the girl so short?!’

Indeed, instead of my usual bob, I had a typical Crew cut.

The voluptuous blond lady, undeterred, looked at my grandma, then at me, shrugged her shoulders, and replied:

‘A girl? I thought it was a boy’.

‘But you must’ve seen her hair!’

‘Yes, but she’s wearing trousers, isn’t she?’


So far I’ve mostly been an online recluse. There were a couple of photos that I posted to a couple of public online profiles, but there it ended. However, as I was writing this post I felt so tempted to show you a few of my favourite childhood photos that I asked my mother to see, if she could scan them, as obviously the family album is in Moscow. My mother wouldn’t be herself if she didn’t manage to scan the pictures, for which I am immensely thankful to her. My thanks also go to her colleague Viktor, who did the scanning.

As I said, these three photos are my favourite childhood pictures. They were taken by my father and date back to 1982; on them I’m less than 2 years old. In 1982, my dad would be my age, between 25 and 30, and he loved photography. Together with passion for Beatles, the interest in photography is one of the things I inherited from him. As you can see, he wasn’t content with just one camera, so he had two. The pictures were taken separately, but they do make a nice triptych. :-))

1982 would be the last year when my parents were together, so although I don’t remember anything about when or how these pictures were taken, pictures are special for personal reasons. My father and I have always known each other, and these days we keep in touch by email. From what I gather he doesn’t use his camera as often. So I guess, by the quantity of pictures I take, I do it for the two of us.

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