Some women complain about having a bad hair day. I’ve had a bad hair life.
No, really. I’ve been traumatized since the age of five, when my mother got a home barber kit and shaved me bald. I told Mom she “scalped” me (lots of Westerns were on TV those days) and I wouldn’t go out to play – I didn’t want the neighbor kids to see me.
In kindergarten I had a pixie cut that made me look like an elf on drugs. Next were the “parlor perms” in our neighbor’s basement beauty shop, with its lilac and gold vinyl-covered chairs and perforated bubble hair dryers, listening to “ Blabbit to the Rabbit” on KXOK, drinking ice cold Grape Nehi. I came home with bangs that looked like a roll of quarters and a frizzy blonde page boy. Mom thought it was adorable, but I wanted to wear a stocking cap in August.
Worst of all were those awful home perms…Mom parting my hair with a metal rattail comb, pulling and yanking to keep my baby-fine hair on the plastic snap rollers, stabbing my sore scalp with those plastic toothpick things …I’d complain and wiggle and she’d tell me to “Sit still!” for the hundredth time and tell me about “the price of beauty…”
But I knew the agony had just begun when she’d say those dreadful three little words: “Cover your eyes!” Next she’d pour the ice cold ammonia-based curling solution all over my hair, chemicals dripping all over and the fumes burning my eyes, finishing the torture session off by wrapping my head in a stupid plastic sack. I could hardly wait until the timer went off and it was time to neutralize (more cold stinky liquid) and finally rinse a little of the stench away. She’d unroll my hair and see “if it took”. When wet, I had limp Spaghetti –O’s for hair. When dry, I had crispy, crunchy frizz that felt like I was wearing a loofah sponge helmet. I wanted to cry, but Mom was thrilled and told me that I’d look nice for grade school picture day tomorrow. ..More humiliation….
In my teen years I rebelled and wore my hair hippie-style, long, straight, parted down the middle, like Alfalfa on “Spanky and Our Gang”. When the babies came, I cut my hair. I was tired of having it pulled out by tiny fistfuls.
Next came the department-store salon perms, holiday gifts from family members who felt sorry for me and my bad hair. Those underpaid stylists did what they could with what they had to work with.
Once I went through a sassy stage, had my hair buzzed short all over, even shaved on the back of my neck. I liked it – no one else did. But the following year I was depressed, working in a dead-end job, and I just did not care. My hair grew out. I shampooed and ran a comb over it, but that was it.
One year, I had renewed hope. I traveled to Europe. I thought having my hair done in a chic Amsterdam boutique would be my salvation. But my stylist was having a bad night, there was a language gap, and I ended up with asymmetrical bangs and no idea how to wear my hair the next day. I met my future husband then – later, he told me that when we met, he thought I had a weird haircut, but figured it would grow out.
At an all-time fashion and budget low, I gave up and went to a cheap chop shop. I told the gum-chewing youngster to quit halfway through, after she cut a big chunk off my crown. She was shameless, careless, and dangerously armed with shears and an attitude. It took a year to grow it back.
So I tried the guaranteed “easy maintenance” short and curly all over look – until someone remarked on my “poodle-doo” – I won’t do that again.
Now I have reached the age of “to dye, or not to dye – that is the question…” Even if I use the curling iron, the arthritis in my hand ensures I don’t get carried away!
Once I had a make-over. It was disappointing. I gave them points for trying so hard.
Every stylist I meet takes my hair as a personal challenge, to see how much volume he or she can whip into these baby-fine wisps. They tease, taunt, gel, mousse, pomade, scrunch, cut, curl, and dye it–and then spray it with enough sneeze-inducing lacquer to make my hair bulletproof – until I wash it, and then I am on my own again, with my “straight and straggly hair”, just like Mom always said. Not quite curled, not quite dyed, not quite natural, definitely not quite in-style. I call it my “I don’t know what else to do with it” look.
I need a miracle worker of the follicle variety. Some divine hair intervention or a really good wig, because believe me, I’ve had a lifetime of bad hair days!
Kerry Vincent (c) 2013