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Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Long Beautiful Hair

By Kay Richard of Letters From New England

I was bald when I was born and stayed that way for longer than my mother would have liked. In most of my baby pictures, I’m all ears. By the time I was a toddler, mom managed to scrape enough hair together to pull into the center of my head in a ponytail that resembled a cocktail shrimp.

Alas, around the age of four, I was finally able to give my mom the pleasure of braiding my hair and placing lovely ribbons on the ends. Day after day, she brushed and tugged and plaited my hair. When I finally headed toward academic life, Mom got a full time job and taking the time to put those darling braids in my hair just couldn’t be managed. I was plopped onto the kitchen counter with a towel pinned around me and a bowl on my head.

All of that long, beautiful hair was now lying on the kitchen floor. If I moved, and the bowl slid, I ended up with an asymmetrical haircut a decade earlier than they would become popular. And my bangs - UGGGH! They were no more than an inch long, exposing my wide forehead and leaving me nothing to hide behind. To this day, I won’t let anyone else cut my bangs.

I sat next to Sally in first grade. She had long, wavy blond hair, green eyes and pink heart shaped lips. Even when she was mad, she looked puckered for a kiss. It’s hard to image a first grade girl commanding so much attention, but even at the tender age of five, boys were falling all over themselves to get a nod from her. I wanted wavy blond hair more than I wanted a pony.

I made mention of that wavy hair to my mom and Aunt Evelyn one day, and before I had a chance to say “no thanks”, the Toni Home Perm box was on the table and my hair was wrapped in tight little rods all over my head. When they finally came out and my mother actually BRUSHED that mess, I looked like I’d stuck my finger in a light socket. “Hey, who did your hair? Mass Electric? Ha ha blah”. I vowed never to have a perm again.

My bland, stick straight, brown hair pretty much haunted me until I hit high school. Finally, FINALLY, MY hair was all the rage! Long, straight, boring! While my friends were buying straightening solution and laying their faces down on their ironing boards, all I had to do was run a rat-tail comb down the center of my had and let my flat hair be its own natural self!

That didn’t stop me from sprucing it up a bit - I mean, it WAS the 60’s, right? I put a bottle of summer blonde on my head and baked myself in the sun for a few hours. When that wasn’t enough, Estelle and I chipped in for a bottle of Nice ‘N Easy Blonde and Beautiful and put two-inch streaks on either side of our faces.

I topped this mass of fashion off with a headband made of the material I’d used to put a fake patch on the ass of my hip-hugger bell bottoms. I breezed through the remainder of the 60s, confident that my hair was the envy of 75 percent of the girls in my school. I tossed it around like a mane, ridiculous in my greatness.

Then a new television show hit the airwaves and my confidence fled like the thief it was. All of had bouncy, wavy hair - but Farrah had the hair every female between the ages of 11 and 50 wanted to copy.

By this time, my cousin had entered Henry’s School of Hair Design and I was the unlucky recipient of one of the first Farrah Fawcett look-alike haircuts. I watched my long locks slide to the salon floor, my heart thumping as it always does when I’ve realized, too late, that I’ve made a huge mistake. Georgette was coming at me with a hot curling iron, and I watched in horror as steam rose from my hair, leaving behind the stupid banana curls Shirley Temple used to wear!

She tried, really she did. She brushed it backwards, forwards, up and out. No matter what she attempted, I looked less like Farrah and more like Eric’s mother, Kitty, on That 70’s Show. I cried all the way home; I cried every time I looked in a mirror, actually. I couldn’t begin to copy (though I tried) even the disaster that Georgette had attempted on my head. A curling iron in my hands is like a blow torch.

So, I was left with the Buster Brown haircut (minus the shoes) that I began school with over a decade before. Needless to say, I let it grow and didn’t go near a hair salon until David Lee Roth made straight hair impossible to wear.

They all did it. Roth, Bon Jovi, the entire crew of White Snake. Long, spiral curls, BIG hair. 80s hair. Did I dare do it again?

By now, another cousin (Georgette's sister, oddly enough) had gone to Henry’s School of Hair Design, so I enlisted her help in getting back in style. The number of spiral rods on my head made me look like a creation in Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. My neck hurt from holding my head up and I had to hold a facecloth over my nose so I wouldn’t gag on the stench of perm solution. But, I couldn’t have just permed hair. Noooo. I had to have FROSTED permed hair.

Once the perm rods were removed, she put a rubber cap on my head and began pulling minute amounts of hair with a crochet hook through the little holes in the cap. 45 minutes later, I looked like a spider plant. Then she pasted it down with a hair bleaching solution and we watched the clock tick away.

When the appropriate amount of time had passed, she washed the hair out and we took a look at the color. WOW. It was so blond! I couldn’t wait to see what it would look like mixed in with my other darker hair. She dried and plumped and picked away, and then I was spun around to face the mirror. I’ll be damned if I wasn’t the epitome of fashion! I was beside myself in greatness once again! Look at that hair! Look at me flip it to and fro! Look at me sashaying out the door!

Of course that look disappeared and was replaced with “Rachel” hair. Although I loved the show, there was no way I was going to chance ending up with my Buster Brown hair at 40 something, so didn’t even ASK if it was a possibility.

At my age now, I suppose I should be less vain and more practical. But, unlike some of my friends, I just can’t seem to let go of hair color and somewhat stylish cuts. I switch it up now and again, but don’t seem to be quite as concerned as my younger self as to what’s hot and what’s not. Just the fact that I still HAVE hair is enough to make me smile. If I can beat it into submission most mornings before I go to work, that’s usually enough for me. Although, have you noticed lately how many of today’s actresses are sporting long, straight hair? I wonder...

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Hi Kay,

I loved the way you told this story.I was with you all the way. I'm glad that once in a while you were happy with your styling.

Once when we were at an Air Force Base in Virginia ,the Chaplain and his wife lived in our neighborhood.

Shirley had always wanted to have blonde streaks in her brown hair but couldn't afford it on a Chaplain's salary, so a few of us decided that it couldn't be too hard to do and proceeded to streak her hair one Saturday morning.

We put holes in a bathing cap (Remind you of Lucy and Ethel yet?),
and pulled her brown hair through. Then we put Clairol # 45 golden blonde on her brown tresses.

When the proscribed time was up and we removed the bathing cap, she was
a blonde bombshell. Honestly, she looked like a Playboy centerfold and that was not good if you were the Chaplain'wife and were expected to teach Sunday School the next morning.

So, there was only one thing to do. We all chipped in and sent her to a real hairdresser that afternoon. When she returned she was the old Shirley with the dark brown hair and the Chaplain was none the wiser.

I think with all that tinkering and perming and brushing and fixing that you are lucky you still have your hair. Great story!

I loved your story, Kay. Your descriptions of the results of the many hair styles you endured are just wonderful. I laughed out loud when you said you looked like a spider plant.
I guess many of us have tried to emulate the latest Hollywood hair style; usually with dire results.

Oh, lordy, does this remind me of my own hair adventures!

My own long blonde locks were shorn for the Shag haircut fashion. What the heck was I thinking?

My straight fine hair looked like strands of broken, uneven spaghetti sticks. I never could manage the brush and blow dry technique the way the salonist did, either.

Great story, Kay. I enjoyed each "adventure" as you spelled it out. Hair. That song had it right.

Been there. Burned the shirt. Love the story!

I loved reading this, and I could have written most of it, as I experienced most of the same styles. Luckily I escaped the long, straight hair of the 80's.

When I read about your Toni permanent, I could almost smell the aroma of my aunt's house. She did our hair in those days, and I always hoped to look like Annette Funicello. Scandinavian hair just doesn't make the grade!

I'm sure we could all recognize a decade just by the hair styles! Thanks for a fun trip through the memory salon.

Beauty shops were never kind to me in my younger days. I remember when a bunch of us girls decided to get our hair done for the Prom ... what a mistake! When I saw the finished product in the mirror ... front and back ... I almost burst into tears. The saucy, outspoken girl I was quietly answered, "It's nice" when asked by the stylist if I liked it. I paid her, tipped her, went home and quickly stuck my head under the faucet.

Now I find I am not near so picky. Relaxing at the beauty shop that is buzzing with gossip and laughing women is so enjoyable that by the time I look in the mirror ... front and back ... I am almost always pleased.

Your story made me laugh as it is a typical story from the 60's on and I am sure there are many of us who relate. It was well written!

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