Pat McDer­mott

“Blessed” with a head of be­wil­der­ing curls at birth, Pat McDer­mott feels vin­di­cated when hair that stands up and fights back makes a come­back.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS - To con­nect with Pat on Facebook, visit www.facebook.com/PatMcDer­mot­tau.

WHEN WERE YOU born, Nanny?”

“Quite a long time ago in a land far away.”

“Was it so long ago there were drag­ons?”

“It was. There were drag­ons with huge wings and sharp claws, and they breathed fire.”

“Don’t mind Nanny,” said my big daughter to her lit­tle daughter. “She’s pulling your leg.”

“Nanny wouldn’t pull my leg,” Sweet Pea replied, in­dig­nantly. “But drag­ons do, don’t they, Nanny! Drag­ons pull off your legs and then they eat them!” she said, cheer­fully.

Cap­tain Smi­ley, three years younger and with less ex­pe­ri­ence of the leg-pulling and eat­ing habits of drag­ons, looked worried. I broke out the choco­late bis­cuits and turned on Play School be­fore the af­ter­noon de­te­ri­o­rated fur­ther.

De­tails of my birth, like those of most peo­ple my age, are sketchy. No de­liv­ery room videos, no blow-by-blow ac­counts, no birth coaches, not even a black and white photo.

Mum said I was a grumpy lit­tle thing, but I had the good for­tune to be born with “nat­u­rally curly” hair. Two things might ex­plain why

I was grumpy. My older, smarter sis­ter had the best bed­room and I was stuck with a head of un­con­trol­lable “nat­u­rally curly” hair. I was five min­utes old and al­ready

I knew my best friends would be a hair dryer and a straight­en­ing iron.

Early baby pho­tos show me star­ing un­hap­pily from un­der a tan­gled mass of brown curls. At 14 months old, I have the worried look of some­one pray­ing the hair­dresser can fit them in to­day.

A later photo shows me with long ringlets. I re­mem­ber a teary hour be­fore my sixth birth­day, be­ing told, “If you just stood still, it wouldn’t hurt so much!”.

By the time I was 14, al­most ev­ery­body in Teen Girl World had straight, glossy blonde hair. The only ones who didn’t had straight, glossy brown hair. A great deal of hair toss­ing went on in class. Sit­ting im­me­di­ately be­hind one of these girls was dan­ger­ous. Yet, de­spite the risk, there were a lot of vol­un­teers among the boys.

And then there was me. Of course, I prac­tised toss­ing in the pri­vacy of my bed­room, but it’s hard when your hair is a mass of short, di­shev­elled curls. A boy I liked (a lot) told me I looked like I read poetry. That kept me go­ing for al­most a year.

On hot sum­mer days, I had to min­imise the time my hair and I were out­side to­gether. After five min­utes, lit­tle ten­drils curled sneak­ily along the back of my neck. After 10 min­utes, the fringe I sticky-taped to my fore­head the night be­fore curled up like a roller door.

When I com­plained, my mother pointed to her friends, 12 women who gos­siped side by side un­der the dry­ers at the lo­cal beauty par­lour ev­ery Satur­day morn­ing. “Ev­ery one of those ladies would pay good money to have hair like yours!” Sadly, at­tempts to sell mine came to noth­ing.

I slept on giant rollers with bris­tles sharp enough to scrub pots, fol­lowed by 20 years of blow-dry­ing un­til my arms ached and five more years learn­ing to use a straight­en­ing iron with­out burn­ing my fin­gers or set­ting fire to a towel. Imag­ine my de­light, then, when I read a few weeks ago in the Style sec­tion of The New York Times that “nat­u­ral curls are slowly mak­ing their way back into fash­ion”.

I wasn’t happy about the “slow” part, but that’s the thing about curly hair – it has its own timetable. I couldn’t wait to tell the MOTH (the Man of the House). “Di­sheveled and bouncy is in. Curly hair is loud and has a lot to say,” I read to him. “It’s of­fi­cially okay to have hair that stands up and fights back.”

“Sounds like you all right,” said the MOTH, stroking his beard. I know he won’t mind me telling you the hairs on his head are now so scarce the kids have given each one a name.

I’m off to feed the drag­ons, curls bounc­ing.

On hot sum­mer days, I had to min­imise the time my hair and I were out­side to­gether.

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