A life­time of "Bad hair days"

El Dorado News-Times - - Living - BRENDA MILES

Have you ever had a ‘bad hair day?’ Well, I have had in my 70+ years, a life­time of them. At birth, I was bald. When my hair fi­nally came in, it was thin and sparse and the ends ap­peared to have been beaten off be­tween two rocks. Be­ing the only girl Daddy had al­ways wanted,

I was surely a dis­ap­point­ment. No dim­ples. No pretty curls. Just a scrawny baby with bad hair. I’m sure he and Mama prayed for a re­turn slip.

My mid­dle brother came home from the war in 1946. I was about 3 and he was see­ing his new sis­ter for the first time. When he ar­rived, he asked his buddy who owned a Ko­dak to take a pic­ture of him hold­ing me.

“Mama,” he pleaded, isn’t there some­thing you can do with her hair? Get a scarf or some­thing!” I still have that pic­ture of my brother in full uni­form hold­ing me in his arms on that day of his ar­rival. A scarf was tied around my head tur­ban-style with a knot in front. My brother looked proud. I looked like I was ready to wash clothes.

As I grew, Mama tried ev­ery pos­si­ble method to make me pre­sentable. The first of these re­quired alu­minum cylin­der curlers with holes (so the hair could dry) and a clasp with a red rub­ber tip that came down and snapped in place. I cried so much the first Satur­day night she ap­plied these to make me “pretty for Sun­day School” that she dis­carded them.

Next, she tried softer, leather curlers. My thin, damp hair was wound around these and flex­i­ble ends were folded over. The fol­low­ing morn­ing, Mama found me asleep with the leather curlers in a neat pile on the floor.

At age 7, a new prod­uct came on the mar­ket, ad­ver­tised widely on ra­dio. Mama pur­chased a TONETTE home per­ma­nent kit. I was du­bi­ous from the be­gin­ning. I had gone with Mama

to the beauty shop and watched while the op­er­a­tor at­tached metal curlers dan­gling from cords all over her head. These cords hung from an elec­tri­cal de­vice on the ceil­ing. I was ter­ri­fied! Old enough to have heard my par­ents speak of the Elec­tric Chair, I was scared the op­er­a­tor would give her too much juice and elec­tro­cute her.

Mama as­sured me the TONETTE would not be the same, so I let her do her work with all those lit­tle tis­sue pa­pers, pink plas­tic curlers and so­lu­tions. Even af­ter she gave me a wet rag to hold over my face, the smell burned my eyes and my nose.

Al Gore would have had a hissy fit had he walked in the room with those nox­ious fumes per­me­at­ing my hair, my clothes and even the wood­work.

Should I tell you that I had to march into Sun­day School the fol­low­ing week look­ing a bit like young Michael Jack­son with his fin­ger stuck in a light socket? TAME con­di­tioner fi­nally hit the mar­ket but too late to tame the frizz I suf­fered from this first perm.

Next, we tried pink “Spoolies.” Again, wrap the hair around the spool and “pop” the top down. Af­ter these, we tried “Spon­gies.” Nei­ther of them ‘held a curl’ ei­ther. When I was about 12, Mama fi­nally tried “pin­curls.” A method know as “rolling up” the hair. Un­less you went to the beauty shop and then it was called “set­ting.” I mas­tered this! I held my in­dex fin­ger to my head, wrapped my damp hair around it, and held the curl by two bobby pins placed like an “X.”

I did this un­til brush rollers came in vogue. Rollers worked even bet­ter with the picks that held them in place. Curls were not so “tight.” But even with the sponge strips they were still un­com­fort­able to sleep in. How DID my col­lege suite mate sleep on or­ange juice cans???

On TV, Bess My­er­son ad­ver­tised a home hair dryer that could be set up on a ta­ble top. I re­ceived one for Christ­mas when I was 15. I stuck my wet curls un­der the bon­net. Bess hadn’t been en­tirely truth­ful though. She failed to men­tion all the lit­tle crimp marks the bon­net made that re­mained around the face for hours.

The 60's evolved. A method know as “teas­ing” be­came the rage. Metal combs were raked back­ward over the hair un­til the end re­sult looked some­what like pic­tures out of NATIONAL GEO­GRAPHIC. But, com­bined with a healthy dose of AquaNet, one could smooth the hair into a de­sired shape. Mirac­u­lous!

Later, came the hair­pieces known as “falls” – in­spired by TV per­son­al­i­ties. Alas, my hair was too fine to hold one. The 70's ar­rived with Far­rah Fawcett’s “wings.” Ohhh, how I wished for these. I loved the way she ran her hands through that golden mane or flung it back from her face while track­ing dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals. I tried ev­ery new style that came along. Yet none were suc­cess­ful. My “bub­ble-cut” burst. My “flip” flopped. My “wedge” with­ered!

By the mid-80s, one stylist told me all I needed was mousse. I tried it. Re­sult? Leav­ing the shop, my spiked hair stood out in all di­rec­tions...the mousse did work...if you con­sider I looked like a fright­ened girl moose af­ter a bull moose came court­ing. My daugh­ter gave me a set of elec­tric rollers but, again, my fine hair could not hold their weight. Then came the blow-dryer...one side “waved” back at the other side. Curl­ing irons? They only burned my ears. By the way, I was hav­ing a rel­a­tively good hair day when the photo above was taken.

I’ve never known which long-ago rel­a­tive gave me these bad hair genes. Lucky for them, I don’t. Es­pe­cially if I hap­pened upon them with a red-hot curl­ing iron in my hands.

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