A lifetime of "Bad hair days"
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.