When Your Hair Turns On You, It Can Get Ugly!


My hair and I have had a love/hate relationship most of my life.

When I was very little, Mama braided my hair most of the time.  So, my hair was controlled, knew its place, and all was well.

Then, when I started school, Mama “unleased the beast.”  She took it upon herself to “torture” my hair with the home permanents of the day, and from that day on my hair “tortured” me, I believe, in retaliation for that barbaric treatment. 

I truly believe the permanents of that day were probably made of chemicals that would be considered toxic waste today.  They stung the skin wherever they were allowed to touch, and smelled to high heaven. 

Having said all that, I might still have fond memories of home permanents if they had made me a Shirley Temple look-alike, with large, loopy gorgeous curls framing my sweet, rosy-cheeked face (as Mama envisioned).  But, I do not have fond memories of them because not only did they sting like acid and smell like sewer gas, but they gave me, rather than large, loopy beautiful curls, dry, brittle frizz

But, Mama was always good at putting a positive spin on things (and saw her baby through rose-colored glasses), so she thought the permed look was “cute” on me.  The pictures of the day tell the tale, though.  I have a picture of me with my second grade teacher, in which my obviously freshly-permed hair has been semi-controlled by an industrial-strength hair barrett on each side just above my ear.  Ronald McDonald wasn’t around then, but if he had been, I’m sure there would have been comparisons made.  (The old Ronald McDonald — the one with the row of frizz that ran all the way around his head — not the new, less radically coiffed version.)

After a couple of those awful home permanents, I convinced Mama that they weren’t making me or my hair happy.  So, she stopped, and let me do whatever I wanted with my hair (mentally throwing her hands in the air in frustration, I’m sure).  My yearly school pictures chronicle the many ways I attempted to make my hair look nice — short, long, parted in the middle, parted on the side, no part, fringe bangs, side-swept bangs, no bangs  — none were particularly attractive, but I must have thought so at least for a short time (or, more likely, was in denial), because I’m smiling in all the pictures.

But, then I hit my teens and discovered — teasing and Aqua-Net!  FINALLY, I had tools that were powerful enough to bend my rebellious hair to my will. 

For those of you too young to remember the Aqua-Net of the 60’s, let me tell you something about it — that name was totally misleading.  “Aqua” draws a picture of a mist of clean, clear water, right?  And, “Net” — that conjures up a vision of a light, gossamer netting, right?  Forget that.  Aqua-Net in the 60’s was concrete in an aerosol can, pure and simple.  If you teased your hair and then used a pick to form it into exactly the shape you wanted,  you could then spray it with Aqua-Net and it would..not..move. 

About this time was probably the beginning of the decline of the head scarf industry because I’m sure their business plummeted with the introduction of Aqua-Net.  In all my teen years, I only remember using one  “head scarf” — it was a little triangle of cotton that I tied around my “Aqua-do” if I was going to ride in a convertible.  Even Aqua-Net couldn’t stand alone against the wind in a speeding convertible!

As a stay-at-home mommy, I didn’t bother with my hair much; just threw it up in a pony tail every morning.  There were way too many other things to think about, like keeping two little kids fed, clean, safe and relatively happy!  And, when it was required that I “dress up” to go somewhere (like the grocery, to get more formula and strained peas), I would just put my hair on top of my head, and pin my ever-faithful wiglet on top.  Voila!  Instant ‘do.

In the 70’s, Dannie my “barber” (He’s a barber who started cutting women’s hair when men stopped wearing their hair in crew cuts that required frequent cuts.  It was a matter of change with the times, or find another line of work!)  Anyway, Dannie convinced me to wear my hair shoulder-length and tightly permed (yes, he convinced me that perms had improved, and smelled better).  He may be “just a barber,” but he’s always had a good take on what style I will like, or that might look good on me.  I loved that style, and it was sooo easy.  And, apparently my hair was happy with it too, because it cooperated.  (And perms had improved alot!)  But, it was definitely a very 70’s “do.”  So, eventually I moved on.

Fast forward to 2008.  Now, because my time is more flexible in retirement, I have what I consider the luxury of being able to wash my short, unpermed hair in the evening, towel dry it, and then let it just air dry the rest of the way, before I go to bed.  In the morning, I can then use hair spray to give it a little body at the roots, comb it into a style — and I’m “good to go.”  I thought my hair and I had finally arrived at an understanding and were going to live out our lives happily together.

Wrong.  My hair was just waiting for me to make one innocent mis-step, so that it could rear it’s ugly head again and show me who was boss.

Saturday night I washed my hair, but it was kind of late and I was really tired, so I convinced myself that I could go to bed, even though my hair was still just a little bit damp.  I told myself it would be fine — I would just put a hand towel on the pillow to absorb any last little bits of moisture.

Well, apparently because of the combination of the little bit of dampness left in my hair, and the fact that when I turned over during the night, rather than sliding on a smooth pillowcase, my hair was meeting resistance on the rough terry towel, there was an unexpected result. 

I got up Sunday morning, and couldn’t believe my hair!  It looked like one of those hair dos some young guys wear now — hair combed to the top of their head, where it stands straight up.  Kind of a mohawk, without the severe cut.  (Sanjaya from American Idol last year, comes to mind.)  And, since it had apparently been that way most of the night, it was SET.  No amount of combing or brushing could make it do anything but stand straight up. (I didn’t have time to even dampen it — I had to leave for church in a half  hour!)  Hubby was out of town, so he wasn’t even available to console me.   My hair had turned on me again.

So, I went back to “my roots” — I brought out the big guns.    I don’t use Aqua-Net any more, but Redken, in its own more subtle way, can be just as persuasive when it comes to rebellious hair.  So, I teased my hair, used a comb and pick to shape it, and sprayed it with my trusty Redken.  Thankfully, because my hair is short now, I didn’t end up with the 60’s look you might envision.  Actually, it looked surprisingly good to me.  And, it must not have looked tooo bad to others either, because no one at church stared at my hair and said, “New ‘do?” as DD famously did to a high school boyfriend when he had suddenly decided to slick his hair straight back.

Sometimes “the way we used to do it” can come in handy, when you get up in the morning with hair that looks like Rod Stewart’s!

Lesson learned:  Never turn your back on your hair.  It’s always just waiting for you to make one bad decision, so that it can exert it’s power over you once again.

13 Responses to When Your Hair Turns On You, It Can Get Ugly!

  1. Chrissy says:

    I can relate, the perms of the 70’s were not so great either, and they burned, mama gave me those!! Aqua-net produced a great helmet-head!! cute story happy to read it all turned out!!

  2. I permed my way through high school and college. The bigger the hair, the better. I still wonder about the wisdom of pouring chemicals on my scalp. Doesn’t seem smart, does it? I remember going on a first date the day I got a new perm. “What’s that SMELL?!” the guy asked as he cruised down the highway blasting Motley Crue on the stereo in his supped-up Nova. He was a charmer.

    Glad you can rest at night knowing your hair can be fixed in the morning.

    I like hats myself.

  3. Sandra says:

    Chrissy — I don’t remember actually calling it “helmet head” when we were doing it, but that is a very good description of what we looked like. We really thought we were stylin’! Such innocence — or maybe “without a clue” is a better description 🙂

    SBW — Love the picture of you with your fresh perm and your in-his-mind/out-his-mouth date, on that first date, that I assume might have been the last too? 🙂

  4. Sandra says:

    SBW — And a fine catch I’m sure he was. 🙂

  5. Danielle. says:

    Great story…

    Perms were huge when I was in upper High school.

    I remember my first perm, I had really long hair and after the perm was put in it was above my shoulders.

    I spent the evening in shock and will never forget the look on the most popular guys face at school(who I had a huge crush on at the time) when he said to me….”Danielle ! What have you done to your hair?, it looks rather odd”.

    Talk about climb under the table and stay there for the day.

  6. Sandra says:

    Danielle — I love your story. I think every woman has had a time like that sometime in her life, but when it happens as a teenager, it’s particularly traumatic, isn’t it?

  7. tz says:

    What, no pictures?
    I am not fond of my hair and can’t seem to find a hairdresser that can do anything with it either…it’s fine and there’s a lot of it and straight with a lot of cowlicks…

  8. ElleBee says:

    As a child of the 80’s, I have some truly hideous photos of very bad hair. Now that I go for regular colorings (to hide the rapidly advancing grey), I’m much more attentive to my hair, as I’m sure it will turn on me at any moment. And honestly, it would have good reason if it remembers what I did to it during high school!

  9. Really wish there were some pictures with this one! 😉

    Truer words were never spoken, however, never get lulled into a false sense of liking your hair. It is bound to rebel again!

  10. Sandra says:

    tz — I really should have included some pictures. I’ll see if I can figure out how to scan some. If you never hear another word about this again, you’ll know — I failed. 😦

    ElleBee — who knew HAIR had a memory, right? But, boy, it does! AND, holds a grudge! You’re wise to keep your eye on it.

    New Diva — I’ll see if I can come up with some.
    You’re right, hair is rebellious. It’s like raising children — you can’t be its “friend” or it will take advantage of you!

  11. Your hair always looked good to me. I just remember when Danny gave you that first perm…some lady at church thought Dad had remarried. You were always beautiful and perfectly groomed….something you failed to pass along to me. If I had a dime for every time you’ve told me to comb my hair since I turned 30 I’d buy Trump tower.

  12. Sandra says:

    Jenny — I don’t remember telling you to comb your hair after you were 30 — I think those were just the times that you THOUGHT I would if I was there! And, you ARE beautiful — I think I know that better than you do.

    Love, Mom

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