I come from a long line of women who expressed themselves through their hair. My grandma Lou was once a hairdresser and my mom did all the women in our neighborhood’s hair. So it was just natural for me and my sister to follow in their footsteps. My first day of kindergarden I had a french twist. You must be of a certain age to remember french twists or french rolls. Basically your whole head was backcombed and then it was sleeked down a bit and the back was rolled or twisted into a hotdog bun-shaped roll and pinned with bobby pins and hair pins. And then they used a half can of Aqua Net hairspray to hold it all together….for days. At night you wrapped toilet paper around it to help hold it in place. Not that it was going anywhere. You could have been out in hurricane force winds and that sucker didn’t move. But heaven help you if you got caught in the rain! But every woman kept a rain hat in her pocket or purse and you would just tie that baby on and you were good to go. So what about when it was time to wash it? I remember sitting in a highchair with my mom trying to brush out the spray and the ratting and me crying and my mom telling me, “You have to have some pain to be beautiful”. Well I can tell you that either we didn’t suffer enough or she was lying cause neither my sister or I ever turned out beautiful and yet we suffered through many years of our mother doing our hair. Her ponytails were so tight that my eyes were slanted back towards my ears. In every school picture I have some god-awful bouffant hairdo. And my poor sister has a pixie cut. How many of you remember “Tonettes”? It was the childrens version of the perm called “Toni”. I can’t tell you how many Tonettes I had. I can still remember the horrid smell and the cold solution that would run down your neck and into your eyes and ears. And do any of you remember those shampoo aids that were round and you would put it on your head before you washed your hair so soap and water wouldn’t get in your eyes? I was terrified of water in my face and I had to wear one but of course some water still ran down the sides and onto your face and I would fuss and my mom would get mad.
Let’s leave the grade school years and head on to Junior High where I first started coloring my hair. My first dye job was to spray, “Sun In” on my hair. In the commercials all the girls had gorgeous light blonde streaks. In real life it turned your hair orange unless you were already a blonde. In my 8th grade photo I have this brassy orange hair with black roots. So much for Sun In. Ninth grade shows a much better hair color-stripes. I had my hair “frosted”. Now you want to talk torture…picture this. A tight rubber cap is squeezed down over your head like a swimcap only it is full of tiny holes. What are the holes for, you ask? They are there so the torturer can yank pieces of your hair out of them with a tiny crochet hook. Hundreds of holes. The more hair yanked out of these holes, the blonder you would be. This was a many hour production. First the hair was yanked out, then a bleaching solution was slathered on the hairs sticking out of the torture cap. Depending on how dark your hair was and how blonde you wanted to be this process could take a long time. It often was sped up by sitting under a hot dryer with toxic fumes blowing down for you to breathe in. Once you were blonde enough, then the bleach was washed out and a toner was put on. More waiting. Toner was so your blonde wouldn’t turn brassy. Finally, the right color (if you were lucky) was achieved and it was time to take off the cap. Holy Hell….by now your head was throbbing from all the yanking and you had burns from where the bleach had sat on your scalp and now this person who you are going to pay a small fortune to, is pulling this freakin’ hair sucking giant condom off and you swear every hair that has been yanked through is being ripped out by it’s bleached roots! Finally the dang thing is off and now you have to have it all washed and the last thing you want is to have someone touch your throbbing head. But it has to be washed, so you sit through more torture all the while saying to yourself, “You have to go through some pain to be beautiful”. You would think by now what more could hurt….oh honey, the fat woman ain’t sung yet….the water is scalding hot and the stylist has daggers for fingernails and she thinks she is doing you a favor by scrubbing your head. Why not just poor boiling oil mixed with glass shards on next cause that’s exactly what it feels like. Panic starts to rise in your throat when you think you still have to have it set, dried and styled. And dear Lord, what if she uses those rollers with the brushes in them….you can just feel each little prick of those hundreds of sharp little brush tips. I don’t know about you, but I am breaking out in a sweat just thinking about it! And to think, I did this many, many times and it was worse when I would try to save money and have my mom do it. She would take out every frustration she ever had with us when she would yank those hairs out. My sister and I would tell ourselves that we would never have Ma do our hair again but there we would be, begging her not to be so rough this time. And what would be her reply? “YOU GOTTA HAVE SOME PAIN TO BE BEAUTIFUL”!!!!
TO BE CONTINUED……..