Hair? I’m writing about hair? Blame it on my sister Madeline.
She posted on Facebook her search for the magic product that would solve the summer hair problem: frizz, frizz, frizz. We’ve tried tons of products and all they do is leave our hair heavy with globs of glop.
I recalled an essay I wrote a few years ago in a writing workshop. I can’t believe I wrote about hair even then. I’m sure everyone else wrote about politics, economics, science, or the fate of the world. I wrote about hair.
I have naturally curly, thick hair. It used to be naturally strawberry blonde but now gets a little help. But that curly hair was the bane of my existence all through school.
Some excerpts from that essay:
The Breck Girls and Me: Growing up with Curly Hair
When we were young, my mother would tell the hairdresser to cut our hair short, for the summer she’d say. A pixie. We hated it but didn’t seem to have any say in the matter. My mother seemed to think one style fit all.
In 5th grade, I used my babysitting money to buy “Curl-Free,” which of course didn’t work. I wrote the company to complain. “We’re sorry our product didn’t meet your needs,” the company wrote, refunding my $5. Still, taking on corporate America didn’t make my hair look like everyone’s long, straight locks. I washed containers from frozen orange juice and rolled my hair around the cans, securing them with large bobby pins, and didn’t sleep too well. “You got the Holland Tunnel on your head. I‘ll drive my car through, “ my grandfather Abie, said, his voice laden with Yiddish.
My quest for straight hair continued throughout middle school and high school. I’d take scotch tape and wrap my hair over my forehead like a turban, taping as I pulled. I’d pile my hair above my head into elastic and use rollers larger than the orange juice cans. The smorgasbord of appliances for straightening, blowing out, and curling were many years away. Only old ladies told me “curly hair was a blessing” and to “think of all the money I saved on perms.” The Breck girls and the blondes having all the fun didn’t have curly hair.
The carefree look of the late 60’s and 70’s didn’t help either. Everyone tossed long straight, center- parted hair over their eyes and shoulders. I don’t remember one rock star with curly hair.
My husband remembers that my hair flowed down the center of my back when we met. I tell him it never grew past my shoulders. He winces every time I announce I’m getting my hair cut. Why do men seem to prefer long hair?
For many years, my friend Kathy would ask me when “we’d cut and dye our hair.” As if it was a date we’d have together, like going out for lunch, catching a matinee or shopping.
Short hair meant we had become our mothers. My mother, 81, who only started coloring her hair about 10 years ago, always discouraged us from dying our hair. “Too frivolous. Too expensive. There’s beauty in looking your age. “You don’t need it.”
Now I leave my hair in the capable hands of Basile, my hairdresser, who has naturally curly hair himself. Every visit, he says “you got a lotta hair,” I remind him: “Not too short. It frizzes in front. Don’t cut it in a triangle; I don’t want to look like the Sphinx.”