Hi. I am going to do that thing where I’m going to pick up an old topic midstream as though you possibly remember/care about the original conversation but still expect you to listen politely and make interested mouth noises as I jabber on and you fight the glaze. Ready?
My husband really appreciated knowing that the majority seems to agree with him about food temperature. (Although he did mention that I made it sound like he was happy eating room temperature food. He clarified that he just doesn’t like it BOILING, but that he still likes it hot. I maintain that No Longer Boiling means it IS room temperature. But we’ll just have to agree to disagree.)
Anyway, today I’d like to talk about something much more frivolous important.
Remember ages ago when I asked you for advice on how to execute the perfect updo?
Well. I LOVED your advice. You were super helpful. Thank you.
The number one suggestion was to have someone do my hair for me, which was genius. But unfortunately not realistic, considering that a) we were in a tiny town in the Catskills or Poconos or one of those other “mountain” resorty type areas on the East Coast and I didn’t know any salons and I also didn’t have a lot of time to GO to a salon, considering I spent my morning trekking through rain with a passel of dear college friends to find the Cider House Rules house (which turned out to be closed) and then playing Trivial Pursuit with them which rightfully trumps hair styling needs and b) I am cheap and didn’t really WANT to spend money on a hair stylist for someone else’s wedding.
The number two suggestion was to get some practice. I had tried the sock bun in the past to no avail, and so I set my shoulders and set out to master that mo fo.
Alas. My hair is sock bun resistant.
But I did not stop in my quest for the perfect updo! I took some MORE advice and looked on YouTube. Internet, I was DETERMINED. Many readers suggested specific hair products I could try, so I bought many hair products. I bought hairspray, for the first time since I swore it off in high school. I bought a “teasing brush.” I bought some bobby pins.
Internet. I am officially Hair Challenged. I watched YouTube videos, I looked at step-by-step photographic instructions, I stopped wrapping my wet hair in a towel post-shower (which – how do you DO that? [And when I say "do" I mean "stop doing" and when I say "that" I mean "towel turbaning your hair."] I end up dripping all over the bathroom and then imagining that I’ll slip in the water and crack my head on the tile and die and at my funeral people will say, “Why didn’t she just wrap her hair in a towel? Another senseless death caused by vanity.” And cluck their tongues in judgmental pity at how preventable it all was. It’s most unpleasant.). Nothing worked in practice, but I am an optimist. So I loaded up all of my new hair products and took them ALL with me to the wedding.
We stayed in an adorable bed and breakfast with a bunch of our college friends. Somehow, my husband and I ended up with the disability room, which had convenient hand rails in the bathroom (although it ALSO had your typical deep tub, which required the shower-er to step up and over the side of said tub to access the shower. Which seems… not particularly doable, from the standpoint of a person who may be wheelchair bound.) and a sink that was low and deep, so that a person in a wheelchair could wheel right up under the sink and still be able to reach the faucets. What I’m saying is, the mirror was about three feet away when you stood at the sink, which is kind of far when you’re aiming for detail work.
But after about 30 minutes of wrestling with my hair, and some inspiring teamwork between the teasing brush and the hairspray, and some very confusing attempts to do whatever one does with a bobby pin, I came out victorious: I had a lovely smooth ponytail.
Oh – and I also went for the Side Bang look, so that I could have some lovely tendrils framing my face.
You know where this is going, right?
In every picture I have of that day, all the curly frizzies I tried so valiantly to avoid are standing at attention and my Side Bang and Accompanying Tendrils look limp and wilted, as though they’d seen the tight ponytail coming, tried to make a break for it, and collapsed, exhausted by their efforts.
It’s not a pretty look, is what I’m saying.
So then Shalini of Reading and Chickens fame (and Office Crush fame – READ IT) posted a hilarious chronicle of her hair over the years. And I got to thinking about my own personal Hair History. And maybe my repeated hair failures aren’t because of me, but my hair.
Maybe my hair is just destined for mediocrity.
I can’t share with you any photos, because, you know, anonymous blog. (“Anonymous” – aka, Hi mom! Hi colleagues of my husband! Hi dear friend from college! Hi blog people to whom I have revealed my true identity!)
But I CAN share some poorly-rendered Paint “artwork” and some shame.
Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we?
For much of my young childhood, I sported a mullet.
There, I said it.
(See? I promised shame and THERE IT IS.)
I have hair that desperately wants to be curly, but gets a little bored with TRYING to be curly – it’s quite an effort as I understand it – so it kind of gives up somewhere on the road to curly and ends up being wavy/frizzy. Frizzavy, really. So that some parts of it are stick straight while other parts have noticeable waves.
So I would have this very round Bowl of Bangs that would sit on top of my head like a close-fitting hair helmet… and then I’d have some long straggles of frizzavy hair at the back.
Internet, in the interest of full disclosure, this drawing looks INFINITELY better than the real thing did.
But I didn’t KNOW, you know? I look at photos of myself from back then – first grade, second grade, all the grades – and this cheery little innocent face complete with freckles and crooked teeth grins out at me, clearly feeling happy and adorable, because she doesn’t KNOW there’s a frizzavy hair helmet with a straggly hair train happening just inches above her clueless smile.
I was in tumbling as a kid and we always had to wear these hideous aerodynamic spandex ensembles. One of them was a bright, fire-engine red bodysuit with inexplicable white fringe on the ankles. I had to put my hair back during the tumbling, lest I cartwheel into a shower of straggly locks, get tangled up, and break an arm. We always took professional photos of our tumbling ensembles, and in the photo of this particular season, I look like a skinny, shiny red boy. That’s how assertive the Hair Helmet was. It looked like its own independent hair style.
My husband, on looking at the photo: “Wow, I didn’t know you ever had your hair that short.”
Me: “I didn’t…”
Let’s amp up the Shame Factor a little bit by moving on to Fourth Grade.
It starts, actually, in THIRD grade when my former nanny (shut up) got married and asked me to be a flower girl.
It was pretty much the highlight of my young life, to get to wear a pretty flowered dress and walk down the aisle behind my white-clad former nanny.
And even better? My former nanny’s mother surprised me by giving me a home perm!
This was the late eighties, after all, and perms were ALL the rage for some god forsaken reason. I mean, really. Doesn’t an all-powerful deity have to say, “Aight, I’m out. Peace bishes.” and then go on a decades-long rager for something like that to happen? PERMS WERE NOT COOL.
But… they were.
So I was delighted to be getting a perm. My best friend at the time had a perm, and she looked amazing, so clearly I needed to jump right on that bandwagon.
I’m sure I felt beautiful during the wedding. I can’t really remember – memory doesn’t work that way for me. It only works in snippets and flashes. So I remember the fabric of the dress. I remember the excitement of getting the perm.
And, of course, I remember walking into my third grade classroom the following Monday, feeling like Hot Stuff and I remember walking right into Chubby C. who LAUGHED AT ME, right in my face, and wouldn’t/couldn’t STOP laughing and pointing at the Horrendous Home Perm, and I remember feeling the happy pretty feeling drain out of me as the hot, hot shame and humiliation poured in on top of it.
I vaguely remember crying to my parents about how I could never ever ever go back to school EVER and I have even vaguer memories of them being calm and understanding but pep-talky about how you just had to deal with things and really, much of the rest of third grade is a blur, but I do think I got over it.
But! I still had that perm. And in Fourth Grade, I begged my mother to let me get a REAL perm, at the salon. I had this undeniable inner certainty that a head full of tight, professionally-crafted ringlet curls would be all I needed to erase the events of the Horrible Wedding Perm.
Fourth Grade, incidentally, was the year when full-on awkwardness set in. It turns out that I needed glasses, and oh yeah, I needed braces too. Whoopee!
For some reason, to compound the awkwardness, I chose to wear teal octangular glasses. And, in some sort of crazy scam from the orthodontist (no really, kids, tooth armor is COOL!), I decided my mouth full of metal would look BETTER if I wore brightly-colored rubber bands around my braces.
But I didn’t let the glasses and braces deter me! I got that ringlet perm, Internet. I sat in the J C Penney salon at the mall and let a kindly woman douse my head in rotten eggs and then I sat under a hair dryer for about forty hours and leafed through books of models with asymmetrical hairstyles and dead eyes while my mom went shopping. And then I walked out of that J C Penney feeling very grown up, what with my glasses and my head full of bouncy curls.
To keep the frizzavy at bay, even with the perm, I had to shellac my head with copious amount of hair gel. White Rain hair gel, if I’m not mistaken.
I still remember the outfit I wore for that year’s class photo: a teal turtleneck with a matching teal skirt that sported some black polka dots. I have no doubt that I also wore black (or matching teal, for that matter) stirrup pants under the skirt, and probably topped the whole thing off with Keds. Stylish through and through, that’s me!
It wasn’t my finest hair moment, but at least no one laughed at me. Well, not to my face. (Chubby C., by the way, grew up to be a very kind person. I actually thought he was a nice guy. But I will never forget that he laughed in my face in third grade.)
Middle school ushered in a whole new era of hair styling. (It also ushered in an era of contact lenses, which changed my life. Goodbye, teal octagonal glasses! Smell ya later!) (Seriously. We said things like that. Without irony.)
I remember clearly what I did EVERY MORNING before school: I would wash my hair (I’m pretty sure I used Thermasilk almost exclusively in middle school. Thermasilk and Exclamation perfume.), then painstakingly part my hair to the left, then blowdry the front (Why only the front, sixth grade me? Did you not know that the back of your hair would dry into a smushed bedhead bedraggle?), then pinch an inch-wide portion of the left side of my hair and curl it into a single long curl-tube, and then spray half a hair spray can’s worth of hair spray onto the portion closest to my forehead so that the crest of the arch stood up about two inches above my head, allowing the curl tube to “cascade” down the side of my face.
Let me reiterate: I did this EVERY MORNING. For all of middle school. (Although at one point, I stopped the curling in favor of a plain old hair arch.)
Those were also the years of Wrangler jeans and No Fear t-shirts and boy craziness, Internet. We’d have a school dance – with Bryan Adams and Meatloaf blaring from the cafeteria loud speakers – and I would tuck a crisp black No Fear t-shirt in to my stone-washed jeans and apply liberal amounts of Tribe perfume and I was SHOCKED that the boys weren’t lining up! (It’s because the cool girls wore babydoll dresses and yellow Doc Marten boots, and I wasn’t cool enough [or brave enough – I did HAVE the one babydoll dress, in a blue plaid, and some faux Doc Marten boots, but I couldn't bring myself to WEAR them to school] to wear the cool clothes and get the
Okay, I am veering away into a whole other Topic of Awful: Tweenage Clothing/Perfume/Music of the Late 80s and Early 90s.
High school began a trend that continues to this day: straight hair, blow-dried, in the most boring style possible.
I had decently long hair in middle school. And to begin my high school career, I decided the best move was to cut it all off. I chopped my hair to my chin for the first and last time.
Because my hair is my hair and because my styling skills are so non-existent, my cute, stylish, chin-length cut quickly became a puffy hair triangle. And I could do nothing but wait for it grow out.
And wear colored contact lenses. (My parents were so kind and so indulgent of my weird whims!)
In college, I started coloring my hair. This was partly because everyone else in the universe seemed to be getting highlights, and partly because I was ALREADY going grey.
It started gently, with a few highlights in my plain brown hair.
But then one day, I was sitting under the hair dryer in a salon and the hair stylist came over to peek under the foil and said, clear as day, “Uh oh.”
Turns out, she’d taken my hair to a whole new level of highlight.
That was when I became an accidental blonde.
Listen, blondes are awesome, and I have always admired those with lovely golden locks. But it is not a color that suits ME.
And yet… I was blonde for many years. I was blonde when I met my husband, in fact, and only went back to being a brunette the summer before we got married.
Okay, that’s a lie. Between being blonde and being brunette, I went back to my natural hair color out of poorness. A graduate student does not really have the resources to pay for highlights. So I let my blonde hair grow out, back into the dull brown of its destiny, and only resumed the highlighting once I had a job.
THEN I took a bold leap (for me) and decided to go Way Dark. You know, a darker, chocolatey-er brown than my normal You’d Find This Color on a Mouse, and Not One of Those Fancy Science Experiment or Pet Store Mice, No, a Boring Brown House Mouse brown.
And I have remained that way ever since. Dark hair. Subtle layers. Subtle side bang.
It’s not the most gorgeous hair, I’ll admit it. Some days I have fantasies of cutting it all off or getting Zooey Deschanel bangs or becoming a redhead.
But those fantasies are short-lived, because when I think about actually following through, well, I get visions of Ol’ Triangle Head and the sound of Chubby C.’s laugh reverberates through my brain and I end up sticking with my plain brown hair.
Okay, Internet. I have gone WAY too long about my hair. Please share some Historical Hair Shame with me. You know, if you have any.