by: Andrea Mulder-Slater
You see, my cousin Margaret had just enrolled in beauty school - a place I thought must certainly be horrific, given the devices that often fell out of her knapsack. Yet in spite of my mother’s gentle warnings, I offered to donate my head – temporarily – to the cause, mostly because at twelve, quite frankly, I had no real concept of what it meant to look good. In fact, rummaging through old family photographs, one might assume that I grew up in a house without mirrors, or reflective surfaces of any kind. It may have been the eighties but I know now that there is no excuse for a pre-teen girl to be wearing pre-owned brown tweed suit jackets.
Back to the hair and the day when Margaret told me that I would look not just good, but really, really good, with a perm. I suppose I should have known at the time, that thick, naturally wavy hair really doesn’t need a perm to have a good time. However, at twelve, wearing my Duran Duran t-shirt, parachute pants and desert boots, it just really seemed like the right thing to do.
And so… the procedure began.
Unlike bona fide hair stylists with access to industrial strength hair care products, my cousin and her classmates were still at the stage where they were experimenting with drug store quality hair products, which, looking back, probably saved me from looking like my grandmother’s Scottish terrier, after the maple syrup incident.
I knew all had gone bad when I saw my mother’s face as she walked through the door. It was a look I had only ever seen once before in my life and that was the time she glanced out the window to see me, age five, with my best friend Kenny, trying to see who could pee the furthest from a standing position (I won, by the way). Margaret confirmed the look on my mother’s face with an emphatic, “Oops.” At that point, beauty schools had yet to incorporate tact into the curriculum. It was the eighties, after all.
After a few hours of living with a hairstyle that was a cross between a Chia Pet and a Carrot Top, I went under my mothers’ scissors and ended up with a haircut fit for a brand new army recruit, or a lice infected toddler.
Now, any normal, thinking person would probably have learned a very valuable lesson from this experience. Note, the operative words here are normal and thinking – both of which are not typically used to describe those born in the 1970s, or my 10th grade geography teacher. The trend of ultra frizzy, followed by shaved and spiked, continued for much of my young adult life, straight up until the day when a photograph of me appeared in our local paper with the caption: “Will buff your car back to it’s natural shine”. Sure, the paper had mixed up my photo caption with a Canadian Tire ad – an honest mistake - but I saw it as a direct message from above. It was as though a light had shone down upon my crispy blonde head at just the right angle for me to see the error of my ways. From that point on, all I could see when I looked at home permanent kits was a warning that shouted, “Do not try this at home!” Everything was at once clear… clearer than it had ever been. Gone were the days of hard hair. Left behind were the hours of egg whites and hairspray. No longer would I endure the pain of our Comb ‘n Cut Hair Cutter. The eighties were over. My hair had, well… hair. That was, until I discovered the rubber cap, crochet hook, home streaking kit.
To this day, my hair continues to hold a grudge – never fully forgiving me for the assaults of the past. I know this to be true because now, even though I’ve graduated to a world where stylists don’t use home permanent kits, my hair, along with gravity, continues to surprise me at every turn. Which brings me back to green hair, which I’ve discovered is a plague in my town. It turns out that anyone who dares to lighten his or her tresses can look forward to seeing several shades of emerald appear upon showering. After some research, I found out that a high level of chlorine, when run through aging copper pipes, results in certain death… or green hair. Apparently it is reversible simply by bathing daily in ketchup.
Personally, I’ve opted for a different solution – coordinating my wardrobe to match my hair. You can’t deny the brilliance and really, what else would you expect from such a fashion plate who is always thinking…
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I wrote the #1 read post on Erica Ehm's Yummy Mummy Club in 2015:
8 Reasons I'm Not Homeschooling My Kid