Wednesday, January 2, 2013

bad hair stories.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that there are some terribly simple things that I have a really difficult time learning how to do. I haven’t been able to master the fine art of whistling, nor have I figured out how to properly parallel park. But this story isn’t about those particular life failures: it’s about how, after almost 26 years, I am still really REALLY bad at my hair.

I’m not bad at it as in I forget to wash it or I have debilitating dandruff. I am bad at in in two ways: 1.) a total inability to make it look nice, and 2.) a number of hair-related mishaps I’ve dealt with over the past couple of decades.

Let me begin with my total hair-styling ineptitude. I have never, EVER, in all my life, been able to do anything with my hair. I can brush it, and I can straighten it, but that’s about where it ends. On the bright side, this made me immune to embarrassing hair trends: I never had stacked bangs, nor could I clip my hair back with zillions of plastic clips shaped like butterflies (remember those?). My friends, I couldn’t even master the ponytail: in elementary school, the only respectable ponytail was one in which your hair was completely slicked back and smooth. It better not have any bumps in it, or you’d have to start over. I couldn’t do it.
I could barely master these bangs, for crying out loud.
Armed with the knowledge of my lack of hair skills, I chose my haircuts accordingly. While I longed for the gorgeous layered haircuts that were big in the mid-90s, I knew that to achieve such style, I’d be forced to spend time with the curling iron. No thanks.

When I was a groomsmaid in my friend Bob’s wedding, we were given free reign with our hair. This pleased most of the groomsmaids – no salon, hooray! – but it struck fear in my hair-stylingly challenged heart. This was my dear friend’s wedding, so I had to look presentable. I toyed with the idea of forking out the money for an up-do at a salon, but let me tell you, those don’t come cheap. I ended up getting up extra early, curling my hair, and hairspraying it into submission. And how did it turn out? I’d rate it a “meh.”
I don’t think it’s all me: my hair is a bit on the uncooperative side. My hair has an issue for every season, so there’s really no reprieve. Springtime rains bring an inordinate amount of frizz. My hair is very thick, so summer heat is pretty rough – and you can totally forget about me making any sort of effort with hair tools that use heat (aka, all of them). Fall, while it is my favorite season, dulls whatever color the sun gave my hair during the summer (more on that later). Wintertime is the absolute worst. I am an excellent conductor of static electricity, so I spent November through March with my hair standing on end. If I had a dollar every time I threatened to cut it all off… well, I’d probably have a lot of dollars.

My nonexistent hair-styling prowess is one thing, but I also have a handful of hair catastrophes under my belt. The first disaster I can remember was in first grade: there was an outbreak of lice, and I was one of the unfortunate victims. I had to take half a day off and get my hair washed with lice shampoo, and I was MAD: not mad because of the lice or the nasty shampoo, but because I had to miss half a day of school. It was toward the end of the school year, and I was on my way to perfect attendance (you got a medal!), but then the lice ruined it all.

The next hair failure was in the seventh grade. I was twelve, and I had braces and round John Lennon glasses: a grade-A nerd. And what did I decide to do? I made it worse with a perm. Glasses plus braces plus crazy hair: it was a dork triumvirate.

I had always wanted curly hair (I was always jealous of my friend Sarah’s curly hair), and a perm seemed like a great idea. I could forever bid farewell to the curling iron, as I’d simply roll out of bed in the morning, perfectly coiffed – or so went my perm fantasy.

I have the incredible good fortune to have an aunt (Barb) who is a stylist, and she agreed to give me a perm. Barb executed said perm perfectly, but after all the chemicals had been rinsed out of my hair, I found out that my perm expectations differed vastly from what a real perm actually looked like.
My perm days were ridiculous. I had to mousse the bejeezus out of it every morning for fear of spending the rest of the day with a fuzzy mess of a perm. Due to the sheer volume of mousse it took to keep my hair under control, my hair was crunchy and so moussed that it looked wet. All day. If I had stood too close to a flame, we may have had another Michael Jackson Pepsi commercial on our hands. Too soon?

Growing out my perm was quite an ordeal, too. I knew that once was enough, so there would be no touch-ups for me. I think it took close to a year for the perm to have completely exited my tresses, and if you’ve ever tried to grow out a perm, you know what a pain it is.
Horrible. Just horrible.
I managed to stay mostly unscathed throughout the rest high school and most of college, mostly because I placed my hair trust in Barb. Thanks to her, I had nice hair for two proms and a wedding, not to mention some enviable lowlights and low-maintenance layers. Sadly, all good things must end.

It was the spring semester of my junior year of college, and I was ready for a change. I headed to downtown Morris (fancy, I know – especially considering downtown Morris doesn’t hold much more than a skeezy mall and a few antique stores). I wanted something above my shoulders with a few layers, pretty simple. My stylist was a totally apathetic, extremely pregnant woman who gave the impression that she’d really rather be somewhere else. She gave me a quick haircut and sent me on my way, not showing me the back of my hair or asking if I liked what I saw. I didn’t think much of it… until I got home and my roommate asked, in a certain “how do I tell her that her haircut sucks?” kind of voice, what I thought of my haircut. Until then, I hadn’t examined the back: it appeared as if she had cut a big chunk out, but not bothered to fix it. The back of my hair looked like a fishtail. GREAT.

By this time, all the Morris salons had closed. My only hope was to drive to Alexandria: at 45 miles away, it was the nearest city with any hope of a salon that stayed open past 5 o’clock. I high-tailed it to make it there by 8.30, only to find that all the salons had closed early (even though they had told me 9pm on the phone! Curses!). Defeated, I went home, slept on my fishtail hair, and got up early the next day to get a haircut at a different Morris salon. When I got there, the stylist said, “What HAPPENED to you?!” Thankfully, she was able to fix it – and my hair has never been shorter.
Don't ask about the faces. It was finals week.
My latest and greatest hair fiasco was only about two years ago. It was October, and I was living in the cities. James had come to visit me for the weekend, and I had the bright idea to dye my hair. The ends of my hair were still sunshiny blond from the summer, while my roots were more ashy. I had never dyed my hair before, but how hard could it be? People did box dyes all the time! All I wanted to do was even out the color, which I assumed would be easy as pie.

I don’t know if it was the cheap hair dye or if I’m just an idiot, but my hair didn’t turn out as planned. Specifically: it was orange. Nasty, brassy, “obviously I just dyed my hair and dyed it poorly” orange. Luckily, it was a Friday night, so I didn’t have to go to work the next day with my hair in this horrible state. Unluckily, it was a Friday night, so almost all of the hair salons we frantically called were booked up for the next day. Mercifully, we found one that wasn’t: Fantastic Sam’s.

I woke up the next morning, wondering if I had dreamed that I’d dyed my hair. Looking in the mirror told me that it was no dream, so off to Fantastic Sam’s we went. When I walked in the door, the colorist knew immediately what I had done: “I see this all the time” were her exact words. I picked out a shade that looked mostly like my natural color, and she dyed away. It came out a little darker than normal and was a definite blow to the old pocketbook, but nobody noticed that my hair was a different color: a success in my book.

Since then, I’ve been able to avoid any major catastrophes, mostly because I’ve avoided any sort of major hair change. I’m getting married in less than seven months, so I’m more or less leaving my hair alone until then: therefore, it’s longer than it’s ever been and driving me nuts. I’ve noticed that quite a few brides chop off their hair post-wedding, so I may have another hair story to tell this summer. Wish me luck in the meantime.

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