But as I exited toddlerhood and headed into little kid-hood, my hair became, at best, a nuisance. It was curly enough to achieve the "bed head" look without much effort, but not curly enough to look cute. Also, I hated having my hair touched, especially with a comb or a brush. (My, poor, sainted mother, who had to deal with my screaming fits whenever she'd approach me with any hair styling implements...) This didn't help matters, and there were many days when I cheerfully went about looking like this:
On those very infrequent days when I would consent to stand still long enough (still producing many an OW! or STOP IT!), my mom managed to get my hair into some semblance of neatness. Usually these days coincided with some Big, Important Event, like the first day of Brownies for example...
My mom never really knew what to do with my hair. It was the complete opposite of my younger sister's hair, which was stick-straight and fine. Her hair looked cute no matter how it was styled - pigtails, pony tail, barrettes, all looked great on her and with a minimum of effort. Mom's ultimate solution was just to keep my hair on the shorter side, so that it couldn't get too crazy.
As time went on, things went downhill for me in the looks department. By seventh grade, I was sporting braces to go along with my ginormous glasses and was hideously unfashionable in any and all clothing choices. I mean, this was the late 70s and early 80s, so it isn't like "fashion" was really all that great anyhow, but I was definitely not cool. So, the only hair solution for my entire look, of course, was a perm. A very, very tight perm.
Yeah. I rocked this look, or a variation thereof, throughout most of junior high and high school. The only difference, really, being the size of my hair and the color. I availed myself of some camomile soap with which I periodically turned my hair a rather odd shade of orangey-red. (As if any more evidence of my bookworm nerdiness was needed, I got the camomile soap tip from some novel or another, and by "novel" I don't mean anything popular. While I don't recall which book I read to glean this kernel of arcane beauty wisdom, it was undoubtedly some Victorian author's work that gave me this brilliant inspiration. Sad, I know.) Apparently my hairstyle icons were Ronald McDonald and Little Orphan Annie...
By senior prom, my hair was huge, as befit a teenage girl in New Jersey in the late 80s.
College, while not in NJ, didn't help much in the "get away from the large, permed hair look" department.
If anything, having the freedom to go get my hair styled however I wanted was worse than the Jersey Perm. I think the worst it ever got was when I tried going blonde (with professional help, mind you - I didn't attempt bleaching it on my own):
That was the zenith - or was it the nadir? - of my hair follies. After that, I went back to something more closely resembling my natural color (though still dyed) and started growing my hair out. In a few years' time, it went from this:
to winding up looking something like this by the mid-90s:
As you can see, medium-long wasn't any better for me, as my hair resolutely clung to its Jersey roots and tried to be big no matter what. Eventually, it got long enough that I could do things with it. Alas, it turned out that having had shorter hair my whole life, I missed out on crucial hair-styling experience. My long hair style repetoire consisted of a ponytail, braids (referred to by my coworkers as my "Pippi Longstocking" look), a faux-French twist using a massive butterfly clip, a barrette at the back of the crown of my head, or just plain down. I would try to blow it out straight sometimes, but it wouldn't last thanks to its natural curl. Occasionally, I'd implore a friend of mine (who insisted that I was ridiculously tender-headed, *humph*) to French braid my hair for me, and when she did it always looked nice. She couldn't be persuaded on a daily basis, however, so usually I wound up in the barrette or scrunchie. I stuck with the long hair -
- until the kiddo was born and developed a passion for wrapping my hair around her itty-bitty wrists and yanking with all her baby might. By the time she was 8 months old, my tender-headed scalp had endured quite enough of that, and I marched into my hair stylist and asked her to cut it all off. This led to the next phase, that I think of as "the Mom 'do" era -
Throughout this latest phase, I've felt, at best, ambivalent about my hair. I like that I broke my decades-long dyeing habit and have gone au naturel, color-wise (and my bank account likes that as well). I liked the concept that having it short enough meant I wouldn't have to worry about it, but even at its shortest, it isn't ever truly "wash and go" - that was more the case when it was longer. It still has just enough curl to be problematic and require more fussing than I care to deal with, and even when fussed with, the end result is still Mom Hair. So, I decided about 6 months ago that I was going to grow it out again. Apparently I suffer from some sort of amnesia regarding exactly how painful it is to grow out one's hair. I've been stuck in that awkward "in between" phase since practically the day I decided to grow it out. As it has gotten longer, my hair has taken on a life of its own. It defies styling attempts - no mousse, gel, or spray can tame it. My current style is best described as "Wolverine Van Beethoven" as you can see here:
So, what to do? It's like my hair is trying to be six years old again, albeit with several more (coarse, wiry) gray strands than I had back in the day.
I know it's reaching a crisis state because lately, I've been considering (and I can't believe I'm going to type these words) getting it permed again. Not the crazy perm of my youth, but a light wave just to give it some style as it gets longer. I'm thinking if I could regress my hair from age 6 back to age 3, I'd be all set...
In the meantime, I'm just glad my kiddo has good hair. It is curly but not crazy, relatively easy to style and looks good more than not. Whew!!