In which Deb Kristina wishes she didn’t care about hair

I don’t have any outstanding hair disasters. I just think it’s a disaster that I care about my hair.

My grandma – my dad’s mom – always used to say that curly hair is wasted on boys. My dad does have excellent hair. It’s wavy and thick and was once a nice deep brown the color of black coffee. (Now it’s turning silvery gray and he keeps it too short to detect any curliness.)

Did I inherit that hair? No, my hair is stick-straight, fine and limp. I’ve heard curly-topped friends sing the praises of straight hair that must seem sleek and sophisticated compared to an unruly mop. But my hair has never been sleek so much as flat, with an unfortunate tendency to stringiness.

Believe it or not, the early 90s were a high point in hair for me, because the curly perm was still in fashion. Perms were stinky, expensive and time consuming, but for that magic few weeks – after it loosened up from the new-perm poodle look, but before it started to grow out straight so that the roots alone were flat – my hair had life, it had bounce, it had volume!

Then it was college and grunge became the new hippie look, so I let my hair grow long, straight, side-parted, and didn’t care much that it didn’t do anything. We all wore huge plaid shirts and ugly shoes back then, anyway.

In the post-college professional world, though, I started hating my limp hair again so I succumbed to the curly perm. I thought this was just dandy until I overheard a choice comment when I was on assignment for the newspaper.

I was trying to interview somebody when I heard “mumble-mumble-mumble reporter.” My ears tuned in, and the next thing I heard, overly loud in the small room, was this: “OH! YOU MEAN THE GIRL WITH THE SCRAGGLY HAIR?!”

That was the last curly perm I ever had.

I’m now waffling between the short haircut I’ve had for the last five years and growing out my hair longer again. I’m bored of the short cut, but now I’m remembering why I cut it in the first place. As I write this, my half-grown-out bangs are hanging in my eyes.

I won’t resort to the perm again, though, no siree. Well, unless it happens to come back into style again, then maybe…. No, somebody stop me!

13 Replies to “In which Deb Kristina wishes she didn’t care about hair”

  1. I had the opposite problem. In 1978, my curly hair was the bane of my Freshman existence. No feathers. No wedge cut. No Short and Sassy for me… My Mom took me to Olive’s salon on Newbury Street in Boston. Olive’s catered to African Americans – and they straightened hair. Boy, did they straighten hair! We went and I got the reverse perm. You think straight roots growing in with curls below is a torment? Try frizz at the roots and dead hay below! That perm cost over $100 in 1978 – my Mom swore me to secrecy never to tell my Dad. I blew out my hair for over a decade. Then, after a bad break up – and the intro of proper hair gel, I embraced my spiral curls. If you have curly hair read Lorraine Massey’s “Curly Girls” book. It’s fab. If you have straight, shiny hair – count your blessings – it’s beautiful.

  2. My hair is straight and thin, too–and I always thought having curly hair seemed so wonderful. Especially spiral curls. But I was never brave enough to try a perm. But more about that Wednesday.

  3. I’m actually lucky with my hair – it’s full and curly if I don’t do anything to it except wash it and slap it with some product. If I want it straight, it only takes me about 20 minutes with a straightener. Still, I hate that I care about what my hair looks like so much. It’s almost down to my waist and usually is the first thing people notice about me, which is why I care so much!

  4. Wendy, YES! Tom Petty, that’s exactly the look. Sexy. One of the reasons I’m growing it out longer again is to regain the ponytail option. There’s no good substitute for short hair when you’re in a hurry, except headbands which give me a headache or hats, which get uncomfortable all day long.

    Kim, I never thought about the curly-at-the-roots problem! That WOULD be a pain! I bet your curls look great these days.

    Meredith, I look forward to reading your hair trauma on Wednesday.

    S. Krishna, you may be the first woman I’ve ever talked to who feels lucky about her hair! (And I saw your wedding photos on your website, you have good reason to love your hair.) I agree on wishing I didn’t care so much (as evidenced by this post title…) It shouldn’t matter at all, should it?

  5. I have always envied women with curly hair. It seems to express a certain vivaciousness. One of my best friends in college was a “woman of curl” and said that indeed she felt a special affinity with other “w.o.c.” because they all understood the issues of frizzing and straightening. But as an outside observer, man did I want that tumble of ringlets.

    As for the perm: my MOM used to give me home perms when I was little!! God knows why–she was probably bored. I will say that I have a friend who is a stylist at this very shi-shi salon in Marin and she says that the new perm techniques are actually really good and can achieve soft waves…

  6. I too have been victim of curly perms. One of my first memories is my mother forcing my to sit still on the kitchen counter while she permed my blond hair. I hated it! Later, I paid to have people twist my poor hair on curling rods and soak it with vile chemical that took my breath away. Then, I endured the next few weeks until it relaxed enough to actually do something with. Now, at 50, I just wash it, plop some product on it, blow it dry and hope for the best.

  7. I’ve never had a perm. My hair is naturally curly, thin, and bodiless. Bodyless? I remember in the 70s once, seeing some political protestor on the TV screen with a big ‘fro. I stared at it for a minute and said oh my god, that’s my style. I rushed upstairs and made it happen. Right after I washed it, it was nice and ‘fro-ey, but after the first day it was rather sad-looking. I use conditioner now and try for a straighter look, though still body-bodi-less.

  8. I have hair that, if left to its own devices, could threaten civilization as we know it. But that’s another story. Maybe Friday’s story …

  9. Oh yes, Eve’s hair and Sierra’s hair…inherited no doubt from my grandmother Eve, who as my mother told it…had beautiful blond curly hair…thick curly hair…our Russian foremothers I guess. Hey it could have been worse, it could have been grandpa’s red Brillo, the Polish genes, no doubt. Maybe Eve, you have a combination…thick curly Brillo. All I know is everyone always admired it when you were little, and I slaved over taming it into various adorable styles, while you cringed. And I loved every second of it.

  10. Susan, ah yes, the home perm! Been there, done that. Don’t tempt me with the promise of new-fangled perms that provide those coveted soft waves…

    Marsha, those chemicals ARE vile, aren’t they? Whew.

    Becky, I would pay good money to see a picture of your ‘fro. I was thinking curly hair was by necessity thick (thus the source of my hair envy) but I guess that isn’t always so! My hair is body-bodiless, too.

    Eve, is that why you took your hair to Uganda? To protect civilization? According to your mom, your hair has an interesting pedigree.

  11. My perms were so disastrous that they warrant their own blog post… oh wait!

    When I was little and drawing lots of pictures of princesses, I always drew them with lovely straight hair that exploded into curls at the end. I thought that was the ultimate in beauty.

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