A Bad Hair Day That Lasted Two Decades

A bad hair day lasted two decades

I’m embarrassed to tell you how old I was the first time I didn’t cry when I saw the results of a haircut. Let’s just say I wasn’t a teenager anymore. No matter how emphatically I said “just a trim,” yards of curly hair lay scattered around my feet at the end.

Okay – maybe ‘yards’ is an exaggeration. But certainly several feet. I thought there was a conspiracy to make me wear my hair shorter than I wanted to. As if my mother – from another state – had called ahead to the beautician and shared with her how nice short hair looks on me. (I’m not being paranoid – I’ve been present when she called my dad’s barber while he was en route.)

I had been fighting with my hair since the 1960s when that pink tape – touted to hold hair smooth – resulted in bangs that flipped up in a way that only a solid drenching would undo. Something there wasn’t time to do before school.

In the 70s I tried hard to make rambunctious hair look very Peggy Lipton. My father told me I looked like Barbara Streisand. Great. Instead of looking like one of the Mod Squad I looked like I walked off the set of Funny Girl.

Peggy LiptonBarbara Streisand

It only took another decade or so for me to stop rolling my eyes when told “people pay big money for perms to make their hair look like yours.” Once the eye-rolling stopped, the embracing finally began. I stopped ripping out magazine pictures of sleek hairstyles expecting my hairstylist to be more magician than beautician. I learned to say a sincere “thank you” when people complimented my hair.

One of the best parts of aging is how comfortable and accepting we get with who we are. How it occurs less and less to us to compare ourselves to others and to strive to be – or look like – something we’re not.

I’ve grown to love my thick, mind-of-its-own, curly hair. But I have no fear of getting it cut off. I’m always up for suggestions my hairstylist wants to try and on the few occasions the results aren’t great, I easily shrug it off. It’s just hair. It’ll grow back. And – don’t tell her I said this – my mother was right. I do look better in short hair.


  1. Hairstylist? It’s been years since I’ve been to one, and yes, I paid big money to have my hair look like yours. 🙂 Today, I am my own hairstylist – as evidenced by the fact that the last time I cut it, it was a full inch shorter on one side than the other. I pretended it was a style. My hair is down past my shoulders a good ten inches now (longer in the back), and it’s still an inch shorter on one side than the other. I cut bangs, too. It’s not pretty. With age does come some tolerance. 🙂

    1. I suppose a picture’s out of the question?? It sure sounds interesting! I haven’t had the nerve to take scissors to hair since lining up all my dolls in the late 60s and giving them unintended shags. Years before shags were a legitimate style. Who knew it didn’t grow back??

      I hope you don’t go so far off the grid, Maddie, that you stop hanging out with us. But just in case your writing productivity creates a leave-of-absence here, too, we’d like to wish you a very happy birthday and wishes for a blessed 25th wedding anniversary celebration – congratulations!! -El

  2. How much are you willing to pay for me to keep my yap shut to your mother, El? 😉

    I’ve run a similar course with my hair, which was last fashionable in the 1920s (flat, wavy.) I spent the 80s paying for perms to get hair that was fuller and curlier. When I moved to the humid south 14 years ago, my hair started doing naturally what I’d spent a decade paying for. Of course, sleek is again the fashion for longer tresses, and short looks better with more volume than I have. And still I try.

    Although my hair has never been on trend, I just read a fashion article that indicates my slightly oversized eyeglasses ARE. Go figure. I’ll take fashionable where I can get it… 😀

  3. One of the perks of a teaching career (and there are thousands) is that you have a pictorial record of hairdos over a twenty-something-year span. One day my daughter was looking at a particular lovely style from the mid-eighties, and gasped, “Mom, you had a mullet!”
    Indignant, I replied, “That happens to be a bi-level bob.”
    My daughter: “It’s a mullet.”

    1. TOO funny! Do I see a gimcrack post evolving?? Wouldn’t it be fun to take each of your school pictures, put them in a stack and flip through them quickly (I’m quite sure there is a WAY better technological way to do this!) to see the evolution in motion? -El

  4. I’ve had curly hair envy as recently as last week. My hair is so flat and fine that I can do very little with it. My mother tricked nature for much of my youth, giving me stinky perms where I had to hang my head over the bathtub while she tried to make my hair more compliant. For several months, I was determined to grow my hair long again, but when I flipped through the hair mags and tuned into the telepathic messages of my hairdresser, I realized my hair will never ever do what I (or my mother) want it to do, so I might as well accept it for what it is.

    1. And with acceptance comes great peace! This is classic ‘the grass is always greener . . . ” stuff. When that expression came up today in a class I was in, somebody said “where the grass is greener is usually where the sewer line is.” Hmmm. One way to remind myself “greener” isn’t always “better!”

  5. I was that child that had the natural curly hair. I got on the bus every morning looking like my hair had not been brushed and the kids started making fun of me telling me to comb my hair. I begged my mother to please let me get it straightened. but of course that never happened. So I did the best i could do with the funny girl hair. Once my mother saw how different i looked with all of the other girls she vowed she would not stop me from doing whatever I wanted to do to my hair. So when I hit my teens the good ole iron came out! Glory be praise the Lord. Then i could finally wear it my way. But today I am older and appreciate what the Good Lord gave me when I was born and loving it.

    1. I can relate, Judy! And I sure don’t miss that burnt hair smell from the ironing sessions in yesteryear!! 🙂

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