Monday, November 27, 2006

The Bad Perm Story

My mom reminded me in a comment for the last post about the bad perm she gave me. So, yes my dears, you get to hear about it.

Once upon a time I was a happy child with long brown hair, and I wasn't concerned about my looks one way or the other. I ran around all summer wearing a bathing suit made by my mother (and my little sister had matching suits), never combed my hair, played all day, and was content.

But my mother wasn't content. No sirree.... One day she started leaning on me. She wanted to give me a perm. Of course, being about 10 years old, I didn't really even know what a perm was. She explained that it would make my hair curly, and somehow she considered this to be important, essential, even, to the overall quality of my life and my appearance.

Well, I didn't want the perm. I told her that. She kept bugging me about it. Begging me, in fact. The Perm! The Perm! It was all about the perm with her.

Eventually, in a desperate attempt to force me over the edge, she told me that she wanted to just try out the perm. Just a try! To see how it would look! And, like some cheesy available-on-TV-only product, if I wasn't Completely Satisfied, she would get my hair straightened. Yep! Just like that! Straightened back out, goodbye to the perm, hello regular hair.

So, being a typical child that believes her mother would not lie, I relented to the perm. Because I mainly just wanted to get her off of my back and stop having to listen to the nagging about the perm. I didn't want it, and I knew it wasn't anything I wanted, but figured she could do it, I could prove that in fact I did NOT like it, get my hair straightened back out, and go on with my life.

She whipped out her at-home perm kit (this was probably 1981) and went to work coiling my long dark hair into the odd little rollers, and polluting my virgin scalp with chemicals.

After a couple hours of stinky perm torture, the rollers were taken out and I burst into tears at the horror scene that was my head. Upon my ultra-thick, 70's mega-layer-cut hair was a mass of tight pin curls, turning me into the only white kid in my neighborhood with an afro!

Immediately I told my mom, blotchy-faced with tears streaming down my cheeks, "OK. I've tried it, and I hate it. I want to get it straightened!!"

And she was standing there in the corner of the kitchen, looking at the wreck she had made of my hair, knowing she had made a Big Mistake, and had the nerve to say to me, "Well....we can't get it straightened right away.....we have to wait awhile....You can't do more chemicals on your hair for awhile or it can mess it up worse...."

"How long do we have to wait?!" I asked.

I think the answer she gave me was something along the line of Months.

Have I yet mentioned that I was due to start the school year at a brand new school in about a week??

Yeah. Great.

So, my mother betrayed me, and I had to go to school looking like an afro freak instead of like the normal kid I used to be. I was also sporting horrid big glasses, and two scars on my face (one on the eyebrow, one on the chin) from wiping out in a bad bike acident (20 stitches worth!). As if I didn't have enough going against me, I was now cursed with The Perm From Hell.

She never did offer to get it straightened, either. And my hair holds a perm longer than anybody you know.

So, my mother lied through her teeth to coerce a young child to change her hair style, sentencing me to a new, painful awareness of my pitiful looks. The only good things that came from it were probably that I continued to learn how to function at least semi-confidently despite feeling unfashionable or somehow not good enough, and that my mother pretty much swore off meddling with other people's hairdos.

As proof that children do adjust, I can tell you that even though my mom played this one dirty trick on me, I still went on to like her all through my teen years, and she's one of my closest friends still.

There you go, mom! A tribute to one of your less stellar moments of motherhood. Shall I now tell about the time you left me at the gas station as collateral when you accidentally forgot to bring money to pay for gas?? (YES YOU DID!!!)


Little Dolly said...

Sounds like that was right about the same time she gave me a perm the day before my ballet recital. People were calling me "Shirley Temple" and I stunk to high-heaven (as you could not wash your hair for 3 days)! Thankfully, the only proof of that event got lost in mom's picture conglomerate years ago.

kerflop said...

Oh no! I actually ironed, with a clothes iron, my hair after a similar terrible experience. At least it's funny now, right?

DollyMama said...

So apparently what Little Dolly is telling us is that our mom did NOT learn her lesson about perming her daughter's hair. How do you think we can get our revenge, sis?

Kerflop--I did the iron-on-the-hair thing in college once. I actually laid my head alongside the ironing board and had a friend iron it. I loved how it turned out, but I guess I felt sort of embarrassed to have done something so "drastic."

Now I straighten my hair every day.... How I wish there had been straightening irons back in the 80s! I really, really, REALLY could have used one then!