My mother and I always believed we were blondes, trapped in a boring-brown-haired body.
My mom actually was a towhead as a young girl, so she had a credible claim, but I jumped on the bandwagon, because I could. You see — my mom was a hairdresser.
She actually opened her own shop in San Diego a few years before she married my dad.
This meant that throughout my childhood, I watched her give herself and me crazy permanent waves, weird bangs, and, eventually, we threw in a little blonde. I believe it is called highlighting now.
As a result, I have no rational fear of mucking about with my own hair, which amazes people on a regular basis. What most don’t realize (and I’m not talking) is that there were years of “experiments” during my learning curve that left me looking strange. For starters, I do not look well if I am seriously blond. I don’t have my mother’s coloring, so being completely fair-haired just made me look prematurely gray. It took many years and many “frosting” caps to become the slapdash artist I am today.
My other safety valve is that I keep my hair short these days. Nothing I might do is so dreadful that it can’t be trimmed off in about two weeks. But even during the decade plus when I wore my hair in a bun, I occasionally streaked the front out of straight boredom.
There is little call for most of those skills acquired at my mother’s knee. She taught me how to do pin curls, use setting gel and put my hair in rollers (agh, remember those?) tease (or rat) my hair and even French-braid it. I used my braiding skills on my girlchild as long as she would let me. If she’d known how, she would have called Child Protective Services on me.
The one trick I still use is that buy-it-in-a-box frosting cap with the crochet hook, the mix-it-up bleach powder and the 45-minute-wait for results. I’m a little disappointed that the do-it-yourself method hasn’t changed in the last 50 years. I know the beauty shops use foil, but that is a trick I never mastered. Apparently I’m not alone, since the take-home kits still have us poking and pulling bits of hair through plastic cap holes. Barbaric, really.
The best and worst thing about it is, it’s never quite the same way twice. Yeah, the basics repeat, but which hair you pull through, how much comes through with each yank and how it is distributed across my head is always a surprise. I’ve only embarrassed myself once, trying to pull hair through on the crown of my head. Bad idea. I resembled the backside of an Appaloosa horse.
I may appear to be the queen of at-home beauty treatments, but I’ve got my clever hairstylist on speed dial. Sometimes, two weeks is an eternity.
Jean Gillette is a freelance writer keeping it absolutely wash-and-go for now. Contact her at [email protected]