Yesterday, on my way out of the supermarket, I was standing by the notice pillar reading the ads for country music jam sessions, Mother’s Day lobster dinner take-out, and hand written notes with little tear off tabs advertising housekeeping services, when I was surprised by a little hesitant tap on my arm. I turned to see an attractive older lady, neatly dressed with jaw length cropped grey hair. She was blushing slightly as she spurted “I’m sorry, I just had to stop to tell you that you have beautiful hair…I mean if only mine was fit I would grow it out like yours in a long braid with a little brush end” and then she giggled. My eyebrows went up and I struggled to think of something sensible to say. “Thank you – but I only keep it long because I am not good with maintenance” I managed to stutter. “Well, it is just beautiful” she repeated and she rushed off in such a fluster that she tripped over the door mat. I was left dumbfounded. It is not the first time this has happened. A couple of months ago I was seated at the food court waiting for my son when a pair of septuagenarians stopped, and, like a whipsaw duo, raved about my hair. On another occasion a lady stopped me and asked if she could touch it – now that was creepy.
It got me thinking about hair. I recall being a small child, standing between my mother’s knees, whining and wailing whilst she struggled to get the comb through my tangles. Even worse were the days when she ignored my caterwauling and went on to make fancy do’s with ringlets, which were really wasted on me as I would lose the ribbons before I was off the back step. That is probably why she never let me grow it out, even though I would have given my favourite bear and all my books (except the Noddy ones) to be able to have a long flippy ponytail like my sister June, who was blessed with a straight, well-behaved pelt, which made me think she looked like Ali MacGraw (dating myself here aren’t I). When I was nine we moved and there was a girl in our neighbourhood named Roxanne who had the longest braid I had ever seen (we called them plaits) and I was green with envy and wished for a plait of my own. But no, by now my mother was taking me to a hairdresser for pixie cuts. They were administered by Mrs. Young, who sawed my locks into short layers with a straight razor of which I was terrified as it frequently crept dangerously close to my ears. Thank goodness I had small ears. All the while she cut, the fat wattles on her upper arms flapped, creating a disturbing breeze on my now naked neck. The new haircut only ever looked good on the afternoon it was done. By next morning it would again resemble a birch broom in the fits.
Once, when I was in grade five, my sister Mary, fancying that she had beautician skills, talked me into letting her cut my hair in the latest fashion. On completion, I took one look in the mirror and ran crying into my bedroom where I stayed until it was time for school the next morning. I was able to suppress my self-consciousness until the principal, Mrs. Drover, stopped me in the corridor. I just couldn’t decipher that look on her face as she said “I see you’ve gotten a new haircut”. “Yes” I responded “my sister Mary did it. It’s called the shag.” I now understand that look to be stifled amusement.
In grade nine, after I decided I couldn’t wear peasant blouses and flowered maxi skirt hippy garb without being laughed at, I decided that I would start buying clothes in the boy’s department. I sported construction boots (before it was fashionable to do so), Levis jeans, a white Levis shirt with pearl snaps instead of buttons, and my pride and joy, a large Levis belt buckle. It wasn’t enough to achieve the effect I wanted so I took myself downtown to the barbershop next to Dad’s store to get a short guy-cut. I barely had one foot over the doorstep and the request off my lips when I heard “Get out of here, I’ll do no such thing. What’s the world coming to – girls comin’ to a barbershop instead of a beauty parlour”. My enthusiasm was only dampened a smidge and I strutted on to the Main Street barbershop which thankfully, was a little more progressive. But it only stayed nice and boyish for a day or two. Then it went crooked and I tried to trim it myself which was not at all helpful.
My hair was its shortest when I was in my first paying gig as an actress with the Newfoundland and Labrador Travelling Theatre Company. I was a soldier (amongst many other characters) in a play called The Battle of Beaumont Hamel. This time it actually grew out nicely, that is until I decided that now I had an income I could go to the pros and get a real perm. I asked for “a loose perm please, like long Shirley Temple curls.” I left the parlour looking like I had stolen the scalp from Jackson 5 singer. I took to wearing a paisley bandana until it grew out.
I managed to avoid the mushroom cut, radar bangs, big hair of the 80s, the side-pony, and the lady Di look, opting to keep it restrained and out of trouble in a long, usually messy braid. That is until I became a new mother. One day in a post-natal sleep deprived stupor I looked at my hair and decided that it was more than creepy having all that dead stuff hanging off my head. I scooted out from work on my lunch break to get shorn. The discount hairdresser snip snipped away all the while exclaiming how much I would save on shampoo and hair accessories now that my hair was short. I had given her very specific instructions but when she was done I realized that she only new one hairstyle as I now had the same cut as her two daughters had in the school pictures stuck in the clips of her mirror frame. It was not the cut I had in mind. C’est la vie.
I can count on one hand the few times that I have had nice hair. The first was when a hairdresser from Moncton named Jules stayed at our communal house for the weekend. He dolled me up with a victory roll and glamour make-up that was most flattering. I was never able to replicate it. Jonathon, at the downtown salon gave me a great cut twice but from then on could never replicate it. I moved from a series of salons ranging from high end studios to Walmart until I finally gave up and let the danged stuff grow out. The last time it was worth looking at was when it was done up for my wedding. Many thanks to Michelle Bevis. She is the best.
Honestly, I have hated my hair for as long as I can remember. It is thick, wavy and never stays where you put it without an application of toxic acrylic hairspray with super-deluxe holding power. And only then for a few minutes. Problem is it grows so danged fast I can never keep up with it. Recently I decided to take advantage of that fact and grow it out to donate for cancer wigs. Right noble of me, I thought, a small jewel in my proverbial crown. When I thought it ready I measured it up, and yup, there was the prerequisite ten inches with enough spare to leave a cute bob. Turned out that they do not accept grey hair. Well pardon me! Guess it will just have to go in the trash after all, if I cut it that is. Wasn’t there some handicraft souvenir they made in Victorian times with locks of human hair? Now that is even more creepy (insert shudder à la Bart Simpson here).
So tell me, do you like your own hair? Do you know anyone who likes their own hair? I’d love to meet them.
© Judy Parsons 2014