There was always a great joy in being a boy during the late 1970’s to early 1980’s. Playing male sport came as quite natural as did being a member of a teenage male rock band. But there was dare we say, a ‘softer’ side, that from the time of commencing kindergarten had also been secretly festering within my psyche. The touch and feel of soft material against my skin came as beautiful as did the aroma of a girly perfume wafting in the air. I was very conscious of this behavioural pattern and the knowledge that such a trait did not correspond with the accepted norm for any male young or old in my community in that era. It nevertheless did not personally matter and as the years passed a gradual expansion of my developing womanly taste transpired much to my own curiosity and satisfaction.
An intense aversion to visiting the local barber had always been apparent. It was an uncomfortable environment. There was a wish for my hair to flow in the breeze and sit ravishingly past my shoulders but any vestige of femininity disappeared with each run of his no. 4 clippers. Stoicism was shown on my outside but my broken heart was crying a never ending deluge of tears as my hair was kept styled in a monstrosity of male ugliness in my pre puberty years.
Unbeknown to my family I used my pocket money to source a cheap long haired synthetic wig from a local thrift shop with it becoming a well hidden glimmer of joy for when a time alone did occasionally arise. The magazines as read by my mother came as a much anticipated secret treat when delivered to our letterbox via subscription each month. The latest clothes and hair trends came as a real feature. I imagined myself wearing the most beautiful of dresses accessorised with high heels and offset by smoky hued eyed shadow and rouge on my cheeks.
Commencing high school found a growth spurt that enabled my wig to be supplemented with the wearing in private of clothes from my mother’s closet. Her dresses were my favourite but a two piece combo of skirt and blouse also never failed to disappoint. One particular dress offered a little more enjoyment than most with its flared silhouette and pretty lilac colour. It was a gorgeous garment with its ruffled sleeves and a hemline hanging just above the knee. My figure could handily be accentuated by its adjustable waist tie with the outfit blending well with clip on hoop earrings and block high heels. Walking in heels became a specialty with a balance and poise soon developing. Such joy was however dictated by the work schedule of my parents who remained blissfully unaware of the ‘well balanced’ life of their only child.
I mixed easily with both sexes at school but the onset of puberty realised a greater connection to girls than boys. I liked girls from both a sexual and emotional perspective. I was still one of the boys who enjoyed the playing of male sport and hard rock music but much comfort was derived from my female relationships which were deeper and more appreciative in content and worth. There was a beautiful friendship and symmetry with a girl called Tracey who was the epitome of femininity and displayed an uncanny ability to read my true self. There was a tacit understanding of my girly inclination of which nobody else had foreseen. My male life continued although a more androgynous self also commenced with the growing out of my barber hacked hair.
Tracey and I were really close. After a short period of time I was warmly welcomed within her family unit. Her mum was widowed but not dating and focused her attention on raising two beautiful and well behaved girls. It quickly became apparent to me that all three of them shared the same tacit awareness of my well balanced life. Nothing was ever mentioned but my own feminine intuition knew different…….it was ok. My masculine side continued to be naturally evident when volunteering to fix any of their household repairs whether it be changing a faucet from a leaking tap to oiling a squeaking door hinge. I regularly mowed their lawn and kept it weed free.
My hair was growing nicely as it passed chin length with it purposely worn loose to personally appreciate its newly acquired slight bounce. It had not been greeted by a pair of scissors in over a year but even more length was wanted so as to feel even more feminine. I tended to my tresses with the right shampoo and conditioner and avoided any inclination of using a hair dryer to lessen the likelihood of split ends. Wearing different hair accessories became common albeit still in private. Hair bands and barrettes in various girly colours found a home in a ever growing collection of trinkets and keepsakes. My nails were kept short but well groomed and aided by a healthy diet. Winter weather allowed the wearing of nail polish on my toes carefully hidden under a warm pair of socks. I was also beginning to use a nice moisturiser on my face that softened my skin.
Tracey wanted my opinion on a nice pair of Capri pants she had noticed at a local boutique with us travelling by bus to the mall that weekend for a closer inspection. The Capri pants were nice but the array of dresses were personally found to be much more interesting. I was in absolute heaven. The cut and shape of each design was a highlight with the colours and varying lengths available providing much envy. Male fashion was so bland and uninspiring in comparison. We decided that the Capri pants were a worthy choice to purchase but the variety of dresses found ourselves in blissful admiration. Tracey tried a couple of dresses and sought my opinion. I nodded my approval but wished it was me wearing them. It seemed like no more than thirty minutes had passed since entering the boutique but it had in fact been an hour.
The opposite side of the mall was more prominent with an increased pedestrian activity thanks to the closer proximity of a supermarket and well utilised cinema complex. It was also on this side of the mall that a ladies hair salon called CC’s Hair Witchery was located. The ability and professionalism of its staff was common knowledge resulting in a well established and loyal clientele. Ladies from neighbouring towns were known to book an appointment due to its strong reputation. It was a salon that only had to rely upon word of mouth to attract and maintain its busy trade. The instinctive twirling of my hair was observed by Tracey as we passed the salon before we enjoyed lunch at a local European café. That tacit awareness from Tracey was still very acute. Talk about my upcoming 15th birthday became a topic of conversation over crepes, hot chocolate and Black Forest cake before leaving for home to beat the oncoming forecast of afternoon rain.
Not long before my birthday Tracey mentioned that she had earlier in the week organised a surprise present for my special day. My birthday was on a Saturday that year which she said suited her plans perfectly and to meet at her place at 9.30am. It was a convenient arrangement with it giving plenty of time to also open and appreciate gifts from my family. Nothing more was said at school or elsewhere when Tracey and I met over the following couple of weeks although thought was obviously given to what type of surprise that she had in store. Her intuition was trusted. It was left at that. A surprise would be very nice indeed and would make my day.
It was 1982 with a Sony Walkman and a few cassettes received as birthday gifts from my family. They were wonderful presents and came to be well utilised. Thought nevertheless soon transpired to what surprise Tracey was about to release. I knew that whatever present was given would be from her heart and be well suited to my tastes. It was only a ten minute walk to Tracey and her family with my arrival timed for 9.25am. I was and still am a stickler for time. An affectionate kiss from Tracey was followed by a friendly peck from her mother and sister upon my arrival. All wished me a very happy birthday. Her mother then returned to ironing a pretty pink blouse as Tracey entered her bedroom to affix her silky blunt cut shoulder length brunette hair in a high bun.
The four of us then jumped into their family car. It was reliable and safe transport despite having seen better days and served its purpose well. All three girls looked knowingly at each other as the travel toward town became closer and the traffic busier. It was a sunny day with a cloudless sky. Tracey mentioned that we were to stop by the mall where she had to collect some shampoo from CC’s Hair Witchery before meeting her mother to drive to my birthday surprise. Tracey had a new bag over her shoulder as we strode from the undercover car park to the salon. This particular bag was a little larger than the one she usually carried and I complemented her on its cute brass buckle.
Soon enough we entered the salon with its smell and atmosphere totally mesmerising. It was my first time at a salon. The reception counter came into view with a very attractive lady in her mid twenties with long red painted fingernails and expertly applied make up giving Tracey and I a generous welcome. My intuition suggested that she was for some reason expecting our arrival. It came as a complete shock when Tracey mentioned that Andrew was here for his 10.15am appointment. Another birthday kiss from Tracey quickly followed as the lady behind the reception counter graciously wished me a happy birthday with the most beautiful of smiles.
The lady gave her name as Vicki. She was a natural blonde who on that day was wearing her long and straight hair in a French braid. She ushered Tracey and I to a comfortable three seat divan to the side of the reception counter. The chair was reproduction baroque in style and suited the classy salon environment perfectly. A white cardboard appointment card was provided to enter my details for future reference as Vicki selected a book full of hairstyles from which to choose. She mentioned that Tracey had used the same hairstyle book to select my hairdo for today and that much care had been taken in consultation with her in deciding upon a suitable choice. A particular page was sought by Vicki toward the rear of the book until a shortish and tight curly perm came into view. It was a style that I had secretly yearned to wear since starting to grow out my hair. I had really envied the ever increasing number of girls at school who had over the past twelve months decided upon undergoing the process of wearing an artificial wave. The richer girls could afford a longer spiral perm but being in a working class town most opted for a shorter and therefore less expensive option. It was the curl and not the length that to them was more important.
Tracey and Vicki found a spark in my eye and together and simultaneously they again wished me a happy birthday. I was about to get my hair permed. A lovely and tight curly perm…….I could not believe it. For me. I was absolutely gobsmacked with sheer joy as instinctively my left hand reached for my hair. Thought quickly turned to how Tracey would pay for such a luxury but she replied that money had been saved for a special occasion and that occasion was me. It was added by Tracey that I made her so happy with my friendship helping immeasurably after the tragic passing of her dearly beloved father. It was then that Tracey delved into her bag with the cute brass buckle and presented a beautiful pair of black stiletto high heel shoes to wear for my appointment. They were my present from her mother and sister. I estimated the heel to be three inches high and a graciously pleasing height.
What a birthday this had become. Intuition at its best is absolutely wonderful.
The heels blended beautifully with my apparel for that day. It was my now usual androgynous look with a lacy bell sleeved top offset by a pair of skinny blue jeans. I sashayed with aplomb in my heels to the chair which Vicki mentioned was her cutting station. It was the only spare chair at the salon with that particular morning finding ladies having their hair either coloured, cut or set. The knowledge that this chair and stylist had been especially reserved for me came as special and fulfilling. I started to feel like a proper princess. I made myself comfortable with a womanly posture replacing my usual male slouch. A dainty young lady was starting to morph from the teenage boy of only minutes before. Such a transformation felt quite natural with my persona possessing a real inner grace. That such bliss had only just commenced was a satisfying omen for the continuation of this more than rewarding experience.
A freshly laundered pink polka dotted satin cape was clipped to my nape followed by the placing of a small dark coloured towel draped around my shoulders. The feel of the cape was quite sensual and came akin to wearing a most delightfully pretty dress with the dark towel reminiscent of a luxury boa. Vicki then examined my tresses and using her right hand flicked through my mane to find its natural sit before offering complements on its lovely condition. She then offered her heartfelt congratulations on my first perm. She made me feel extra special and proceeded to mention that the process would be absolutely wonderful and a fabulous girly experience to savour. An explanation regarding what was about to ensue followed with she wishing that it was her that was about to become a freshly permed young lady. It was a real rite of passage for any teenage girl of that era. She was really excited for me and for who I was about to become. Vicki had summed up the situation in a heartbeat.
A short journey to the rear of the salon for a cleansing shampoo commenced the reality of my much anticipated mass of lovely tight curls. The shampoo basin was padded to provide comfortable neck support. The long fingernails of Vicki offered a therapeutic massage of my scalp in a rhythmic circular motion with such pampering a luxurious prelude for what was to follow that morning. The cascading flow of warm water rinsed the suds from what was then still very boring straight locks. Such a situation was however about to change in the most glorious of ways. My hair was dried with the small dark towel as its soft fibres massaged my scalp and fluffed my hair with what was obviously a better quality material. There was no scrimping at this salon. A wide toothed comb was then gathered from behind the shampoo bowl and raked gently through my slightly tangled hair before Vicki escorted a very excited 15 year old to her cutting station.
She explained that the cutting of my hair was to take place before my perm. To do so now would prevent the heartache of cutting my curly locks post perm. Such a kind gesture came as genuinely thoughtful and much appreciated. It would have been devastating witnessing any of my newly acquired and lovely curls tumble down by polka dotted cape to the floor. I would have been in tears. She was to trim the sides but take extra length from the back and layer elsewhere to provide longevity for the curl required for my chosen ‘do. The only change I proposed from the photo in the hairdressing book was the creation of bangs that would sit just above the eye line. Such a look would provide extra effect when using side combs to scrape my hair away from my face when at all desired. The addition of mascara could also complement the look. She readily agreed and said it was a marvellous choice. She promised to make me really pretty.
My hair was cut with purpose as Vicki sectioned and reshaped my tresses into its new reality of femininity. The tempo was slow and deliberate but combined with a calming aura. Section after section was cut with the precision of a skilled artisan. The cutting angles used by a hairdresser seemed to be totally different to that of a barber. It came as a relief that little hair was being snipped by Vicki although it was acknowledged that the tightness of my perm would find my hair looking shorter than was the case. I did not mind at all. Having Vicki as my hairdresser came with a serene tranquillity that provided heart to the soul. She understood and respected that your hair is also your crowning glory.
Bangs that reached to the tip of my nose was the final touch to my restyle. It came as a nice girly cut. My hair felt slightly lighter but with much more structure and depth. My snipped hair disappeared as it was swept away to be replaced by the clickety clack of a trolley full of perm rods wheeled by Vicki across the salon’s tiled floor. I was starting to become more ladylike by the minute but even more so when Vicki parted my hair to commence winding. I was determined to enjoy my perming experience for all it was worth. Any sense of masculinity had disappeared and further opened my mind to the expansive joy of female life.
A young apprentice hairdresser introduced herself as Catherine and helped Vicki by passing the end papers as the slow process of winding my hair began. We all chatted amiably across a variety of subjects with easy eye contact and a feminine vibe. This was certainly no gruff barbershop. My head was starting to feel heavier as the weight of the perm rods increased but such a minor inconvenience came as a mere hiccup for the result that was to follow.
I dared not count the number of perm rods in my hair. They were however adroitly and neatly placed by Vicki at even intervals as the last strands of my hair were pinned securely. I turned my head to admire the handiwork of Vicki in the mirror placed on the wall in front. The mirror was kept smear and dust clean and showed an ornamental hint to the three seat divan situated adjacent to the salon reception. Vicki in return femininely posed her head to the right and offered a beaming smile in my direction. Such a smile conveyed what a thousand words could not.
Catherine had entered the salon storeroom where a bottle of perm solution was gathered. She returned just as Vicki had finished winding my hair. As Catherine placed cotton wool around my hairline Vicki undid the bottle of perm solution and excitedly mentioned that a head full of the most beautiful curls were on their way. There was no turning back but likewise I could not wait. It was definitely me and I was definitely in my element.
My head was tilted back a little as as a thorough and deliberate drenching of perm solution was applied. Each individual perm rod received its fair soak as another small and dark towel was handily provided by Catherine to cover and protect my face. A single bottle of perm solution was all that was needed. A plastic cap was then placed over my perm rods before my high heels and I made our way to the row of hooded dryers situated on the opposite side of the salon’s four cutting stations. The perm solution smelled unbelievably strong as I sat with my leg crossed and posture straight. I sifted through the latest edition of Good Housekeeping with the warmth of produced by the hooded dryer over my perm thankfully offering some respite from the negativity of such a pungent odour.
A relaxing ambience enshrouded my personal space as the comfortable chair under the hooded dryer acted as a nexus to a much more fluid and better world. My stilettos became as fashionable as those at Paris Fashion Week and my polka dotted cape was imagined to be a most perfect gown fit for the Oscar’s. I slid further into the depths of not only the absolute joy of being permed but also the intoxication of my increasing womanhood. My well balanced life was certainly continuing in the most satisfying of realities. It also gave an opportunity to watch the workings of a successful salon as the feminine gestures of it staff and clientele were observed with much affection and appreciation.
The size of the salon was not overly large but well planned and intimate enough to provide a place for a client’s own unique and individual pampering experience. Its staff provided an air of natural elegance with perfectly styled hair and uniforms to match. Trophies won at hair shows lined the front window. A lady in her early thirties was having her long hair bobbed into a classic page boy shape. I was thinking of how brave she was to lose such length and hoping that it was not an impulse decision to later be regretted. She nevertheless had fine facial features with her high cheekbones suiting such a short cut.
The whirr of the hooded dryer provided a soulful beat as the process of perming my locks continued pleasingly unabated. Its generation of warm air was now circulating at an ideal temperature and was leaving an indelible mark on my perming experience. Its noise offered a cocoon to the world in which to explore the vast new female diaspora that was quickly becoming a familiar aspect of my new life. Twenty minutes under the hooded dryer soon passed as Vicki checked the progress of my perm. Another five minutes was decided upon to ensure the desired result.
I wanted to stay under the hooded dryer forever but for progress to be made movement had to continue. The hooded dryer finished its cycle and the plastic cap over my perm rods was then removed. The warm water at the shampoo basin romantically flowed like a meandering wilderness stream as Vicki ensured that each perm rod was thoroughly rinsed and prepped for the neutraliser that was to follow. The hooded dryer provided a true highlight but the rinsing of my perm solution for ten minutes was absolute heaven. The neutraliser was in comparison starkly cold but still nevertheless a step closer to a head full of girly curls. Positive thoughts were the order of the day with the idea of a freshly permed coiffure a real treat.
A timer soon rang indicating that my perm was probably ready. The arrival of another beaming smile from Vicki certainly indicated that such a reality was definitely the case. From the rear of the shampoo basin Vicki gradually and carefully removed my perm rods making sure not to stretch and damage my hair. She was really happy with the resulting curls as my perm rods continued to be unwound and started playfully teasing about my newly acquired ultra curly locks. I replied just as playfully and suggested that she was jealous that such beautiful curls did not belong to her. She agreed. It was after all the 1980’s. My perm rods were then taken by Catherine to be rinsed and prepared for its next perm. I really hoped that the salon’s next client to receive a perm gained the same satisfaction as had been experienced that day.
I was glad to say farewell to the neutraliser. A fruit scented conditioner with a fragrance of apple and banana was then applied for five minutes as Vicki again massaged my hair with the same circular motion as experienced during the earlier part of my appointment. Upon completion of another rinse of warm water my fresh curls were daintily blotted dry with mention being made by Vicki not to shampoo my hair for at least another 48 hours. A return to my previously occupied cutting station followed with Tracey appearing after having undertaken some shopping and just as excited in anticipation of the final result. I had never felt such exhilaration as Vicki gestured toward my towel covered locks and slowly revealed my newly permed hair.
My hands reached my mouth in astonishment as tears welled in my eyes. My perm was adorable. I was so emotional but in the most positive of ways. The curls were absolutely gorgeous and exceeded my own expectations as Vicki reached for an afro comb from her trolley and started to untangle and style my beautiful new perm. Not only was my perm beautiful but I felt beautiful as well. I continued to cry as Vicki added a diffuser to a hairdryer to complete what had been a most enjoyable and wonderfully feminine experience. As my polka dotted cape was removed it was noticeable that my tightly permed hair did not loose as much length as expected which came as an unexpected bonus.
My perm was deliberately left slightly damp to air dry and prevent frizz. My hair was girl short but not boy short and still left scope for styling. My curls had a lovely texture with the outcome of my bangs absolutely perfect. I touched my hair as I arose from Vicki’s cutting station to check that my new perm was in fact not a dream. Tears were still in my eyes but were starting to dry as Tracey and I headed to the salon reception for payment. We embraced and kissed as I thanked her and Vicki for a most thoughtful birthday gift. It had been a mesmerising two hours and an experience that would forever be remembered fondly. My curls were just absolutely divine.
Six weeks thereafter CC’s Hair Witchery was again attended with Vicki giving my perm a deep conditioning treatment at the shampoo basin to nourish any dryness. She asked if any problems had been experienced maintaining my perm. A slight trim to rid any dead ends and provide some extra oomph to my perm’s curl completed my appointment. I was still so happy with the result of my curls from six weeks beforehand and even more so when discovering that such a simple restyle offered a most welcome outcome. My perm had dropped slightly but this was expected. A tight short hair perm was now being worn by Vicki. She had decided to lop her locks and opt for a perm after my transition to curly hair. It was her first perm too. She had found a connection with my emotional experience and had taken the plunge the week after my birthday.
It was this birthday present from Tracey that allowed the shackles to be ever so slowly broken on my path to living the life I had always desired. Transitioning to the woman I was to become commenced in my late teens with the process completed in time for for 25th birthday.
I am now known as Lulu and have much for which to be thankful.