I was always a softer type of boy. My father passed away in my infancy and a grieving mother doted adoringly on her only child to the extent that there were no masculine influences from which to learn. Little was personally known outside of a closed world of primping and preening with androgynous clothing and longish hair very much a way of life.
Tormenting teasing became the norm at school with my dainty personality and delicate features finding me an easy target for ridicule and much worse. Wearing a compulsory boy’s uniform of shorts and a scratchy collared shirt was not to my liking after a life of wearing an amazing array of fabrics that were soft to touch and feel. There weas no pizazz to such lacklustre apparel with a deep sadness ever present when attending classes. I felt miserable and could not wait until the bell rang signifying the end of another torturous school day.
Painting my fingernails and having my hair set in hot rollers, small curlers, or rags, was my escape. My mother knew when some extra loving care was required, and such activities perfectly filled the feeling of despair that came as a regular gloom. The dread of another school day was always around the corner.
Such agony became a never-ending cycle of angst until upon arriving home from school one Friday afternoon. A return to the creature comforts of home always appealed however this particular day realised the commencement of the person I was truly to become. My mother had replaced most of my androgynous garments with the prettiest of girly dresses, skirts and blouses. There was even a nice pinafore and some lovely tights and frilly underwear to appreciate.
My eyes welled with tears of the utmost joy as simultaneously a most beautiful pair of dusty pink coloured heeled shoes were found next to my pink duvet coloured bed. I was only eleven years of age but was instantly smitten and in absolute heaven. It was like a lost key had been found which opened a Pandora’s Box into my heart and soul. My mother was likewise in tears as we embraced in a loving hug.
Those ugly boy clothes worn as my school uniform only minutes before were replaced with the wearing of a lilac coloured party dress with a hemline just above the knee. I sashayed around the lounge room as my mid back length brunette hair was flicked away from my face with feminine aplomb. I had concentrated on growing my hair from shoulder length for the previous fifteen months. Finding myself in front of a full-length mirror in such splendour was to realise the beginning of a glorious new chapter in my life.
It was now 3pm as my mother urged me to add my new heeled shoes to the wearing of my party dress for a journey into town in the car. I felt and looked like a fairy tale princess. Ten minutes later and we arrived at the Le Chez Salon, who employed my mother’s hairdresser named Abigail, and took a seat at reception. I was very familiar with the salon and its staff due my mother’s personal appointments, but upon being greeted by Abigail not as Andrew, but by my pet-name of Andrea, thought only known to my mother, I was ushered through to the salon proper.
It was a brand-new experience for me as my mother had always trimmed my one length locks when needed. It notwithstanding came as a most exciting awakening. The smells of lacquer, hair spray and perm solution wafted strongly throughout the entirety of its floorspace which was situated five stairs up from reception. I was again welcomed to the salon by Abigail as she explained that my mother had made an appointment for me earlier in the week for a shampoo, cut and set. She seemed to intuitively understand that this treat coincided with the early stages of my new dream girlhood. She offered her congratulations and wished it was her about to again undertake this rite of passage that every girl got to experience.
Abigail was a tall girl in her late twenties with a svelte figure offset by blue eyes and auburn hair sitting at between chin length and her shoulders. The previous year had seen her Farrah Fawcett ‘do cropped into the popular shorter style as modelled at the time by Princess Diana. She missed the joy that extra length provided and was hoping for a quick grow out. My mother had been wearing her Princess Diana short crop for about eighteen months after previously sporting straight and long inspired hippie hair with a centre part for many a year.
I felt so at ease as the stress of school was forgotten thanks to the soothing flow of warm water over my long tresses at the shampoo basin. The massaging that followed was absolutely divine as this previously unknown world quickly developed into a pampering of much serenity. A cleansing shampoo was followed by a deep conditioning treatment with my tresses left in a hot towel for ten minutes before rinsing. I didn’t want to leave the shampoo basin but also found solace that a continuation of my first hair salon experience was to soon follow.
Before too long Abigail affectionately called me Miss Lovely and gestured toward her cutting station. I toddled across the tiled floor in my lovely heeled shoes. My hair had been piled high and wrapped in a fresh towel as a middle-aged woman about to have her shoulder length hair bobbed called me a very pretty girl. She also complemented my dress and shoes. I was polite and thanked her with Abigail mentioning that this was about to be my first salon cut. The middle-aged woman remembered her first salon visit as magical and hoped that such an experience would likewise be fondly remembered by me in the years to follow.
The towel was removed to find my locks draping down a polka dot cape. The conditioner had worked a treat as Abigail’s wide toothed comb glided through its length before she consulted me as to what type of hairstyle was being considered. I still wanted as much length as possible but with my hair being set on rollers at home, she suggested a few layers to enhance and hold any curl. There was some personal misgiving as great pride had been taken in growing my long locks, but Abigail offered only reassurance that such a cute and girly style would offer options with various accessories and worn either curly or straight.
I was happy.
Another head massage was followed by the sectioning of my hair as Abigail tilted her head to the side and provided a gleaming smile while promising to make me a very pretty princess. I felt adorable as the sectioned bottom length of my sectioned hair was gently stroked by the same wide toothed comb. Before Abigail commenced my re-style, she explained how my cut was going to be achieved and where and when the most length would be lost. She then took her scissors from her pouch and commenced what was to become a much-appreciated transformation.
She trimmed the bottom lengths but as the cut progressed much shorter layers found inches of hair fall to the floor and upon the polka dot cape. Layers were also cut to frame my face. Some thought had been given to bangs with such an idea quickly discarded. Enough length was being lost for one day. Avery methodical approach was being taken by Abigail, but it was found to be trusting at the same time. I just relaxed as Abigail did her work.
About half an hour had passed since cutting had started. This was interspersed by Abigail and her senior hairdresser named Vicki having to answer the telephone for ladies booking appointments, with apologies offered after each interruption. The salon apprentice named Gracie would usually undertake such duties but had called in ill with flu that morning. Luckily it wasn’t too busy a day. There had been a few cancellations with what Abigail had thought was the same flu. My re-styled hair was soon complete. It felt much lighter but Abigail with the help of a mirror still showed the longest length at mid-back which was met with great relief.
‘So how would you like your curls, Miss Andrea’, said Abigail as she swept away my discarded hair. I preferred my hair in curls, full stop, with my mother’s hot rollers offering more bounce and her smaller curlers providing a more definite structure, with rags somewhere in-between. There were other various styles as seen in magazines which were all greatly admired but tight ringlets came as a personal favourite. It was this type of curl that I had yearned for with Abigail more than happy to accede to my request.
I had never worn my hair in this style but just the thought had made my day even more special. The methodical approach as shown by Abigail with my re-style recommenced as my tresses were wound with deliberate purpose. About halfway through the wrap Vicki had finished the blow wave of the middle-aged woman’s fresh new bob. It looked absolutely immaculate with a chin length concave bob a wonderful choice accentuated by her high cheekbones and smart dress sense.
The winding of my hair was soon complete with Abigail having used much dexterity. It was the early 1980’s with such expertise expected, as most ladies booking appointments at the salon either wore a perm or were about to wear a perm. A hairnet soon covered my curlers as a dryer was placed over my head for twenty minutes to quicken the curling process. The warm air was found to be therapeutic as I sat with ladylike posture sipping a hot chocolate. My first salon experience was closer to finishing than starting but a great sense of fulfilment was very much apparent. It felt more like me and the person I was meant to be, like a beautiful butterfly escaping from its cocoon.
My hair was assessed by Abigail after the dryer’s timer had stopped as she suggested that another five minutes would come as ideal. She then offered to paint my fingernails as a special treat. Such kindness would provide for the extra five minutes of dryer time and allow time for my hair to cool before the unveiling of my freshly curled long locks. I personally thought that Abigail was just as excited as me. There was certainly a definite girly connection.
A deep red was chosen as a pretty colour for my nails which was thought to suit my pretty lilac dress. My nails were still being kept shortish at this point of my life, but it never mattered to me when applying a new shade of polish. As soon as the polish had been applied and dried with a small fan Abigail removed the dryer and hair net and mentioned that lots of girly curls were about to be mine. I was so excited. As each curler was removed by Abigail, she used her fingers to gently coerce and emphasise the curl into its spiral pattern.
She mentioned not to be concerned with the springiness of the curl as it was vital for the ringlet to keep its shape. Some hairspray was applied to finish off a most amazing mane of tight spiral curls. My ringlets still sat at below shoulder length. It was the amount of curl that mattered, with it known that a return to longer and straight hair was only a few days away. It offered great variety to be my girly self and was the ultimate dream result.
The ecstasy of such a wonderful gift was a great personal thrill and provided me with much satisfaction but more importantly confidence. I thanked Abigail as we walked down the stairs to reception for payment after what had been close to two hours of absolute bliss. She thanked me for being a most wonderful new client. My mother searched her purse for some money to pay Abigail but at the same time mentioned to make a weekly shampoo and set appointment for me each Friday after school.
My day had become even better with my Friday afternoon appointment becoming a most luxurious ritual as I grew into my adolescence.
Many new and positive experiences were to follow.