The Late 80’s
I had never given haircuts a second thought. It was just something you had to do ever month, or so. That was until 6 month’s after I met my girlfriend, now my wife. She had thin, straight, light blonde hair that really had nothing remarkable about it, that is until the Saturday she told me she couldn’t see me because she had to get her hair done. Now we both went to the same place in the mall to get our haircuts, so I was confused at why she would take all afternoon to get it done. That was until I saw her the next day. My girlfriend with the flat, straight hair now had a head of the most beautiful curly hair I had ever seen. She told me it was a spiral perm, but all I knew was I absolutely loved the new look.
At the time I was working as a serviceman for a water treatment company. I had regualr routes that took me to many houses and businesses, and I would exchange the water filters every month (If you’ve ever had well water, you know what I mean). The thing was before my girlfriends transformation, I thought nothing about the place I would go into, just to get the job done, then on to the next stop. My routes covered 4 counties, so I was in alot of restaurants, bars, and beauty salons. I never gave any of them much attention, but now I paid extra attention whenever I was in a salon. Usually it was old ladies having their hair put up in rollers, this was nothing I cared about, but every once in a while I would see a beautiful girl, with a ton of her hair laying on the floor, or having it rolled on perm rods. I would always spend a little extra time working on the equipment, if there was something good to see.
This went on for about a year, when one Friday. I was making a scheduled stop at a place called “Nan’s Place”, your average small town beauty parlor, and I saw something that I had never seen before. There was a girl in her 20’s getting her hair done, which caught my eye, but what really surprised me was the stylist was using hair clippers on the girl. I was engrossed in what I was seeing, and even made an excuse on the way out the door about there being a leak, just so I could come back inside and see more of what was happening. I managed an extra 10 minutes in the shop, even though the “repair” was easily done in about 30 seconds.
Nancy had finished with the girl, and she was out the door. I gave her the bill to sign as usual, and when she did she gave me an appointment card. “You’ll be here tomorrow at 11:00.” I looked at her confused. Nan’s Place was a woman’s beauty parlor, nothing like the place in the mall I was going to. I tried to tell her no thank you, but Nancy made it clear. “If you’re not her tomorrow, I’m going to tell your boss that you stole some money from the back room” I was more confused than ever, but I needed my job, so I said “Okay” and went out the door.
I could concentrate the rest of the day, wondering why she gave me that card. My girlfriend lived in the small town where Nan’s Place was, and when I told her I was going there for my haircut, instead of our usual place she thought I was joking. “Maybe you’ll see my grandmother there. You can sit next to her under the hair dryer” I told her that Nancy was going to start cutting men’s hair, and to try and get some male customers, so she offered to give all the guys in my shop a free haircut.
I timidly walked into the shop at 11:00. It was a lot more quiet than normal, just Nancy and a girl in her chair. “Alan, come sit over here next to us. I’m running a little behind, so you don’t want to sit in those hard plastic seats.” I sat in the salon chair right next to Nancy. “Alan, I hope you don’t mind, but Mary decided she was going to have her hair curled, so it is going to be a while.” Nancy gave me a wink as she went about finishing the cut she was giving to Mary. Nancy then sectioned off her hair and started to wrap the girls hair around these weird looking things. They were different than the normal rods and curlers I was used to seeing in all the salons I went to.
I was deep in to what was happening just a few feet from me when all of a sudden I was stunned by what Nancy said next “What do you thing Mary, should I give Alan a nice head of curls like you’re going to have?” What did she just say! She must of been joking, but when I looked at Nancy’s face she was not smiling. Mary didn’t help matters either “A nice poodle perm for him” I went from being all excited about what I had seen, to the most scared I I had ever been. I didn’t want a perm. How would I ever explain that to my girlfriend, let alone all the guys at the shop. Nancy finished rollling Mary’s hair, then cut the top off the bottle of perm solution “Just let me get Mary soaked in, then we can start on you next.” I was in full panic mode now. As Nancy took Mary over to the hood dryer I thought about making a run for the door, but I knew if I did it would mean the end of my job, and probably my relationship, if my girlfriend thought I stole some money.
“Alan, come on back, and we’ll get you washed” I got up and made my way to the wash station. Nancy then grabbed a bright pink vinyl cape “I saved this one for you” Nancy started to give me a vigorous wash “I know what you like Alan. You always spend extra time when I’m giving a nice short cut or a perm on a young girl” Nancy wrapped a towel turban style around my head “It was no mistake that I had you come in when I was giving Mary her perm. I know you’ll remember her for years to come” We made our way to her station and after she removed the towel, Nancy combed out my hair and sectioned it off just like she did for Mary. She pulled the cart with the perm rods into my line of sight.
“So then are you ready to get your new style?” My mouth was totally dry, and I couldn’t seem to form an answer anyhow. Our eyes met as I stared into the mirror “So should we make Mary happy, and give you a tight poodle perm?” I quickly shook my head side to side, silent screaming no. Nancy kept adding to my fears “You hair is so thick. I know which perm I should use so your curls stay nice and tight for at least 4 months” She put the box on the counter ‘Zotos, Quantum Ultra Firm Ezothermic Perm Kit’. My heart sank, but before I could worry any more Nancy started at the back of my head “I think the 1/4″ yellow rods will give you the best results” I couldn’t believe what was happening as she wound the rod tightly against my scalp. She continued the process until I had a line of rods down the middle of my head from my nape to my forehead. A timer went off and Nancy excused herself to rinse the perm solution out of Mary’s hair.
As Nancy and Mary walked out of the back where the wash station was, Mary saw me with the rods in my hair She giggled as she said to me “Alan you’re such a brave guy to ask for such a girly style. You’re going to be the cutest poodle when Nancy is done with you.” Nancy sat Mary down in the seat next to me, then started to apply the neautralizer to Mary’s hair. When she finished she returned back to me, turning the chair so I faced Mary “Might as well give you something to look at while I roll this side.” While I usually would have been all excited seeing Mary in the chair, all I could think of was my impending style. “A few more minutes and it will be your turn under the dryer.” Nancy finished the side, then it was time to rinse Marys hair.
Minutes later Nancy put Mary back under the dryer “Just a few more minutes before the big reveal” Then it was back to me. As Nancy started on the other side, our eyes met in the mirror “I don’t know who I’m more excited to see, you or Mary.” The pit in my stomach instantly grew larger. As the last of the rods were put on my head My eyes stared intently at the box of perm solution on the counter. How could this be happening to me? Nancy picked up the box and turned the chair around so I was looking at Mary, under the hood dryer. I felt my hair becoming wet as Nancy poured the liquid over each rod. All I could think of was what i was going to tell everyone. A few minutes later Nancy was leading me to the hood dryer next to Mary “Okay Alan, just 25 minutes until and you’ll have a wonderful head of curls”
Nancy then turned off Mary’s dryer “Okay Mary, it’s time for the big reveal” I watched as Nancy started to unroll the rods from Mary’s head, revealing the same spiral curls that my girlfriend had received a few months ago. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and Mary must have agreed, because she was smiling ear to ear. A few flicks of a hair pick, then a light coat of hairspray, and Nancy pronounced Mary done. To me this almost made it worth what I was going thru. I doubted I would ever get to see anything like what I had just seen ever again. As Mary got up and headed for the door, she stopped by me “So happy to meet you Alan. I’m sure you’re going to be really cute with curly hair” I thanked Mary, and told her how great she looked.
It was now just Nancy and me. After 20 minutes Nancy turned off the dryer and took me back to rinse off my hair. “I’m sure you’ll be surprised how tight your curls are going to be” I knew there was nothing I could do now so I didn’t say anything to her. Back at the salon chair Nancy was soaking ny head again “Just 10 minutes more until you’re a curly girl” I said nothing, not wanting to give her the satisfaction. Nancy put me under the dryer again “Just 5 minutes should do it”
I wanted this all to be over, but I was never more nervous than when Nancy turned off the dryer for the last time. “Okay Alan, lets see the new you” I watched as Nancy started to unwind the rods, first the back then the sides. I could not believe what i was seeing. My three inches of hair was now tiny curls that sat tight against my head. I should have let Nancy tell my boss I stole the money, finding a new job would much easier than explaining why I did this to myself.
Nancy used her pick to fluff up my hair. Nancy had a big smile on her face as I looked in the mirror “I’ve never seen a cuter head of curls” I didn’t say a word. “So then Alan, do you want to wear your curls home, or should we was them out now?” Now I knew that the one thing perms were, was permanent. Confused I asked her “What do you mean wash them out?” Nancy smiled even more now “Well Alan, what I gave you was a temporary perm. It lasts through one good wash” I felt like I could breath again “Why would you do that?” Nancy told me “I just wanted to straighten you out a little bit. A little fear is good for you” I closed my eyes, happy that I was off the hook. Nancy turned the chair around, and to my surprise took several pictures of me with my curly hair. “Okay. I guess fun time is over, lets get you washed.”
I walked out of Nan’s Place with a regular mens cut, a little shorter than I usually wore, but I was a happy guy. Nancy made an appointment for me in 3 weeks, telling me that Mary’s sister was scheduled to have her hair permed, and she knew I would want to be there. She was not wrong.
I left my old job soon after our encounter, but Thirty years later, Nancy still cuts my hair. I haven’t seen her give anyone a perm in a few years, but I don’t care, everytime I walk in the door I still remember that day.