Permdemic! : Chapter 4

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“Curl Up and Dye?” Jackie wondered aloud. What was going on? The salon had been called ‘Shear Bliss’ for as long as she’d been coming to it. Had there been a change of ownership? Peering through the window, it did all look a bit different inside. Someone really should have let her know, if that was the case.

She tentatively pushed the door open and approached the reception desk. It was occupied by a rather strict looking woman with a sculpted round perm, modest and demure makeup, and just a touch of clear polish on her very short nails.

“Er, I’m Jackie Parsons? I had an appointment this morning, but um…?”

“Ah, yes, Miss Parsons. Lovely to see you again. Josephine will be ready for you very soon.”

Jackie frowned.”Betty? Is that you?” She had recognised the receptionist’s voice, but could hardly believe what she was seeing. Betty used to have a big, teased golden mane like a lioness, a full face of immaculate makeup and long, painted nails. She had always looked as glamorous as anyone Jackie had known.

Betty smiled at her. “Yes, Jackie. I suppose you haven’t seen me in a little while. Josephine gave me the most wonderful makeover. I just adore my neat little bouffant. Don’t you think it looks divine?” She patted her primly set hairdo.

“Oh, er, yes, um, it’s er, very, er, very ladylike, Betty.” She stammered out, unconsciously fingering the ends of her own carefully straightened tresses, a few inches below her shoulders.

“Why thank you, dear. That’s exactly what Josephine said. She thought that a bit of a change in the salon’s image was called for. She wanted us all to look smarter, more professional.”

“Oh. I see. Well, yes, you do look, er, very professional, Betty.”

Betty smiled again. “Here’s Josephine now. Let me take your coat.”

Jackie allowed Betty to slip her coat off as the name ‘Josephine’ echoed around her head. She supposed that ‘Josie’ had to be short for something, but she’d never heard anyone call her that before. Why the sudden change? Was that all to do with changing the salon’s image? Surely Josie hadn’t….

Jackie turned, not knowing what to expect. Her eyes widened at what greeted her. Josie’s long wavy red hair, usually worn up in a perky high ponytail, had been cropped short and permed into a ball of tight curls. Her makeup was subtle but defined, giving her a more mature appearance, and instead of her normal short skirt and tight top, she was wearing a primly buttoned blouse and a pleated skirt which fell modestly below her knees.

“Jackie, dear.” Josie greeted her. “How have you been? Come on through and we’ll see what’s to be done with all this.” She reached over and gave a gentle tug on Jackie’s hair.


“So,” Josie began brightly. “I think we need to go a good bit shorter with you today. This long straight hair really isn’t doing anything for you any more.”

Jackie was sitting in Josie’s styling chair, hair washed and combed out, with a pink nylon cape fastened tightly around her neck.

“Oh. Do you really think so?” She asked, concerned. “I’ve never had my hair much shorter than this.”

“Mmmm, I’m afraid so, my dear. The ends really aren’t in very good condition, and I just think you need a nice, new, fresh look.”

“Well, maybe….”

“That’s the spirit!” Josie interrupted. “Now, how do you feel about having some curl in your hair, hmm?”

“What, you mean a perm?” Jackie sounded alarmed. “Oh, no, I don’t think so.”

“Oh, don’t be so quick to dismiss it.” Josie chided her. “Perms have come a long way since the 80’s. We’ve got this wonderful new solution, really quick and easy, and it smells divine. Here.”

She bent down to put her tight curls next to Jackie’s face. Jackie sniffed, carefully.

“Mmm, strawberry? And that’s the perm solution?”

“Yes, isn’t it wonderful?”

“Um, well, it does smell good, and, er, your hair is lovely, and so is Betty’s.” Jackie was doing her best to be diplomatic. “But, um, it’s just a bit of a big step, you know.” She smiled apologetically at Josie.

“Oh, I know, dear. Lots of the girls weren’t sure at first, but they just seem to fall in love with it after a while.” She gestured around the salon. Jackie had been too preoccupied to notice before, but she now saw that more than half of the staff were wearing their hair in short, tight curly perms. There was also one lady having her hair rolled onto skinny red rods, and two more clients sitting under the old-fashioned hood dryers which she was sure hadn’t been there last time she was in the salon.

“You just have a think about it, yes?” Josie offered. “Any time you’re ready for curls, you come back and see me.”

“Oh, yes, sure, Josie, I’ll, er, think about it.” Visibly relieved, Jackie settled down into the chair.

Josephine, dear, if you don’t mind.” She chided Jackie. “I find it more appropriate for a responsible businesswoman, don’t you think?”

“Oh, er, yes, of course. Josephine. I’ll try to remember.” She smiled, weakly.

“So for today, then, I’m thinking about here.” She held her hands a little above Jackie’s chin.

“Oh, that seems very short.” Jackie murmured.

“Trust me.” Josephine told her firmly. “I understand that you’re not ready for a perm just yet, but we do need to get that hair up off your collar, and send you home looking a bit smarter.”

Jackie wanted to protest further, but somehow found herself unable to. Oh well, she thought,  maybe it is time for a bit of a change.


“Oh! Do you really think I need a fringe?” Jackie had quietly allowed Josie to take several inches from the length of her hair, biting her lip as each section fell, but couldn’t suppress her alarm as Josie determinedly combed a section of hair straight down over her eyes.

“Oh yes. No question.” Josephine’s scissors were poised, just a little above Jackie’s eyebrows. “You’re going to look very smart now we’ve got your hair into a neat little bob like this. We don’t want it getting in your face now, do we?”

She took Jackie’s silence as assent, and closed the scissors. Another four inches of hair slithered to the floor, as Jackie swallowed.


“Now, I’ve cut this so it just curls under, right at your hairline. That always looks very smart.”

Josephine had finished the cut and blow-dried Jackie’s hair. She held a mirror up so that Jackie could see the back. It did look very neat, Jackie conceded.

“And it slopes up towards the front, just to your earlobes, so you shouldn’t have any bother with it getting in your face, especially with this darling little fringe.”

She fussed with the fringe, combing it down into a perfectly straight line half an inch above Jackie’s eyebrows.

“So unless you want any more coming off…?” Josephine waited.

“Oh, er, no, that’s lovely, thank you.” Jackie really wasn’t sure that she liked this cut, it was much shorter than she’d ever had it, and she couldn’t help feeling that it was rather frumpy. She could hardly say that, though.

“I’m so pleased that you like it. I just knew that you were ready for a proper haircut.” Josephine picked up a big gold can of hairspray, and cemented Jackie’s primly ladylike bob firmly into place. She touched a few errant stands back into line with her comb.

“Now just remember, any time you want a perm, you just come back, OK? I’ll be very happy to give you some lovely tight curls.”

“Uh, yeah, sure, er, Josephine, I’ll remember that.” Jackie smiled, but her mind was spinning.

A perm? No chance. Josie must have flipped. I mean, maybe I did need a bit of a change, and I’m sure I can make this bob work, once I’ve washed all this hairspray out, but a perm? A short, tight curly perm like hers? I don’t know what’s got into everyone here, but there’s no way I’m going to let her make me look like a poodle!


In the University’s newest and best equipped lecture theatre, a group of executives from Hathor Ltd. were listening intently to a presentation on their newest sponsored product, created by the biochemistry department’s rising star, Dr. Katie Williams. The product was, of course, the Ultimate Perm Solution, a revolutionary invention that would change hairdressing forever. Or at least, that’s what the final slide on the presentation claimed.

Katie smiled confidently at her audience. “In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, the unique self neutralising nature of the solution and its diverse fragrant elements will make this hairdressing product a one hundred percent guaranteed success.” She patted her own perfectly uniform curly perm, looking extremely self-satisfied.

“Any questions?”

“It all sounds very impressive, Doctor.” Mallory Wilkerson, CEO and President of the Board of Directors spoke up.

“I mean that a perm solution that smells pleasant and saves half the processing time is certainly something I’ve never seen before. But what concerns me is the contemporary fashion element.”

“The mission statement of Hathor’s beauty products division is to be ahead of the fashion curve,” she continued, “and, no offence doctor, but I just don’t see the 18-45 demographic rushing out to get a, well, an outdated perm.”

Katie had expected something like this, and she didn’t flinch. In fact, a spark lit up in her eyes.

“Well, it is a valid concern Miss Wilkerson. However, I have data that shows that perms won’t only be back in style, but will actually be the leading fashion trend within the next six months.” Katie stated without a hint of a doubt.

She turned back to her laptop and clicked through a number of slides, all showing photos of permed women, smiling, in a beauty salon.

“I have recently entered into a partnership with one of the most popular hair salons in the city. We have rebranded as a traditional hairdressers and begun to promote the Ultimate Perm Solution as an exclusive salon product. And in the last two months, the number of women that leave the salon with a head of curls has increased by 300%.”

There was a flurry of raised eyebrows and whispers as Katie’s audience took this information in. She carried on, pressing home her advantage.

“My assistants, who, like me by the way, fall into your preferred 18-45 demographic, were two of the first customers, and they’re both delighted with their perms. Isn’t that right, girls?”

Stacy and Mildred walked in on cue, sporting their perfectly rounded permed hairdos, both wearing immaculate and modest skirt suits and conservative make-up.

“Yes Dr. Williams.” They chorused as they handed each member of the audience a detailed report of the sales of the solution over the previous two months.

The CEO was more than impressed. She glanced through the data and took a deep breath. The strawberry and rose scents from the duos’ perms followed her all the way to her seat.

“So six months you say?” She challenged Katie.

Katie grinned widely. “Six months.” She replied, knowing that the deal was in the bag.


Jackie walked slowly towards Curl Up and Dye. Her hesitation this time wasn’t because she didn’t recognise it, but because there was a small part of her that couldn’t quite believe what she was doing.

She reached the door, and nervously checked her reflection in the window. After her last visit, she had indeed washed all of the hairspray out and tried to style the fringe to give her short bob a more modern feel. But it had remained stubbornly neat and tidy, and after a few days, she had succumbed to the inevitable, and allowed it to fall just as Josie, (no, Josephine, she reminded herself) had cut it; neatly curled under at the back, and her perfectly straight fringe well clear of her eyebrows.

After a few more days, she had begun to appreciate the neat and tidy look, and even started to use a bit of hairspray to ensure it stayed looking pristine. She decided that Josephine had been right; she had needed a change, and this shorter, smarter cut really was more appropriate than the straggly long layers that she’d always thought she had to maintain.

Before she knew it, she was starting to think that perhaps curly hair wasn’t such an absurd idea. And now, today, she found herself back at the salon, just three weeks after her last appointment, doing something she never thought she would.

She had used more hairspray than usual today, attempting to replicate the stiff, formal finish that she had left the salon with. She had also dressed more carefully, feeling that a modest, below the knee skirt and a buttoned up blouse would fit in better, both with her hairstyle and the more traditional surroundings of the salon.

She took a deep breath and pushed the door open.


“Ah, Miss. Parsons. Right on time.” The immaculately coiffed receptionist greeted her.

“Oh, er, thank you Betty. Er, Elizabeth.” Jackie corrected herself, as Betty / Elizabeth pointed discreetly to her name badge.

“Thank you, dear. Our new managing partner is, quite rightly, insisting on full names. It’s so much more professional, don’t you think?”

She didn’t wait for an answer, but carried straight on. “Josephine will be with you right away. If you’ll just let me take your coat.”

Jackie glanced around the salon. It was only three weeks since her last appointment, but the changes were quite significant. One wall was entirely occupied by large, old-fashioned pink-and-chrome hood dryers, and the salon chairs were upholstered in the same shade of pink.

The pink theme didn’t stop there. The staff had a new uniform consisting of a pink skirt and waistcoat over a crisp white blouse, and it seemed as though everyone there had short, curly hair. The air was full of the mingled fruity and floral smells of the Williams Ultimate Perm Solution.

She swallowed nervously, suddenly finding the salon atmosphere overwhelming.

“Jacqueline, aren’t you looking smart today.” Jackie’s reverie was suddenly broken and she looked around.

Josephine was standing right by her, immaculate in the new salon uniform. Her hair was still the same shade of red, but it had been cropped much more severely than before. The back had been taken very short with clippers, and her ears were entirely exposed. The tight curls on top had been teased and sprayed into a neat bubble. Jackie’s eyes widened slightly, and Josephine smiled.

“Do you like it?” She asked, turning her head to show off her clippered nape. “Alicia did it for me this morning. I can finish yours off like this if you want?”

“Oh, er, “ Jackie stuttered. “No, it, er, it’s very smart , but I don’t think, er.”

Josephine rolled her eyes. “Don’t panic, dear, I’m not going to do anything you don’t want. So we’ll just give you the standard short perm that you weren’t quite brave enough for last time, yes?”

Jackie swallowed again as the phrase ‘standard short perm’ slowly sank in. One small part of her brain was demanding to know if she’d lost her mind, but it was drowned out by a louder, more persistent voice which calmly assured her that curls were beautiful and that nothing would make her happier than a nice, tight curly perm from Josephine.

“Yes please.” She replied, meekly, and followed her hairdresser across the salon.


“So, Jacqueline was admiring my nape just now.” Josephine remarked casually to her colleague, Alicia. “I don’t think she’s quite ready for it herself, but I think I might have to do yours the same, once we’ve closed tonight.”

“Oooh, I’ll look forward to it.” Alicia grinned back, patting her own curls. They were just as tight as Josephine’s, but hers formed a symmetrical ball all around her head. “I love these curls, but I really enjoyed cropping yours. A tight perm with a shaved nape is such a beautiful look.”

Josephine resumed cutting Jackie’s hair into short uniform layers. Jackie watched as another tress of wet hair slid down the pink nylon cape.


“Here. Pass me up one of these papers when I ask, please.” Jackie was handed a packet of end papers. She fumbled one out and handed it to Josephine, who deftly took a section of hair and wrapped it tightly around the skinny plastic rod.

They repeated the routine, over and over until Jackie’s head was completely covered.

“Now is the fun bit!” Josephine grinned. “You get to choose the scent you want your perm to have.” She gestured towards a poster displaying all the different fragrances.

“Mmmm, honeysuckle sounds wonderful!” Jackie enthused.

“Oh it is! You’re going to love this.” The solution was quickly applied and Jackie was tucked under one of the retro hood dryers. She sat there, slowly drifting away under the heat and white noise of the dryer, still not quite able to believe what she had done. It was so far from her comfort zone, but somehow, just felt so right.

The timer pinged and the dryer was lifted.

“Time to get you finished off, young lady.” Josephine led her back to her chair and leant her back into the basin. She was quickly rinsed off and her perm rods removed.

“I knew you’d come back for some curls, once you had a little while to think about it.” Josephine told her. “You’re clearly a sensible, grown up woman who appreciates proper, traditional ladies’ hairdressing. Not like those silly girls you see on the high street on a Saturday night, with a mess of rat’s tails hanging down their backs. I can’t understand the salons sending them home looking like that. It’s a disgrace, it really is.”

She picked up a hairdryer and blasted Jackie’s curls. In just a couple of minutes, they were perfectly dry.

“Head down, please.”

Jackie did as she was told, and Josephine brought her tiny buzzing clippers up to Jackie’s nape.

“Just cleaning this up for you dear. Really can’t have anything spoiling your nice clean hairline.”

Jackie shivered as the clippers vibrated up her newly bared nape.


A gust of wind swept around Jackie as she stepped out of the salon, chilling her exposed neck, but her hair didn’t move. The combination of the tight perm and the two coats of lacquer held it rock solid. She shivered again. She couldn’t resist a glance in the salon window, and smiled as she saw the perfect round ball of curls on her head. It felt so good to have had it done. The nagging little voice inside her was purring contentedly, reassuring her that she looked fabulous. She allowed a small smile to cross her lips, and strode down the street.

She couldn’t help noticing, as she went, that there were distinctly more heads of tight curls on the high street than there had been just a few short weeks before.


Six months later…

“..and finally, we report on the startling return of the fashion trend that has taken the country by storm. Yes, I’m talking about the perm, of course, and the way that it has reappeared from obscurity to grace the heads of so many women.”

The television newsreader, immaculately dressed in a navy blue skirt suit, modest heels and a primly buttoned blouse, gestured at her own head of springy curls.

“In fact, as you can see, last week, even I found myself sitting under an old-fashioned hairdryer with a head full of rollers.” She smiled, self-consciously. “Earlier, I spoke to Mallory Wilkerson, the CEO of Hathor Ltd., the manufacturer of the revolutionary new perm solution that seems to be driving this new trend.”

The screen cut to show another smartly dressed lady, her own short, tight perm showing a few streaks of grey. She smiled for the camera.

“Well, Sonia, much as I’d love to take all the credit for this, I’m not sure that we can. Our ground-breaking new perm solution has certainly revolutionised the process, but the perm was clearly a fashion waiting to return. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

Dr. Katie Williams, watching the broadcast in her luxurious new penthouse apartment, glanced in the mirror at her own immaculately permed and set hair and started to smile. The smile grew wider and wider, and finally, when she could hold it no more, she threw back her head and allowed the uncontrollable laughter to finally break free.


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4 responses to “Permdemic! : Chapter 4

  1. I hope this fashionable return, the 80’s bubble perm, isn’t just a fantasy no it should become reality …. At the moment im searching for a salon or beauticians offering the old fashion perm style and old chemical perm solutions …. Everything is stylish or natural or clean or boring, thats the main stream ….. so yes i loved the tale and i would love to meet this new salon girls and sitting down waiting for my make over …. Just perfect

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