Retro Hairdo Delight

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Hi everyone! This is story is a mixture of fact and fiction. I have had a few opportunities in my life to do something interesting with my hair, and regretfully haven’t always taken those chances. This story, and future ones if this one is well received, is my chance to (sort of) right those wrongs by imagining how those scenarios might have played out. A very special thank you to VintageHairtylist over on Flickr. That page has TONS of pictures from scans of hairstyle catalogues from over the years, and is a great source of reference, if you enjoy the older hairdos.


Hope you enjoy! –BLWinx


In between my 8th grade and freshman year in high school, I lived with my Grandma (Grammy Sue) for about two weeks. Both my little sister and brother had found a friend to go on vacation with, and a camp to attend, respectively. I, on the other hand didn’t, so my mom arranged for Grammy Sue to watch me while she went on vacation with some of her college friends. Unsurprisingly, I felt I was old enough to live on my own while she was on vacation, but mom said no. Grammy Sue lived about two hours away up sate, and in a rural farm town area. This was in the late 1990s, and even then it was one of those slightly economically depressed areas that had long since seen its prime. Still, it was a nice small, safe town, and I enjoyed being out in the country, at least at first.


A few days in, however, I was bored. There wasn’t really anything to do, and even though we’d visit her a couple of times a year, Grammy Sue was the only person up there I knew. When I was two or three, Grammy Sue had retired from hairdressing after an impressive 25 years in the business. As a result, she had an abundance of old hairstyle magazines from the 60s, 70s, and early 80s which I used to thoroughly enjoy flipping through. I just loved looking at these dated, elaborate hairstyles, or as these magazines always referred to them, ‘coiffures’. I had always found myself fascinated by hairstyles, more so than I think the typical girl, but couldn’t ever quite define why, at least not until I was older. Hairdos that required lots of rollers, teasing and spray particularly caught my attention. My sister and brother would often protest when our mom would make us go with her to the salon, but I secretly looked forward to it. Sometimes while we waited for mom while her hair was being cut and styled, I would try to imagine myself sitting in one of those chairs, with those strange little plastic tubes in my hair. By this time, though, I had flipped through those magazines so much that they no longer excited me like they used to.


It was very hot that summer, and while thankfully Grammy Sue had AC, she did not have a TV that had more than three channels. Essentially, all I had to do was play cribbage and leaf through old hair magazines. The only thing that broke the monotony was when a few of the other older ladies from the area would poke in for an hour or two, and chat with Grammy, and also have their hair, washed, set with rollers, and styled. Although retired, a few of these women still enjoyed having their hair done by Grammy, which she would happily accommodate. She wasn’t paid per se, but it was during that week that I found out that Grammy Sue did receive a regular stream of casseroles, small house services, fresh produce, and the like as compensation. I always thought this was a nice little arrangement.


One day, having literally nothing else to do, I decided to Grammy Sue in the laundry room that also doubled as ‘style room’, as she referred to it. Joining Grammy Sue in the room was a large, boisterous woman whose name I clearly recall as Mrs. Gloria Lawson. I have to correct my earlier statement, as Mrs. Lawson was the one person I kind of knew from Grammy’s area. She and my Grandma were close friends, though for the life of me, I never understood why. Whereas Grammy Sue was petite, soft-spoken, and somewhat private, Mrs. Lawson was a tall, plump, boisterous gossip-fiend, yet with a big heart, and certainly never afraid to speak her mind. Like Grammy, she was a widow, though at least three of Mrs. Lawson’s kids lived in the same town. She wore her hair in a typical ‘old lady’ style, though based on what Grammy would later tell me, she had always worn her hair in a teased bouffant.


When I tried to discreetly peer into the ‘style room’, Mrs. Lawson caught sight of me, and said loudly, “It’s not polite to spy, young lady!” Grammy Sue set down whatever was in her hand, and stepped into the doorway, “Oh, Bethany wasn’t spying, Gloria. She just likes to watch me work, I believe.” Mrs. Lawson made a tutting noise with her mouth, “Well, why don’t you come in and join us Bethany? We were actually just talking about you.”


Now red in the face, I bashfully walked around my Grammy, and stepped into the room. I hadn’t actually been in there for some time, so was caught off guard by the surprisingly string scents of styling chemicals that hung in the air. A small fan was blowing, and the window was cracked, but it still felt very stuffy. “Hi, Mrs. Lawson,” was all I could mumble out in my embarrassment. “My, she is a cute little thing, isn’t she Sue? Let me get a look at you, girly. Feel like I haven’t laid eyes on you in years!” Even seated, and with half her hair in rollers and under a giant yellow, flowery cape, I still felt intimated by the rotund Mrs. Lawson. She leaned forward and pinched my cheek, and grinned, “She reminds me of my Katherine when she was her age. ‘Course, I’d already had her hair cut short and permed by that there time. I can think of a few styles she’d look just darling with, for sure. Are you doing her up after me, Sue?”


My heart skipped a beat. Grammy Sue had already resumed putting more rollers into Mrs. Lawson’s hair by this point. She shook her head, but said thoughtfully, “No, I mean, not unless you’d like to be, Bethany?” I was both nervous and excited at one time. Secretly, I had always craved the experience of having a more involved hairstyling process done like my mom used to, and Grammy evidently still did, but the reality of being offered the chance inspired cold feet. “Hm, urm, well,” I spluttered. True to her character, Mrs. Lawson boomed, “Why of course she would! You were telling me yourself, Sue, you’d like to see Ms. Bethany here wearing something more mature. Frankly, I’d do it myself, but she’s not my granddaughter. Besides, you been saying she likes to watch you work, Sue.” Grammy Sue, who hadn’t stopped her meticulous rolling of Mrs. Lawson’s hair, pinned her last curler in before turning to me, “Well, she’s right as usual, Bethany. How about it, would you like a new look for summer from your Grammy Sue? I think you’re long overdue for a new look, my dearie, and we have all afternoon together.”


I tried to think of an excuse, but as I really did have nothing else to do, I reluctantly said, “Well, urm, okay.” Mrs. Lawson and Grammy Sue both smiled broadly, with the former clapping her big, meaty hands together, “Ooh wonderful, you’re Grammy Sue is the most talented hairdresser, even retired! You’re in for a real treat, girly!” Grammy Sue blushed slightly as she stood up Mrs. Lawson and walked her over to a corner. I looked curiously over as Grammy pulled out a large appliance from a cupboard. It was a dull yellow hairdryer, but not like the ones I had seen before at the salon. Those were all attached to chairs, and looked to be in better condition than this thing. Grammy wheeled it over, and plugged it into the wall, before repositioning it behind the now seated Mrs. Lawson. “Why don’t you take a seat in the chair, sweetheart? I’ll be over in just a moment, Bethany,” smiled Grammy Sue. I smiled back, but couldn’t really say anything as I sat down in the wooden chair. “Wait a moment, dear,” said Mrs. Lawson. “Before you turn on the dryer, let’s decide on how little miss Bethany here will be leaving your ‘beauty parlor’!”


Grammy Sue waved her hand, “Of course, of course. I’m not used to having two clients to manage, now am I?” Both ladies cackled, as I mulled over what was happening. I didn’t so much mind that Grammy Sue was going to be styling my hair, but Mrs. Lawson seemed to be exerting her opinion to greater effect than I liked, but I felt totally powerless to say something. Grammy Sue pulled out another flowery thick cape, this one a garish lime green with sunflowers. I can still see it clearly in my mind today! My hair is more auburn today, but when I was 13, it was distinctly redder than brown, and straight as an arrow. Like today, however, it reached my elbows, which is about as long as it has ever been. Grammy Sue quickly brushed it out so that it now spilled over the cape. The only mirror in the room was a hand-held one Grammy had set down. It was an odd sensation to be seated under a salon cape with no mirror, yet also exciting, at least to me!


“So Gloria, what were you thinking?” I opened my mouth to ask why she got to say anything about my hair, but thought better of it. “Hmm? Oh, yes. Well, when Katherine was her age, she walked into the beauty parlor with long hair like Bethany, but marched out sporting one of those classic, tight little poodle perms. Remember those?” Grammy nodded, “I sure do. I think she’d look great with a nice, curly poodle coiffure,” I cringed inside, petrified of what I was hearing! While I was feeling quite excited at the prospect of perhaps having rollers in my hair, I couldn’t imagine sporting a poodle cut! “But I don’t think her mother would appreciate me changing Bethany’s hair permanently without at least letting her know beforehand. Also, I’m afraid I’m fresh out of home-perming kits, and I’d rather perm her using the real salon-quality stuff anyway.” Mrs. Lawson scowled, whereas I breathed a huge sigh of relief.


“I suppose you’re right, Sue. I miss the good ol’ days where a hairdresser could do what she pleased with her client, so long as it was in her best interest. Say, what was the name of that one pretty little ice skater from a few years back? Doreen something?” Grammy Sue smiled, but shook her head, “Dorothy Hamill! Oh, a classic pageboy wedge. I always loved that style, seemed just about every girl in town wanted that style! I think that’s a WONDERFUL suggestion for Bethany!” Again, my stomach churned. Because of how many times I’d flipped through those magazines, I knew exactly the style Grammy Sue was speaking about, and I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of looking like a mushroom!


“Urm, Grammy Sue?”, I began in a small voice, “Can I say something?” Grammy Sue was already picking up a pair of scissors…


“I understand if you’re a bit hesitant, dearie, but I think you’d look very cute with this sort of style.” I turned and saw Mrs. Lawson nodding vigorously, a fat finger resting on her smiling cheeks, “I’ve seen lots of boys and girls with this style, though I think they call it a bowl-cut nowadays, Sue.” I mustered up my courage, and said “No, I mean, sorry Grammy Sue, and Mrs. Lawson. I just, well, is there another style I can have from one of those old magazines?” This seemed to catch both Mrs. Lawson and my Grandma by surprise. Grammy Sue stepped around and faced me, a slight smile on her pensive, wised face, “I certainly wasn’t expecting that, Bethany! Is there something in particular you saw?” I shifted a little awkwardly in the chair, starting to feel a rising sensation of both embarrassment and excitement. “Okay, um, is there something I can have where you put rollers in my hair?” My mouth ran dry at finally vocalizing this secret desire of mine, and a slight ringing in my ears suddenly began. I could feel my cheeks flush a deep red as suddenly both Mrs. Lawson and Grammy started to laugh.


Grammy Sue spoke first, and said in a sweet voice, “Honey, almost ALL those styles need rollers in the lady’s hair! Of course I can do something where you’re in curlers.” Mrs. Lawson, still chuckling, said “Is that why you were spying on me, girly? Sue, I don’t think she’s ever had rollers put in those lovely red locks before.” Grammy Sue raised her eyebrows in surprise, “Really? But I’ve seen you with some curls in your hair before, Bethany! Did your mother just use a curling iron?” I grinned, and nodded, “She said that she was afraid of turning me into Little Orphan Annie if she ever put rollers in my hair or got a perm.” I gulped, “But I’ve always kind of wanted to see what it was like to have one of those ‘coiffures’, like you do.” Mrs. Lawson chuckled again, “Aww, that’s awful sweet of you to say, young lady. Well Sue, looks like you better turn on this dryer, since it seems your granddaughter will be using it to!”


Grammy Sue seemed happy, but slightly flustered, and quickly rushed over, whispered something to Mrs. Lawson, then turned on the device, with a loud humming no filling the room. I felt relieved, though I again was not yet fully mature enough to understand why. Grammy patted my shoulders reassuringly, and said in a slightly hushed voice, “I wanted to wait until Gloria couldn’t hear us. I figured you were curious about how these ‘old lady styles’ worked, and I could tell you’ve been picturing yourself with a different style.” I looked up, incredulously, “You could? How?” She smiled as she motioned for me to stand up, “I used to do the SAME thing, Bethany! Of course, the appliances used back then were a bit different, but I could tell you had the same expression as I remember having. Close your eyes, dear.”


She had walked me over to the utility sink, where I bent over and had her give me my first ever standing shampooing. I found it very uncomfortable, but enjoyed the fact that Grammy was the one doing it. While it was never a taboo topic per se, my mom always got really defensive and argumentative with Grammy whenever she offered to help with my or my sister’s hair, and so Grammy rarely mentioned our hair when we would see her. I don’t know if my mom once received a new style from Grammy that she hated, or didn’t want, but I did know that at one point, Grammy cut my mom’s hair, and then stopped, even pre-retirement. I remember thinking about this as I was seated back in the uncomfortable wood chair, and my wet hair was sectioned out onto my cape.


“Now, I’m going to have to take off some length, dear. Most roller set styles for long hair are quite big, like a beehive, and I think those kind of styles wouldn’t be quite right for a young person like you, I’m afraid.” “Oh, urm, okay, Grammy. Just, not too short, though?” I asked. Secretly, I was a bit disappointed, as even today a beehive is one of those wonderfully retro styles I’d love to try, but something told me not to argue this point. “I promise, I won’t cut your hair too short. It’s a shame, though. Gloria is quite right about your looking just as cute as a button with a nice little poodle perm, but maybe that will be for another time.” I forced a laugh, but answered with a sincere, “Yeah, maybe Grammy.” As she started cutting my hair, we talked about her time as a hairdresser, something I’d never really been able to do before with my mom and siblings around. Even at this young age, I knew this wouldn’t be a chance I’d maybe ever have again, so I asked as much as I could, and to her credit, she accommodated my seemingly endless questions, and I think she enjoyed it.


She talked about her favorite hairstyles, both to style and the ones that she had worn herself, and some of her response made me laugh! Despite her own modest bouffant, Grammy loved big, elaborate hairdos, and had been a big fan of the wild hairstyles of the 1980s, which had just at that point the 1990s, really started to become a true rarity.


During this conversation, I remember feeling almost as if I was floating, I was having such a great time chatting with Grammy Sue. This feeling of lightness was also coupled with the fact that she had been snipping away long sections of my hair, something I only became aware of as she was nearing the end. She worked very fast, and I could feel the wet sections hit the cape, and more often, the loud ‘plop’ sound as they hit the tiled floor. The red stood out blatantly against the green and flowers adorning my cape, so there was no way I could avert my gaze. My face betrayed a look of unease, which she noticed, “I know it looks like a lot of hair, Bethany, but it won’t seem so short once I’ve teased and set it. Plus, I don’t want your mother to be TOO upset with me, so you’ll still have plenty of length once I wash out your style.”


I wished I could have seen myself in a mirror, but as this was impossible, I just nodded and smiled. We continued chatting, though as the snipping grew closer to my face, I did focus on her skillful scissor work. I looked over, and saw that Mrs. Lawson had also been spying on us talking, with a big smile across her face. Had I been bolder, I might have made a snarky remark about irony, but obviously, didn’t! I quickly made eye contact with her, and she winked and nodded approvingly. I had somehow managed to forget she had been sitting across the room, but was relieved, knowing she hadn’t heard our conversations. A loud DING interrupted Grammy, and almost made me jump out of my seat. “Oh, dearie me! I normally get that thing before it goes off. Just a moment, Bethany. I need to turn off Gloria’s dryer.” I watched with renewed interest as Grammy Sue walked over and lifted the hood of the dryer, and helped Mrs. Lawson stand up, an impressive feat for a woman her age!


“You’ll have to excuse me, Gloria. I couldn’t quite finish her cut AND roll her up before you were done, so do you mind just waiting a few minutes before I unroll you?” Mrs. Lawson waived her huge hand, “Please, don’t mention it, Sue! She really looks just darling with shorter hair, so much more mature.” I smiled, and again wished I could catch even a glimpse of my reflection. “She does, if I do say so myself. I miss working on virgin hair like this, sometimes. Well, are you ready for the part you’ve been looking forward to, Bethany?” asked Grammy Sue. “Um, Yep!” what else could I say? Grammy Sue smiled at me as she passed me on her way to a different cupboard. She pulled out a pink plastic container, and grabbed a small tin before closing the door with her foot.


As she came back behind me, she grabbed a small that I recognized as the same color as the goop that Grammy Sue had been placing on the rollers that now covered Mrs. Lawson’s hair. “Do you know what this is, dearie?” asked Grammy Sue, handing me the small container. I shook my head. Grammy Sue smiled, “This is called setting gel, and it helps your hair keep the shape of the rollers and the style I’ll be giving you. But first, I’ve got to dry your hair just a bit more before we begin.” Grammy lifted an ancient looking hand-held dryer, which whirred loudly as it worked to dry my hair. Once satisfied, she then picked up a thick, wide-toothed comb with a long handle. While not very interesting, I hadn’t seen a tool exactly like this before. She unscrewed the lid after I handed it back to her. The gel had a slightly pungent odor, solving the mystery as to some of the chemical scent that filled the small room. She then dipped the comb into the small tub, covering it in the setting gel. Grammy Sue proceeded to then brush this product through my hair, weighing it down instantly, and filling my nose with its scent. This was nothing like conditioner; my hair seemed to quadruple in weight as she carefully brushed it all away from my face and behind my ears. I had never witnessed this part of the styling process before, and honestly, it was more enjoyable than I thought it would be!


Grammy then handed me the small tub that held all the curlers, and said, “You’ll have to help me with this next part, Bethany. Just hand me one of the blue rollers when I ask you.” I nodded, and smiled, excited that I was now a small part of my own transformation! I tried to watch curiously as she did the same thing I had watched her do before. I felt her use a tail comb to section off part of my product-filled hair, then hold out her hand for a roller. I quickly passed her one (“thank you, dearie). I could then feel her quickly roll the curler down to my scalp, which was then pinned in place. Even though I had watched Mrs. Lawson have the same process done to her hair, I almost ached for a mirror at this point!


“I guess I’m going to have to call you a ‘curly girly’ with your rollers in now, missy?” laughed Mrs. Lawson. Grammy Sue chuckled, and so did I. “I guess so!” I smiled. Grammy began with the top of my hair, and then moved to my crown. I was sort of impressed with myself, as we were soon able to work ourselves into a rhythmic pattern of motion, which was difficult to do without a mirror to watch what was happening! As soon as I felt her tug on a section of hair, I knew to have a curler ready in my hand, which she would take and then expertly wrap down in another section. With every single roller added to my hair, my sense of excitement grew, and I could feel my heartrate speed up with delight! Our rhythm was interrupted when Grammy said “Actually, Bethany, hand me a couple of the yellow ones for your nape area? I trimmed your hair a bit shorter back here.” I happily obliged, still somewhat in a state of disbelief that this was still happening to me!


Now that Mrs. Lawson was no longer confined to the portable dryer, she engaged Grammy in more loud conversation. Unless she looked at me, or Grammy said my name, I zoned out and tried to focus on this new, alien sensation of having my hair wrapped up in plastic. Even if this was a more ‘grunge’ set-up in her laundry room, it was obvious that Grammy’s skill and roller sets was top-notch, and her surprisingly nimble fingers were able to progress through the last remaining areas of my sides in seemingly no time at all! I now think this was a classic example of the Theory of Relativity, as I seemed to think it would take a much longer time to complete, but a glance at the clock showed that nearly 30 minutes had passed since she stared the rolling.


“You certainly haven’t lost your touch, Sue!” boomed Mrs. Lawson. Grammy Sue made a faux snort of exasperation, “Well I should hope not, certainly coming from my most loyal client, Gloria!” Both women laughed, and I smiled, but was now more desperate than ever to catch a glimpse of myself done up in rollers. Unable to contain myself, I tried to say in as relaxed a tone as possible, “Urm, Grammy Sue? Can I, um, urm, see how it looks?” I turned to make eye contact with her, and a sudden knowing expression spread across her face as she nodded and smiled. “Oh, of course, dearie! I’m so used to not relaying on the mirror any longer that I forgot a client needs to see herself, too! Gloria, would you kindly pass Miss Bethany the hand-held on that table?” Mrs. Lawson quickly popped up, and grabbed the mirror, her big rosy cheeks beaming. “I do miss seeing more young ladies with a proper roller set. Here you are, Miss Bethany,” she winked as she handed me the small mirror.


I rolled my eyes, but smiled as Mrs. Lawson chuckled again. I nervously held the mirror with a very shaky hand as I looked at my reflection with a huge grin on my face. All of my hair had indeed been expertly rolled by Grammy Sue, and I giggled with delight as I saw that my head now perfectly resembled those pictures of roller sets I had so intently looked at in the old hair salon catalogues.


After a couple of minutes ogling my own reflection, Grammy Sue gently took the mirror from my hand, “I’m thrilled you love seeing yourself in curlers, dearie, but I’m afraid I’ve got to get to work on Gloria, so if you don’t mind standing up, Bethany.” I could feel my cheeks flush again with embarrassment as I let go of the mirror. “Urm, sorry Grammy, sorry Mrs. Lawson.” Mrs. Lawson chortled, “perfectly understandable girly! I’m still surprised your mother never set you herself in rollers! It’s almost a rite of passage for us gals!” Grammy Sue sighed loudly, “I don’t understand it, either. Bethany, just follow me please, and take a seat underneath the dryer.” I walked over, my legs feeling a little wobbly as I went towards the corner. I jostled around the large cape as I sat down. Grammy handed me two small pieces of plastic, and softly pinched them to my ears. “These just protect your ears from the heat and the noise, dearie. Now, just sit tight here for about 30 minutes, and then we can start styling your hair into a proper hairdo!” she smiled, lowering the hood. She flipped a switch, and immediately a loud, warm, buffeting air washed over me. Grammy waved as she walked back over to the styling chair, where Mrs. Lawson had already resumed her seat. I smiled and waved back, suddenly feeling very isolated.


To distract me from this unpleasant feeling, I scooted forward slightly in my chair in an attempt to get a better view of the now animatedly chatting Mrs. Lawson and Grammy Sue. I watched with delight as Mrs. Lawson’s curlers were swiftly unrolled from her head. Although a little skewed by the yellow-tinged visor, I could see the dark, perfectly cylindrical tubes of hair that now covered Mrs. Lawson’s head. Both of them continued their conversation, allowing me to stare without being rude. The unrolling took mere minutes for Grammy to complete, after which she immediately began teasing much of the hair on the crown with a tail comb. I was mesmerized as the neat, shiny barrels were transformed into a frizzy mass of curls. As Grammy worked and Mrs. Lawson continued to laugh and talk, she would mist the gradually forming bouffant with hairspray. Even though she was still engaging her client in conversation, Grammy looked over at me and winked, and I couldn’t help but smile back!


I grinned excitedly, knowing I would soon be Mrs. Lawson’s place! I continued to watch with the upmost interest as Grammy switched her tool from tail comb to brush. She began moving Mrs. Lawson’s hair in sections, no taming the teased-out hair into the smaller, more rounded shape of the bouffant that she always wore. Grammy skillfully brushed the hair into one, solid mass, but was able to keep a waviness about the bouffant to add some very pretty texture. A different can of spray was then opened, and soon Grammy was soaking her creation with a thick cloud of the stuff. Even from under the dryer, I caught a whiff of the fruity aroma, and it caused a sudden shiver of excitement to run up by back. Grammy continued to move smaller sections of the hairdo around with the tail comb, extending the length around the ears, and lightly sweeping the wavy hair across to form a perfectly styled ‘fringe’, as the old catalogues referred to bangs.


I watched with mingled jealousy and exhilaration as Mrs. Lawson was handed the same mirror I had used to inspect my roller set. She wide face spread into an unmistakable grin as she turned her head from side to side, looking at every angle as she gently primped her freshly finished style. The spectacle was interrupted by a loud DING that made my stomach lurch as an unexpected wave of nervousness washed over me, just as the hot air had. This whole experience had begun so suddenly, my teenaged brain hadn’t yet fully realized the gravity of what had already happened to my hair, and what was about to! As Grammy Sue walked over, I glanced at the shorn hair beneath Mrs. Lawson’s feet. I hadn’t paid so much attention to it before, but now the pile seemed twice as large as it had before! Grammy flipped a switch, and the warm air immediately stopped, though my nerves now made me just as hot as I had a few minutes before. “All ready then, dearie? Let’s get you over to the chair, and we’ll get started on the best part!”


I choked on my response a little, but was able to splutter out, “Great!”, and wobble my way out of the seat. Mrs. Lawson was already standing, still looking at her reflection in the mirror. “Oops, sorry Gloria! Forgot to unbutton your cape!” Grammy quickly disconnected the yellow garment from Mrs. Lawson, before turning to me and saying “Just take a seat, Bethany, while I walk her out.” Mrs. Lawson scoffed defiantly, “Oh hardly, Sue! I just spent the last hour watching this pretty little lady get her first proper hairdo! I’m hardly going to miss the big reveal!” Grammy smiled, but was visibly surprised, “You’re more than welcome to stay, Gloria. I just figured you might be bored, and I didn’t want to keep you from any prior engagements.” Mrs. Lawson smirked, “My little friendly get-together, which you two are invited to, mind you, is not but three hours away. Plenty of time for me to enjoy this here spectacle!” I shifted nervously in the chair. It hadn’t bothered me much before, but the fact that I was now a ‘spectacle’ for an audience made me even more nervous at my decision to be a part of this!


“Well, I’m sure you’re just eager as one could be to see yourself, dearie, so let’s get started, shall we?” With that, Grammy Sue removed the pin form one of the curlers near my face, and pulled out the curler, exclaiming, “Oh, that turned out just lovely!” Mrs. Lawson nodded adamantly, “You always seem so surprised, Sue! You curl hair like no other hairdresser I’ve ever known!” Grammy had stepped around in front of me to grab a fresh tail comb, but even despite my nervousness, I was able to notice a slight crimson flush on Grammy’s smiling cheeks. Despite this ‘opportunity’ to experience my Grammy Sue’s talents first hand, even today I wish I could have seen her in her prime, working in one of those iconic retro beauty salons. A feeling of pride in Grammy’s ability relaxed my nerves.


I could feel Grammy’s hands rapidly remove pin after pin and curler after curler from my hair. My head felt lighter with each passing minute, and the more pleasant sense of giddy excitement seemed to bury the already dwindling nerves. I tried to ask Grammy a few more questions, but I was hardly paying attention to my own words, so I instead just gave little nods and ‘uh-huhs’ whenever she asked me something. After a few more minutes of this hazy delight, Grammy removed the final roller, and pronounced me ready for the final steps of teasing and styling. I appreciatively took the small mirror once more, which Grammy Sue handed me with a knowing grin and wink.


Just like Mrs. Lawson’s hair mere minutes ago, my head was covered with shiny, plastic like tubes of hair. I couldn’t help but giggle, causing similar reactions with Grammy and Mrs. Lawson. “I don’t think I ever had a lady who didn’t smile seeing herself with rollers fresh out in all my years of styling, dearie,” chuckled Grammy Sue. Sensing that she was eager to get to work, I smiled again, and handed the mirror back. Grammy then began gently picking apart the curls with the tail comb. I could now feel the coils loosen and brush against my ears, forehead, and neck. “You know, Bethany, I almost have half a mind to keep your hair curlier, but it’s just too long in some parts for it to look right, I’m afraid.” Mrs. Lawson smiled deviously, “You know it’s not too late to fix that predicament, Sue.” I held my breath for a moment before Grammy waved her off, “No, no, what am I saying? I mean, you’re right of course, Gloria, but we’re well beyond that point now. Maybe next time…” she repeated. She then gently ran her fingers though my set hair, ensuring that the curls had been sufficiently broken apart. The sensation was oddly delightful, which could not quite be said for the next part.


I grimaced as Grammy then began to tease and shape my hair with a large, wooden brush. “I know this part is less than pleasant, Bethany, but this is when the magic happens! I’m just sectioning and shaping your set hair in the desired shape, and blending together all those lovely curls you have into a large, classic, smooth style.” I winced, but smiled at the words, as I felt her pull another section up and over to my right side. While hardly silent, I did notice that the normally boisterous Mrs. Lawson had suddenly quieted down as she watched Grammy work on my hair. She was smiling, but I couldn’t fathom her expression. I smiled back, but shifted uncomfortably as she continued to stare, even while talking with Grammy. I was thankful when Grammy stepped in front of me and blocked my vision of Mrs. Lawson. She continued to brush and brush, now adding spritzes of heavily perfumed hairspray. I could feel her pin a few sections of the hair together, though I couldn’t tell to what end. As Grammy dusted my hair with yet more spray, a sudden, exhilarating vision of myself sitting in a retro beauty parlor, surrounded by chatting, giant-haired customers and stylists filled my mind, just as the smell filled my nostrils. The admittedly vein, aching sensation of wanting to see myself in a mirror became sharply felt, and I again shifted impatiently in my seat.


She set down the brush, much to my relief, and again picked up the hairdryer, but also a round brush. “Almost there, Bethany! I know you’re eager to see yourself, dearie.” Mrs. Lawson scoffed and smiled, “This is nothing, missy! Why, I remember those days when I was due for a fresh perm, cut, set and restyle. Sometimes it would be three, near four hours before I’d see myself all done up! Patience is a virtue, now.” This didn’t make me feel any better, but in an effort not to seem impatient with Grammy, I forced a polite, “I know, I’m sorry. I guess I’m just too excited!” The last part was true, but Mrs. Lawson seemed satisfied with the response anyway. The loud, whirring hot air from the hairdryer blew across my face as Grammy wrapped the brush around the ends of my hair, curling them outward on the left side, but curiously doing the opposite on the right. What was she doing?


“She’s look just splendid, Sue,” said Mrs. Lawson, again studying my hair. “Shh! Don’t ruin the surprise for our client, Gloria!” smiled Grammy. Mrs. Lawson shook her head slightly, throwing a hand over her mouth in exaggerated fashion, “Oh! Beg pardon, don’t want to give anything away!” I now felt almost as if they were taunting me, but I knew that it wasn’t intentional. The blowing and curling stopped, but was immediately replaced by even more hairspray usage, this time, though, Grammy covered my eyes as she soaked my hair. “Hmm. Pink or white you think, Gloria?” asked Grammy Sue. Mrs. Lawson put her hands on her wide hips, “Oh, now you want me to speak? I can’t see why a nice pink one wouldn’t do, now.” Grammy Sue sighed, but smiled in agreement, “Oh, stop it. I quite agree, though. It’ll go lovely with a dress I kept from her mother, too, for tonight’s get-together.” Before I could ask what she meant, Grammy had pulled out a small, pink ribbon bow, securing it on my right side, along with another pin. It had been some time since I’d worn ribbons or bows in my hair, but for some reason, it delighted me! “Now, close your eyes as I give you one last little bit of spray, Bethany” said Grammy, with great satisfaction in her voice.


“Well dearie, this is the part where I’d normally spin the chair around for a big reveal, but as that’s really possible, let me hold the mirror for you.” I opened my eyes, and a huge smile formed across my open mouth.[email protected]/


Grammy Sue had perfectly recreated one of my most favorite hairstyles from the style guides! It was a simpler bouffant bob, but with enough little variety throughout to keep it from looking too plain. I noted with great pleasure the simple, yet somehow also extravagant way it looked. I turned my head, lightly primping the stiff curls on the left side, which now rested just below my chin. The setting gel had turned my hair into a stiff mass, coupled with the tremendous amount of spray, but I just loved the shine and ‘done’ look it gave me! She had arranged a section to lightly hang over my left eye, which gave it a more youthful appearance, despite being, much to my delight, undeniably old fashioned. “Oh Grammy, I just LOVE it! Thank you, thank you!!” I exclaimed, unable to contain myself.


A grin just as wide as my own spread across both Grammy’s and Mrs. Lawson’s faces. “You are MOST welcome, my dearie! I’m so thrilled you like it,” beamed Grammy. “You look just right darling, young lady. Your Grammy did such a nice job on you!” cooed Mrs. Lawson. I blushed, mumbling a slight, “Thank you, Mrs. Lawson.” Looking back at the mirror, I lightly prodded my hair, squealing with delight as I saw the bright pink ribbon perfectly positioned between two perfectly smoothed parts if the hairdo. I couldn’t believe my own reflection! I had long tried to imagine what it would be like to wear one of these retro ‘coiffures’, and I almost doubted that the grinning young lady staring back in the mirror was me! I looked older, not just old-fashioned, but more mature with my hair shorter. “There’s just something so satisfying about a well-styled young lady, if I do say so myself,” said Grammy, again with a note of pronounced satisfaction. I couldn’t help but agree.

Grammy Sue removed the cape, and I was now acutely aware that I looked very odd, wearing a pair of jeans and a sleeveless button-down blouse. As if reading my mind, Grammy chuckled, “Yes, I’m afraid your clothes don’t quite match the hair, but we’ll have that sorted out before tonight. Now, Gloria, what time did you say your little get-together was this afternoon?” Mrs. Lawson looked at the clock, and exclaimed, “Good heavens! Is that the time? Why, it’s only in two hours! I’ve been so wrapped up in this here makeover, I almost plumb forgot! Well, I best be off, check’s in the mail, Sue!” Both women laughed as Mrs. Lawson grabbed her purse. I walked out of the ‘styling room’, and felt a fresh breeze of AC as we walked out of the stuffy room. “And you, Miss Bethany, and I am SO excited to see you properly dressed a little bit later! Oh, you look just cute as a button!” She pinched my cheek again, much to my annoyance, but I couldn’t help but smile at the compliment.


As Grammy Sue shut the door behind her, she looked back at me, with a broad smile, and an almost wistful look. She just looked at me for a moment, and sensing something after a few moments, I asked, “Urm, are you OK, Grammy?” She blinked, realizing she must have been making me feel uncomfortable, “Oh yes. Sorry, dearie, didn’t mean to scare you. It’s been such a long time since I had a client as happy as you are with my work, and I suppose I just miss it.” I walked over, and gave her a hug, “This is the BEST haircut I’ve ever had, Grammy. I think we should do it again sometime, soon.” Grammy beamed at me, a slight twinkle in her eye, “I’d be delighted to, Bethany. Now, let’s go dress you more appropriately, you’ll be the talk of the whole party, I promise!” Whether true or not, I giggled at her promise, and followed her upstairs, in pure bliss.

6 responses to “Retro Hairdo Delight

    1. Thank you very much! 🙂

      I’m working on a second part, but I fear it won’t be done for a couple of weeks. Still, I’m glad you liked it, and thanks a lot for the compliment!

  1. I enjoyed your story very much. The notion of a teen voluntarily submitting to a cut and retro style from her “Grammy Sue” is both sweet and exciting. And I always enjoy a good stiff bouffant bob!

    Great work!

    1. Thank you, Bill! I appreciate the nice feedback. I really would have ‘submitted’ to that kind of style if I had been able! Also, love, love, love your phrase of ‘good stiff bouffant’! Might have to use that in a follow up chapter… 🙂

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