It was the mid-eighties. It was the summer after graduating high school, and, I had only had control of my hair style for a year, or so. I was always told when I would have to go see my mother’s stylist and given whatever style my mother and her would decide on. Once I started to drive, I was free to fend for myself, and started going to a trendy salon in the local mall.
My new stylist April was in her twenties and she knew all the latest styles, but I just went with the standard layered cut with feathered bangs. I maintained this style for two years when April told me she was moving to a new salon. She told me it meant more money for her and hoped I would follow her there. I tried a couple of the other stylists at the salon, even a guy who didn’t seem to listen to a word I said, and just did whatever he wanted, so after about 6 month’s I decided to check out the salon where April had gone. The salon was in a little strip of stores in an area I was not familiar with, from the outside you could not tell anything about it.
When my appointment finally arrived, April was excited to see me. As we walked to her station, I scanned the rest of the salon, and, from what I could tell from my limited knowledge of hair salons, this was more of a place my mother would have gone to, not a modern salon like April used to work. I still had full confidence in April’s talents, and, trusted what she said I should do. April shocked me when she told me that what I needed was a perm. I grew up with a mother that always wore her hair in a short, permed hair style, and, had two older sisters who had both been forced to have their long hair chopped off, then permed into a short poodle hair style. I was lucky that my mother, and her old hair stylist friend never decided that that was what I needed, and I was confused by April telling me that is just what I needed.
April insisted that long curly hair was the latest style, so, having always trusted her judgement I let April do what she wanted. While I had seen the end results of several perms, all short poodle styles, I had never actually seen one done, let alone having it done on me. The whole process seemed to take all day long, but in the end, I walked out with curly hair that fell to my shoulders. Even though I loved the style, April admitted to me that she pushed me in to it because the new salon gave her a bigger commission for perms and coloring.
I left for college a couple months later, and never went back to April again. The next thirty years were like the average girl goes though. I got married to my high school boyfriend, right after college, then started a career. A few years after getting married we had a baby, followed by another just 18 month’s later. This left me little time for myself, so I replaced my shoulder length hair for a short mom haircut. I spent the next twenty-five years with many types of short cuts, from bob’s to pixie cuts, and, never thought of having my hair longer. My husband never complained about me having the shortest hair out of all the ladies in our social circle, but I knew deep down he missed me having long hair. I remembered that he loved it when I had curly hair, so, seeing that I let my hair grow a little longer during the winter anyhow, I would let it grow a little longer this winter, and, get a curling iron to give him a special hairstyle for his birthday in March. It was getting close to his birthday, and I would take every occasion when he wasn’t around to try to curl my hair. I even had my daughter give it a try, but all she has ever known how to do is straighten hair. I then tried some rollers I purchased at the drug store, but they didn’t seem to help either. In a desperate effort, I tried to find a local that would put my hair in rollers, but, unless you wanted a wedding hairstyle, nobody around still did that sort of thing. As his birthday was getting closer, I was thinking that I would have to come up with another plan, then the pandemic hit. Not only would I not have to get my hair done for his birthday, but my normal spring shearing would be put on hold.
My husband worked from home during the shutdown which was nice because he did not have his normal hour drive to and from the office. He was allowed to start working as early as he wanted, so, he would get up early with me, then be done working by 3:00. This left him time to get a jump on our spring cleaning. I came home from work one evening and saw the curling iron, and bag of rollers on the kitchen table. My husband asked our daughter if she still wanted these, and, she had told him that they were mine. The secret was out of the bag. I told him of my plans, and he seemed excited by the whole thing. When I told him of my failures he pushed me to find some place that could help me out. I spent several weeks during the lock down hunting through web pages, and, came to the conclusion that none of the older salons were even listed online. My hair was now past my collar, which I had not had since I had kids.
I was ready to have it all cut off again as soon as the chain salon near me was allowed to open again. Later that week, my mother asked if I could pick up her groceries for her, which of course I did. I didn’t go in the house, but saw my mother from the car. I was surprised that even with all the horrible things going on my mother still maintained a perfectly styled haircut. As I pulled away from her house it got me thinking about where she went to get her hair done. It couldn’t be the lady she used to go to, she was an old lady the last time I had been there. I remembered the road where the old ladies house was, and, decide to ride by to see if she was still around. I was shocked to see the sign in front of the house, and, it brought back thoughts her having total control over what style I would leave her house with. I rode home and tried to forget all about that place. Within a couple weeks the hair salons were allowed to reopen, and, my husband started to push me to find someone who could curl my hair for the night we would be celebrating his birthday, a few month’s late. When I told him I hadn’t found any place that would do what he wanted he seem quite let down. It was like the rest of the things I had planned for him didn’t matter, he was excited that I would have curly hair again, if only for one night.
The next Saturday he came with me on my errands, which included a stop at my parents to drop of their groceries. When my husband saw that my mom seemed to have recently gone to the salon to have her hair set, he commented out loud that I should try her place to get mine done as well. My mother, who must have put fresh batteries in her hearing aids, heard what he said and said she would be happy to call to see if they could fit me in right away. My mind started to swirl as memories of my childhood haircuts came rushing back in. I tried to stop my mom, but, nothing would please her than being in control of my hair again. My husband’s enthusiasm did help matters either, it seemed that any control that I could have over my future hairstyle was going away fast. My mother pulled out her flip phone and speed dialed her salon. I stood there, outside her house, hoping with all my might that I would not have to go today. If I could just get away from mom’s house, maybe I could get some control back. I wasn’t really paying attention to what my mother was saying on the phone, but, once I saw her start to smile, I knew my fate was set. My mother walked over to my husband and me and was happy to tell me that I could go right now to have my hair done. She insisted that she go with to help me get reacquainted with her hairdresser Edith. I sat in my seat almost in a state of shock. I looked at my husband, and, he had a huge smile on his face. My mother too, also seemed to be giddy with my upcoming appointment. When we got out of the car, I was still in a daze. How could I have let this happen to me, or more importantly, how was I going to get out of it. Having my hair curled for my husband’s birthday is one thing, a whole makeover by Edith and my mom was another.
When we entered the house it looked completely different from the last time I was here some thirty years ago. I was then surprised when out of the back came a girl who was could have only been in her twenties. She introduced herself to me as Kathy, Edith’s granddaughter, and, showed me to a stylist chair. I began to think that maybe this wouldn’t be as bad as I feared at first. Kathy began to comb out my hair, then proceeded to tell my mom that Edith would be out in a minute to take over. I asked Kathy why she wasn’t going to do my hair, and, she said even though she has taken over running the whole shop, Edith still has her old area, where she takes care of her clients. Kathy said that Edith agreed to take me because I was her client before. I tried to explain that I hadn’t been there since I was sixteen, but, Kathy said once her grandma made up her mind, there was no changing it. I told her I knew exactly what she meant, as I looked at my mom across the room. Once I saw Edith in the mirror, the terror I used to feel when I was here last came rushing back, it was like I was a girl of 15 all over again. She then took us back to the old shop area, and my I felt like I wanted to run away. It was the same as when I was last here, like walking into the past. Edith then asked my mother how she wanted my hair done. I tried to speak up and tell Edith that I just wanted my hair set for a night out with my husband tomorrow. My mother came over by the styling chair and asked Edith if my hair would hold a set until the next day. Edith of course didn’t think it would hold, and told my mother that she should have my hair permed. My husband seemed to perk up when he heard the suggestion, but all I thought about was my sisters having their hair in that horrible poodle hairstyle. I again said that I did not want my hair permed to which Edith talked to me like I was 15 again that my mother and her would decide what was best for me. I knew my fate was set. After avoiding the humiliation my sisters went though when they were in high school, I would feel it on a much higher level. I knew that the curly perm that I was about to receive would look nothing like the one that April gave me all those years ago. I hoped that because my hair was now at my collar that I could avoid looking like a poodle like my sisters did.
I felt myself go limp when Edith starting to cut my hair right the hairline in back. As she hacked to away, she asked my mom what size rods she wanted her to use. My mother, of course told Edith to do what she thought was best. Edith told my mom that as my hair was not colored, or previously permed that she could use a strong heat activated perm and use the ¼” rods on my whole head. I knew nothing about perms, but, figured that it must mean a tight poodle perm like my sisters both had. After Edith finished with the cut, she handed me a box of papers, and, told me to hand them to her one at a time. She told my mom that she would roll my hair with the perm solution to insure all my hair would get a good coating. It only took Edith about 30 minutes to roll all my hair into the rods. She had left my bangs for last, and, as she was winding the last of my hair, I closed my eyes knowing that it would be a long time before I saw my straight hair again. Edith then put the rest of the perm solution on my head, and, replaced the cotton around the edge of my hair. I was led to a big old hair dryer, that looked like it should be in a museum. As I sat there with the heat blasting on my head, I was looking at my husband, who had a big smile on his face. I knew that he had loved my curly hair from all those years ago, but I figured the only ones happy about the results would be Edith. Edith turned off the dryer after 30 minutes, then she rinsed it out and applied the neutralizer. After another 10 minutes I was rinsed again, the led back to her chair. My heart started racing as she began removing the rods from my head. I closed my eyes at first almost afraid of what I was going to see, and, as I opened them my fears were realized. As the rods were unrolled from the side of my head, the hair just sprung back to its place against my head. When the last of them were finished what I saw was just like my sister’s had all those years ago. What really surprised me was that both my husband, and mother had big smiles on their faces.
As Edith worked on finishing my hair, my mother tells her that I like my hair short at the nape, and over the ears. Edith then told my mother that she could run her clippers over the bottom to clean it up if she wished. My mother agreed that this would be best for me before I could even speak my mind. I just couldn’t believe this day could get any worse, my mother-maintained control for every aspect of my appointment. Edith even had a smile on her face as she ran the clippers up my neck, she then ran the clippers around my ears, exposing 2 inches of bare skin. My thoughts again went to the poodle perms that my sisters had gotten, thinking that they got off easy. As I started to get up from the salon chair, Edith says that I should come back next Friday to have my hair set for the weekend. To my surprise, both my mother, and my husband said that I would be there. I could not believe that I would have to keep my hair like this from now on.