It is a couple of years later, Toni’s eldest daughter, Charlotte is now eight. She has twin sisters Meghan and Hannah, who are now 6. All three of the girls have their hair worn long over their shoulders and straight. Toni has retained the same style that she first had on her wedding day, a short, extremely tight perm, curled upwards, set off with a neckshave.
It was the end of the school summer holidays and the girls were going back to school the next day. Toni had just washed and set her own hair, ready for a new week in the office. “Mummy, why do you put your hair in curlers?”
“Because I like having curly hair, Charlotte. Daddy likes it too, and that’s why I have it cut and permed 3 times a year.”
“Why don’t you have my hair permed, if it’s so good”
“You are not old enough yet for a perm. I have asked Susan, and she wouldn’t want you to have a perm before you were 10 really. Anyway, it takes a lot to look after it. I have to sleep with my curlers in to keep it looking nice, and when they perm your hair, you have smelly chemicals put on it, it is quite uncomfortable. Also they clip and shave your neck when you have it done. What I can do though, if you want, is put your hair in rollers, just to see if you like curls. You will need to sleep with them in your hair while it dries properly, so it will probably mean an uncomfortable night. When your Gran first put my hair in rollers, I didn’t really like it at the time”
“Yes please Mummy. Please can you curl my hair today, so it’s nice for when I go to school tomorrow.”
Toni took Charlotte to the bathroom, where her hair was thoroughly washed, and then carefully combed down straight, before combing in some setting lotion. She collected her rollers from her bedroom, before taking Charlotte to the kitchen to put her hair in rollers. “I just need to create a strip in your hair, then I will section it off. It might feel a bit spiky when the rollers are wound to your scalp” Charlotte beamed as the first roller went in. A second one followed and soon Charlotte had a strip of rollers running from the top to the back of her hair. By now, a small audience had formed to watch their big sister have her hair put into rollers. “It feels strange Mummy, I can feel where the rollers are pulling at my hair, and the spikes are digging in a bit, but please carry on, because I think I like it.” A voice came from the sidelines “Mummy, are we having curlers too?”
“You are too young really”
“Charlotte isn’t too much older than us. It’s not fair that she gets curly hair, and we don’t” Toni, advised again about how it might be uncomfortable, and of her own first experience with rollers.
“Please Mummy, we still want curly hair.”
By this time Charlotte’s hair was finished, and she rushed to the hall mirror, she carefully inspected her rollers, touching and feeling, and wearing a large grin on her face.
The twins had continued badgering Toni, and having relented, they were both taken upstairs to have their hair washed also. Of course, there were minor arguments as to which would be first, and after a threat that the curls would not happen, Meghan quickly slid into the kitchen chair recently vacated by Charlotte. Shortly after, the twins were also both roller set, and their faces wreathed in smiles, they too were checking out their hair in the hall mirror.
The next morning, there was a bit of a log jam in the bathroom. Toni, having got dressed, was trying to remove her curlers, and her 3 daughters were pestering for theirs to come out too, so they could see their first curls.
“Mummy, it’s not as curly as yours, and it hangs down.”
“I know Charlotte, remember, I have mine permed to get it this tight,” Toni was congratulating herself inside on how tight she had managed to set her own hair today, “anyway, I have to have mine cut very short to get this shape. Let’s look at yours.” Charlotte’s hair fell to her shoulders in a tumble of fuller curls. “That’s turned out very well for your first set, love, it looks very grown up.” Toni was thinking of the first time that her Mum had rollered her hair for school. “Right twins, let’s sort you out.”
Soon all three girls were ready for school, and Toni watched them walking down the road, their mid brown hair bouncing up and down at each pace. With a satisfied smile, she grabbed her car keys, and set off for work. Within a few minutes, she drove past the girls, who, by now had met up with some of their school friends.
Rob had come in from work early to see the girls indoors after school, and although he had seen them all wearing rollers the night before, he hadn’t seen the results until that afternoon. When Toni came in, he asked how things were. Rob had managed to put some dinner on, and Toni thought at first that he was being uncommunicative, until she realised that her own severely permed hair, and the sight of his daughter’s with bouncy curls had put him into neanderthal mode. “H’mm,” Toni thought, “perhaps I should set the girls hair some more”
About half an hour before dinner, there was a knock at the door. When Toni answered it, she saw a lad perhaps of Charlotte’s age in his school uniform still, “Hello Mrs Ball, is Charlie in please” Toni started saying that there was no Charlie living there, when Charlotte pushed past her. “Oh, hi Dan. Mum, can Dan come in for a minute, he lives down the road, on the way to school and we said we could do some homework together. We just want to sort it out”
Dan was taken through to the lounge, and after about 20 minutes he left with a see you tomorrow.
“So, young lady, just who is Charlie?” Toni asked. Hannah answered on her sister’s behalf. “All the people at school call her Charlie Mum.”
“And what is this about homework.”
“Dan and I thought that we could do our homework together as we are in the same year, and help each other when we get stuck. He was in my class last year too, and he only lives down the road, and he is quite nice”
“Is it just homework young lady? I saw the way he kept looking at your hair.”
“It was the first thing he noticed this morning Mum. He said it looked really nice. I did let him touch it a bit. Oh, he thinks your hair looks really cool too, Mum. I did know him last year, but I think it needed something like my curls for him to talk to me. You know what I mean.” Mummy with the cool perm gave her eldest daughter a slight withering stare before the twins distracted her.
“Mummy, and the other kids in class thought our hair was great too. Please can we keep it curly?”
Three faces lit up when Toni said, “OK, but I need to put it back in rollers ready for bed.”
After dinner, while Rob tidied the kitchen, The girls sat patiently waiting for their turn to have their rollers put in. It wasn’t until Charlie said “mm, that feels nice and tight Mum” that Toni realised that she had curled her daughters hair slightly more sharper than the day before. “Mummy, can I help you put your curlers in?”
Toni was thrown by this, as she had become so used to setting her own hair, only occasionally Mum would curl it for her, or she had it done at Susan’s. “Yes , that would be nice, thank you, um Charlie.” Toni, struggling with her daughter’s name amendment. Charlie needed a great deal of encouragement, and it took an absolute age for her to get finished, but Toni was surprised that her daughter had managed to get it reasonably tight. Being fairly recently permed, her hair had guided itself towards how much to put in each curler, by falling into a sort of grid pattern. “Thank you Charlie, I do need to retension it a bit, but you have made a good job of it.”
“Thanks Mum. I really felt nice going to school today with curly hair. Everyone seemed to like it. I thought that, by doing your hair, I would get to learn how to do my own.”
After the girls had been sent to bed, Neanderthal Rob grabbed her hand and dragged her off to their bedroom.
Next, day, things went a little smoother. After school, Dan had come over to do some homework with Charlie. Toni got in, and peering into the lounge, they were sat with their heads down going over a problem. Toni thought to herself that they might get through it quicker if Charlie didn’t bob her head round in such a way as to make her curls bounce.
Shortly before 6, the door went and a couple stood there, dressed slightly more sober than Rob and Toni, but about the same age. She had lank hair that spilled over her shoulders. “Hello, we are Dan’s Mum and Dad. We were passing, and thought we could collect Dan on the way through.” All the time, they were not looking at Toni’s face, but at the severity of the tightly permed rolls that clung to her head.
Charlie and Dan both appeared almost straightaway, having heard that it was his parents. “Hi Mum and Dad, thanks very much Mrs Ball, can I come over tomorrow too?” Without waiting for an answer, he turned and kissed Charlie on the cheek, his hand just touching the bouncy curls on her head.
Shortly after, they all went to dinner, and Toni curled her daughters’ hair ready for bed. Charlie meanwhile curled her Mum’s. “Thank you love, that’s a lot better than yesterday, in fact it feels nice.” Charlie smiled at the compliment.
The weekend came and Charlie seemed to be having withdrawal symptoms from Dan. Come Sunday afternoon, and Charlie had taken it on herself to wash her own and her sisters’ hair ready to be set. “Mummy, please can I set Meghan and Hannah’s hair today, as I have been practicing on yours?”
“It depends whether the twins want you to, or not, you had better ask them.” The twins were ok with this, so after Toni had combed through some setting lotion, she sat and watched as Charlie got started. It was a bit slow at first, where Toni’s recent perm formed a framework of tresses on which to work, Charlie had to work out a pattern for herself. There were other issues too. “Mummy, she has pulled my hair really tight.”
“Sometimes you need it tight to form a curl instead of a wave Hannah. Would you like me to loosen it a bit?”
“No, it’s ok Mummy.”
While Meghan was being set, selfish Mummy took herself off to wash her hair ready to be set for the week also.
Soon it was time for Charlie’s set. “Do you want to have a go at setting your own hair Charlie?” Yes she did, and after struggling for about 15 minutes, Mummy jumped in to help out. “That was good for a first try, love, and I am pleased with how you set the twins hair too.”
“Thank you Mummy. I don’t suppose you would let me set your hair too?” Of course, selfish Mummy would let her set her hair. As she had slipped off to wash her own hair, she had secretly willed her daughter into saying that.
Monday came, and Neanderthal Rob had waited a bit before going into work. He says it was to miss the traffic. Suspicious Mummy thinks it is to get a sneak preview of both her and the girls’ sets.
The girls turned out nice, slightly curlier than last week, not quite so wavy. Charlie really had set the twins tighter. Toni checked her own hair out. The set was so tight, that it looked like a fresh perm, just the bristles on her neck giving it away. Neanderthal Rob made sure he had a quick feel of each of their sets as he kissed them goodbye.
Again, Toni watched three bouncy sets bobbing up and down as they walked down the road. A few minutes later, she noticed Dan talking to Charlie, by the way in which she was pushing at her hair, she was showing Dan her new set.
Rob mentioned that night that they might book up Centre Parcs for the half term holiday. He also said that there was a spare place if Charlie had a special friend she wanted to bring along. “Dan can come too, if that’s ok. Mummy, can we go and ask him now?”
We slipped on our fleeces, and Charlie showed me the way to Dan’s house. I rang the bell, “Hello, it’s Toni Ball and Charlie. We are going to Centre Parcs for half term, and Charlie wondered if Dan would be allowed to come too. Someone of her own age for company.”
Dan’s face emerged from behind his parents. “Yes, please, if that’s ok, that would be really great.”
“That’s very kind, but how much will it cost?” his parents asked.
“Nothing, we have booked it anyway and we have a spare room, so just any spending money.”
“Well, ok then”
Dan was beside himself, he thanked his parents, he kissed Charlie, and then kissed Toni on the cheek. Toni noticed that his hand had a good feel at the back of her perm as he did so.
A couple of Sundays later, as Charlie was going through the now ritualistic hair setting process, after the twins had been done and it was just Charlie putting curlers in Toni’s hair. “Mummy, you know you said I wasn’t old enough to have a perm, but, when you have yours done at Christmas, please can I have mine done too. Your curls are so tight and neat and we would love for me to have my hair like that too.”
“It’s not just the curl Charlie, they cut my hair really short, the chemicals they use really smell and sting. You spend ages under a hot dryer, and I have my neck hair cut with clippers before it’s shaved. I know that you are used to wearing curlers most days, but it’s everything else. Anyway, who is this “we”.“
“Well, Dan really likes me with curly hair, but I think he likes your hairstyle more, and he would love for me to have a nice perm exactly like yours. I mean, I would absolutely love to have it done the same as yours too. Some nights, I go to sleep with my hand on my rollers, thinking what it would be like if they were small curlers like yours.”
“I think you are still too young Charlie. I will ask Dad, and Susan. I need to make an appointment for my Christmas perm soon, so I will ask her then.”
A couple of days later, as they were sat down for dinner Toni announced that she had secured an appointment that day to have her Christmas perm on the 22nd December. Everyone’s faces looked up. Rob was fast descending into neanderthal mode, Charlie and the Twins looked on expectantly. “I had asked Susan about getting your hair permed Charlie, but she insists you are too young. What she did suggest was cutting your hair all over into layers slightly longer than I have mine, and then curler setting it, so that it looks a bit like a perm, but without the perm. A bit like Gran’s hair looks.” Charlie was slightly disappointed with this but was happy to accept the compromise in style. The twins looked on expectantly. “What about us Mummy?” I’m sorry girls, you are definitely far too young. I am happy for you to have your hair set the same way as it is now, but you will be keeping it longer.
Soon, the half term holiday came about. Rob had borrowed a trailer for their luggage, and with a bit of a squeeze, Dan sitting in the boot area, everyone was able to fit in. They set off Friday night and would be away for a whole week. Janet, Dan’s Mum, had noticed when they picked Dan up that Toni and all the girls were wearing curlers in their hair already. Poor Dan was sat behind his rollered friend, and was starting to show the same neanderthal traits that Rob often displayed. It didn’t help that Charlie didn’t seem to mind when he “accidentally” touched her hair in rollers. It took a couple of hours or so to get there, and Toni had packed a lasagne, with chips and a salad for a quick meal to cook through while they sorted themselves out. Rob and Toni commandeered the master room, with a small ensuite. “No morning logjam for the bathroom when she was trying to do her hair in the morning” Toni thought. The twins were in bunks, in a room with a single bed for their older sister, Dan had a twin bedded room for himself,the spare bed becoming a repository for everyone’s bags, and a small seating area.
Rob and Dan scouted out the lie on the land at the site while dinner was being cooked, and after dinner they soon started retiring for an early night. Dan had a bonus. The twins, after kissing their parents, kissed him and their sister. As they went into their room, Hannah said to Meghan, “Did Dan have a feel at your rollers too?”
Charlie made sure that Dan was comfortable in his room, and they emerged after 10 minutes, both a little red faced, Charlie kissed her parents goodnight, and Toni kissed Dan on the cheek. Again he had a good excuse for a feel at her hair, and the curlers in it.
Shortly after neanderthal Dan had retired, Toni and neanderthal Rob turned in too. Fortunately their room was at the other end of the chalet to the others.
Both Dan and Rob were treated to the sight of Toni and the girls wearing curlers at breakfast, and after getting ready, they all went out on site. They found various things to do during each day, and usually Rob took the kids to the pool while Toni prepared a meal. After dinner every night Dan was treated to a bandstand view of Charlie’s hair setting service, as the girls hair was wet through after swimming each night. Charlie’s piece de resistance was the curler setting of her Mum’s hair after doing the twins and her own using rollers. Thursday night, as Charlie was doing her usual routine she casually mentioned to Dan that her Mum had vetoed her request for a perm at Christmas. She went on to say that she was having it layered, and it would be set and put in rollers every night so that the style replicated as far as possible her mum’s hair. Was he ok with her having shorter curlier hair? “I, um, well, um yes, I mean no, I mean yes. That sounds nice.” Toni smiled to herself as she realised that Dan had become fluent in neanderthal.
The next day, they all returned home. Dan then walked back up the road, Charlie helping him with his bags.