There is nothing more funny-tragic-revealing-mystifying than to study a life through the history of hairstyles. So when Nancy Davis Kho of Midlife Mixtape asked me and a some other writerly friends to share our coiff-oire (you know, a memoir of coiffures), I couldn’t resist.
Very few people have follicular intelligence: the ability to display the hair they are born with to their advantage (not to be mistaken for Jennifer Connelly and the genetically gifted). Most of us heathens strive for the opposite of what we are born with through a series of strange and expensive procedures and products until finally – or not – we achieve ENLIGHTENMENT: defined as working with what you’ve got, not against it.
I, myself, worked against my hair for the better part of 30 years, like a salmon swimming up a stream of hairspray, curling irons, crimpers, and perms, looking for a SuperCuts where I could lay my $15 and die of resignation.
Let me start at the beginning: I was born adorably balding, not unlike the adorably balding Dick Van Patten, TV dad on the show “Eight Is Enough.”
During childhood, my hair was straight and blonde and fairly trouble-free and those were what we in the business call “the salad days.” Of course, by “trouble-free” I mean the years that my parents did not cut my bangs. In a terrible mis-recollection (a defense mechanism?), I remembered only the singular incident of my father attacking me with the scissors in France while my mother stepped out, her shock and anger upon returning to find her precious daughter a mini Lloyd from “Dumb & Dumber,” my bangs hiked up to my hairline.
But alas! Upon looking through photo albums for this post, I apparently sported this fetching look for YEARS:
By fourth grade, however, I was given the single coolest hair cut of my life: a bob. I was 9 years old and getting ready to start school in a new town on the gulf coast of Arabia. The transformation happened courtesy of Rita Steinenger in her garage salon. Before I could blink, my hair (not my bangs, praise be) was up to my ears. I was Ramona Quimby, Age Awesome. This style served me well for many years.
Until I discovered the crimper. I really don’t have any explanation for this except that I thought it would look good with my Benetton sweater and white Reebok hightops.
At some point in middle school, my mom hired a Lebanese guy named Khalil (not Gibran) to come over to our house and cut everyone’s hair (which really pisses me off that my little brother wasn’t subjected to parental bang trims). I wanted a perm and so Khalil gave me one. Okay, two. In our kitchen. I can still smell those fumes. I wish I could say I hated it, but I loved it. I looked like everyone else and I didn’t have to crimp my hair every day.
By the time high school rolled around, I was on to something even bigger: the dance team. That’s right. I went from Saudi Arabia to the Lake Travis High School Cavalettes in Austin, Texas of the United States of high kicks and big smiles and big hair. Please picture me yelling at my mom to curl my hair while I applied my blue eyeshadow and red lipstick before I missed the bus to the away game.
In college, my hair got shorter and shorter, which is perhaps not the wisest of moves when one decides to stop exercising and only eat bagels, pasta and cereal. When I graduated and moved to New York City, my mom treated me to a hair cut at the elite salon, Bumble & Bumble, which officially transformed me into Meg Ryan. Give or take 40 pounds.
I’m happy to report that as I left my 20’s, I decided to grow my hair out a bit and start exercising. In my 30’s, I committed to paying for good highlights. As I approach my 40’s, I can say that I enlist the support of a great stylist with a golden flat iron whenever the occasion arises. This is what I call Semi-Enlightenment. I say “semi” because most days, I willingly accept the defeat of a ponytail.
I can only hope that as I get older and my hair gets frizzier and more fine, I can aspire to this:
And not a return to the adorably balding Dick Van Patten.
For more stories about mops that flopped, messy tresses, thatches, shocks and manes, get on over and visit these folks right now: