A new friend recently triggered some memories of my youth. Most specifically a couple of years spent as a teenager in the ‘yellow house.’ Come along with me while I reminisce about one of those memories.

I was a gangly girl with braces, headgear, pink glasses, ‘sunken treasure’ chest and bad, bad chia-pet home perms. My mom didn’t believe in me dating until I was 16.  But really, ummm, based on the previous description, I don’t think she had any cause to worry.

Let’s talk about my hair, most specifically my home perms. You just haven’t lived unless your mom has given you an Ogilvy home perm with the smallest rods known to mankind. I should mention I had (and have!) gobs and gobs of thick hair. Gobs.

So let me paint this picture. It’s perm day.  When my hair wasn’t permed, it was almost to my shoulders.  K? Got it? Thick hair and medium length. I would sit for hours while my mom cranked my hair into these little tiny rods. It wasn’t quite the bonding experience you might envision. No… She didn’t use her time to talk to me about drugs or warn me about the perils of unprotected sex (God FORBID!) or even choosing pepper over salt. No, she used the time to take that little rat tail comb and poke (stab?!) me in the shoulders. “Quit fidgeting” is what she would mumble. Feeling the love, mom.

Sigh.  This memory isn’t as much fun for me to recall as I thought it would be but I’ve come this far and I’ll do it for you, my blog readers. What a good trooper I am!  Once my hair was rolled and my eyes had taken on a slight Asian slant, then came the roll of cotton around my forehead and neck. Supposedly, this cotton was to keep the permanent solution from dripping into my eyes. I think it was a form of torture as the only thing it did was itch like hell. I had more rashes around my hairline from that damn saturated cotton sitting there festering away than I’d like to remember.

So…cotton…then the perm solution.  Anyone who has EVER had a home perm knows that shit is NASTEEEEY!  It’s cold and drippy and eeuwy-yucky smelling. And you have to stay IN THE KITCHEN because you don’t want to take a chance it’ll drip on the carpet or something. It’s good enough to sit on your scalp for like EVER, but God FORBID one little iota will get on the carpet.

After your hair and scalp have sufficiently marinated in the uber toxic curl maker, you had to rinse your hair in the kitchen sink.  Nope, you can’t use the tub, you have to use the kitchen sink.  It’s at that point, after you’ve been bent over for HOURS so the 439 perm rods can be removed, you hear, “Oh oh. Oh dear. Darn it.”  WHAT?!   MOM! I’M BENT OVER HERE!! DON’T SAY, ‘OH OH’ or ‘OH DEAR’ or even  ‘DARN IT.’  WHATTTTT?!! WHAT, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, IS WRONG!!?

“Oh honey, it looks like some of your hair fell out.”

Sigh.  Blink. Blink. Blink. Really??  REALLY!?!

That’s almost the kiss of death to a teenager who doesn’t want to stand out. I was dorky enough, let alone to be missing a portion of my hair. “Oh honey, it looks like some of your hair fell out” is NOT what I wanted to hear. Ever. Ever.   But I heard it more than once.  It was always at the hairline too, not some inconspicuous place my mop would cover. NooOOOooo…hairline.  Soaked, itchy cotton marinating ON MY HAIRLINE. “Oh honey….”

Once my hair (what remained) was rinsed, I couldn’t wash it for three days or the perm would relax to quickly (or something equally as cockamamie). That’s THREE DAYS of being a teenager with stinky perm hair.  Three days, minimum, I might add.  When I could wash my hair it took like 14 bottles of ‘Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific’ to fully get the odiferous odor out.

And then let’s talk about the end result, shall we?  Gahhhhh! I have a big old lump in my throat right now thinking about this part.  While I’m sure my mom used perm rods made for Barbie because she thought the ‘perm would last longer’, I was left with the worst cha-cha-chia pet hair of my entire life.  I mean, it was tighter than some poodles fur. And I had thick hair! I looked like a fuzz ball. I couldn’t even comb it; I had to use a pick (which, thankfully, was fashionable back in the late 70’s, early 80’s). It wasn’t quite to the Afro level, but it was darn close.

I remember getting my third haircut and some kid said, “Did you get your haircut? It looks the same.”  Yep.  I was going on four months with that damned Ogilvy perm and it outlasted (much to my horror) cut after cut after cut.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get anymore pathetic, remember the hair I ‘lost’ around my hairline? Well, what do you think it was doing while my chia-pet perm was all coiled up and hissing??  It was growing STRAIGHT OUT (eye roll). Picture THAT if you dare. Chia pet meets protuding, stick straight hair.  DeLOVELY!

Yeah, really, mom didn’t need to worry about the boys lining up to ask me out.  At least not at that point. I think she took it more seriously when I was a little older AND HOME PERM FREE.  Correlation? Maybe. 😉

2 thoughts on “Permanent

  1. Yes, only you could write that much about a home perm!! You made the memories seem like 2 years ago. Excellent blog, and I am sure there is more than us 2 who went through that torture! Bur..on a positive when it was nice out mom would do mine in the back yard as not to smell up the house. I can still feel myself pressing the washcloth into my eyes under hard as not to go blind….

  2. And never forget having someone cut your bangs at scalp length… This combined with the poodle perm was quite the effective look.

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