I have been growing out my hair for a year. Twelve months worth of effort has not produced any Rapunzel-like locks, not that I was expecting any. In fact, if my hair was an employee, I would fire its ass for its lank character, paucity of body, dearth of shine, and failure to be a team player.
For ten years I regularly went to a stylist. Jeff was darn good at cutting and coloring hair, but he was pricey. Then a year ago, I decided to ditch the cuts and the pigments, and began the mentally painful process of growing out my hair. This decision was prompted mostly by economic necessity, but also because I was tired of the same 'ol, same 'ol and ready for a change. Twelve months ago, my hair was very short and a warm red shade. Now, the longest layers just barely brush the top of my shoulders, and the expensive red color with its subtle blonde highlights has become an ugly, mousy brown. As bad as my hair is by itself, I have enough skill with various styling implements to make it look presentable, not great, but presentable.
My mother, on the other hand, can't fix her hair to save her life. Naturally, being blind she can't fix it now, but when she was my age and younger, even, she was helpless.
It all began when Mom hit the big 4 - 0. I was not quite seven. I'm only guessing here, but my mother must have had a mid-life crisis because one day, I came home from school and the lady that used to be my mother had disappeared and another lady had taken her place. Mother #1, had dark brown hair that she pin curled in a short bob. Mother #2 had a professionally done frosted blonde bouffant.
Instead of doing the sensible thing and learning how to fix her hair, Mom chose to make a standing appointment with her hairdresser for a set and comb out every Friday morning. As a little kid, I thought it was very glamorous and liked going to the salon and watching the stylists work their magic. I remember a brief period, exciting, but brief, when customers with bad split ends had them burned off. Bear in mind that this was back when sky high teasing and backcombing were de rigueur. The stylist would tightly twist a hank of hair into a rope, forcing the numerous little broken ends to stick out. Then, working quickly so she didn't set her customer ablaze like a Molotov cocktail, she would run a flame up and down the length of the hair rope, singeing off the split and broken ends. I would watch in fascinated horror, feet ready to bolt for the door and safety, in case somebody did catch on fire, and shambled to me looking to be put out.
By my calculations, my mother has been getting her hair done every week for 47 years. This is 2,444 sets and comb outs. Assuming $10.00 a week, just for the sake of argument, that's over $24,000.00 spent. When you factor in inflation, perms, hair colorings, haircuts, tips and Christmas bonuses, I would hazard a guesstimate that Mom has spent twice that over the years. No wonder I never got a car when I was old enough to drive.
And it wasn't just the money that was spent. There were other things, too, all aimed at keeping her 'do looking as fresh as a daisy between salon visits. For starters, Mom would sleep on her stomach, head propped on crossed arms like she was sunbathing, only in bed and in the dark. This position was supposed to eliminate morning bedhead, but I think all it did was give her colossal neck and shoulder pains, not to mention a bad case of the grumps from poor quality sleep. Another bedtime trick was sleeping on a satin pillowcase because the slippery surface was supposed to cut down on friction. I tried napping on it once and was not able to do it; my head wouldn't stay put and slid all over the place. But the real kicker was that Mom was reduced to washing her hair once a week. It is unfathomable to me how anyone can go a solid week between shampoos, especially in the heat of summer, and most especially in Houston's heat and humidity. Sorry, Mom, but that's just plain gross.
My mother became so dependent on these weekly trips, she was no longer capable of fixing and styling her own hair. I mean that, literally, and I'll tell you a story to prove it. It's like she devolved, or something.
One summer, we had a family reunion at my uncle's home in New Mexico. It was the year I turned 25, so this means my mother would have had some 900+ salon visits under her belt at the time. My uncle had a big backyard pool, and this was where we spent most of our days. Late one afternoon, very early into our visit, my mother and aunts were in their suits standing in the shallow end and talking, when my uncle, always the practical joker, dumped a bucket of water on his sister-in-law's perfectly coiffed hair. He had no way of knowing that he had just opened a giant can of whoop-ass, but I sure did. I sucked in a breath and immediately assumed the hunkered down, arms-over-the-head position taught to those of us who went to school during the Cold War:
I could tell Mom was boiling mad, but to her credit, she didn't make a scene and, in all fairness, she was in the pool and game for any wayward H20 molecules. After the situation was explained my uncle apologized profusely, but the damage was done. My mother was now faced with two choices: go the rest of the visit with her hair covered in a kerchief, or make an appointment at a local salon to get the mess fixed. She opted to get it fixed and of course, it didn't turn out looking anything the way she liked her hair to look, and that put her in a bit of a temper for the rest of our stay. I remember thinking how ridiculous it was, a grown woman incapable of fixing her own hair.
Lately, Mom has been saying that maybe it's time to stop the weekly visits and get a wig. I am all for this idea. With the money saved, she could finally buy me that car!
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