Friday, January 6, 2017

The Best and The Worst

I was thinking today about the very best hair cut I ever had... which was because I was telling the story of the very worst thing I ever did to my hair.

The question that ensued was, "OMG... is this on your blog?"

No.... no it isn't.

Until now.

Since "The Worst" story led to "The Best" story-- let me start there.

The Worst Haircut I ever Had

Mama used to go to Debbie's Hair Cottage on Monte Sano Avenue, pronounced Mahn-Tee-San-Oh. Debbie's Hair Cottage was across the street from the Knights of Columbus building with an aging royal blue awning. That blue awning had, what appeared to be, iron-on letters. The parking was behind the building, with cracked asphalt and faded lines. 

At the time, I was 18- heading to The University in the fall and going through sorority rush. 

These two tidbits are extremely important to note. 

Mama went to Debbie's Hair Cottage because her aunts went to Debbie's Hair Cottage. My mom, at the time, was in her early 40s... let's go with 43. Her father was the youngest of 8 children, making the age of my great aunts range anywhere from 70-113. 

Because women in that box are known for great hairstyles and not for blue hair and helmet head.

Debbie's Hair Cottage, catering to only the finest.

My great aunts all had beautiful hair... for their age. 

When Mama started going to Debbie's, no one really noticed. Her hair never changed. So, it wasn't really something to note where Mama went to for her hair. In hindsight, I think Debbie just followed Mama's haircut until she started losing her sight-- Debbie, that is. Mama can see just fine.

But, Debbie's Hair Cottage had this word-of-mouth deal. If you brought Debbie your own color, she would put it on your hair for $5.

Talk dirty to me.

I can get my hair "done" for $5? Yes, please.

Off to Wal-Mart I head in my convertible, days after graduating from high school. Over to the beauty products and into the hair dye aisle for L'Oreal High Lift Blonde, Number 3. 

Why L'Oreal? Was it because it was known for quality? low-ammonia? Easy application? No... I had a coupon.

It made my total $2.67.

For $7.67 I was going to get my hair "did" at Debbie's Hair Cottage with the royal blue awning and ironed-on letters. This will be the story I share when people compliment me on my hair. It was going to be legendary...

And so it was.

I walk into Debbie's at the appointed time and sit on a naugahyde chair held together with the hopes and dreams of Debbie and the $5 hair treatment.

It turns out that Debbie died years prior and Carol actually owned Debbie's Hair Cottage. Carol, in her skin tight lamé pants and low cut shirt walked over to... wait, that was Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias.

Carol comes over in elastic banded, acid washed jeans, and years of caked makeup on her face. She popped the box open, stuck her cigarette between her yellowed teeth and set to work on my $2.67 box of hair dye.

My great aunts were prim and proper ladies- surely there is a back room to this place where they have their hair set. This was not a place for the meek. 

While she worked with magicians hands, I noticed all the fake plants, lattice work, the drop ceilings and just how dark it was in there. It was in this moment I started thinking that this might not be a good idea. 

But, there is always a constant reminder that something doesn't need to be flashy or expensive for it to be effective.

Hence the $2.67 box of L'Oreal High Lift Blonde, Number 3.

Carol paints the dye on my hair and places me under the dryer. Clearly, this made it an authentic experience. I picked up a Cosmopolitan circa 1991 and read through the whole thing before picking up RedBook from three seasons prior and reading that cover to cover.

Carol smoked her 10th cigarette and worked magic on the hair of my fellow comrades in lung cancer. Carol, as I watched, could do a mean permanent. 

As I finished that second magazine, I started to feel a little tingle on my scalp and I have flashbacks from that Tina Turner movie where she lost her hair. 

"Ummm.... Debb, I mean Carol.... is, uh, is this...."

A pull from her cigarette and a wave her hand, "Shug, the longer it stays on, the better it is."

Well, Carol was a professional. She knew what she was talking about. I trusted her, leaned back and picked up a third magazine, reveling in the decadence that was linoleum and lattice work. 

After about 13 hours, Debbie finally says, "Let's get you over to the sink and wash you out."

She lifted up the helmet from my head, I wiped the sweat off my brow and made eye contact with myself in the mirror. 

My Hair Was Dry.

My hair was dry... and it was yellow.

Carol washed my hair and asked if I wanted a hair cut. Sharp objects were not the best idea for Carol to offer me at that moment.

"Not with those God-Forsaken scissors," I thought. 

"No, I, um, well, yeah. We're gahh... we're good. Yep. Here's your $5. No tip today, I... um... yeah, that's all the money I have on me."

I walk out the door into the blazing May sunshine and quiver in fear as the sun reflects off my hair and into the eyes of cars driving by. Cars swerved into telephone poles as gawkers stared at me.

Before going home and showing my mother the handiwork of Carol at Debbie's, I stop by my best friend's house and knocked on the door, knowing she was home. 

She opened the door and her eyes. Oh, sweet Jesus, until the day I die- those eyes were saucers and her beautiful blonde hair swung back and forth as the first words out of her mouth were: 

We can fix it.

Not, "It's not that bad," not, "I've seen worse," or, "Gosh? You got your hair done." Nope. When the first words are, "We can fix it" you know that you have screwed up.... royally.

Mary Margaret and I run upstairs to her bathtub. We start pouring water in my hair and shampoo. Lots of shampoo. She remembers that her mom uses 'toner.' My 18 year old self did not even know what toner was, nor did I care in this moment. My hair had both the consistency and color of straw. We used the toner six times on my hair and that nest on my head went from yellow to a mustard yellow. We put a notch in the "W" column as I left.

Mama saw my hair and ... her face... it looked just like Mary Margaret's when she first saw it. Had I just gotten used to it? Or was it really that bad?

It was really that bad. 

Mama said, "Listen- you're going to be in the sun all summer. If we try and fix it now, it'll just make it harder to fix it again when you leave for college. You're just going to have to have a good attitude about it and, well, count down the days."

And that I did.

That summer, I went to the lake, the beach, the pool, anything that had water and sunshine-- that's where I was. My brother and I went to my aunt's lake house for several days in the blazing July sun. While there, she fixed us breakfast before we went out on the water for several hours. Upon returning for lunch, my aunt said, "Wife, I swear to God- your hair has changed colors."

Oh, it had. It went from pineapple yellow to phonebook yellow. Those who don't remember, phonebooks used to have yellow pages for businesses. That was the color of my hair.

Fast forward to August, I was counting down the days before my salon appointment and then off to college. The day before we leave, I go into a beautiful, glitzy, well-lit salon and pay an ungodly amount of money to correct my $7.67 mistake. 

My hair was brown, glossy, and beautiful. I felt like a goddess.

Days later, I pledge my first choice sorority and began my college career. My corrective color started to fade and I was too afraid to sit in the chair of another stranger for someone else to correct the problem. It was going to have to grow out with pride.

Now, if you don't know me-- my hair is not naturally blonde. Shocking, I know. It's brown, dark brown- let's be honest. As the color faded, the phonebook yellow came out and all I could do, all I could think to do was let that heinous color grow out and cut it off; it was the only way to rid myself of it. My hair stayed in a pony tail or under a hat. But, you can't hide heinous. And my hair, yeah- it was heinous. 

When I could finally cut it off, I walked into Great Clips and spent $8 because I did not want one soul to see this happen. I had been embarrassed for long enough.

She asked how much I wanted to cut off. I answered: See that blonde? I want it GONE. She started cutting and cutting and cutting and that yellow fell to the floor. It was the shortest hair I had ever had. 

The haircut wasn't that bad, but having the yellow gone made it completely worth it. 

Walking back into that million dollar sorority house, my pledge sisters- whom I had not been that well acquainted with- looked at me and commented on how good my hair looked and what a great decision it was to not do my hair again with the blonde. I looked at them and thought, "Ya think I wanted that blonde hair? I had to let it grow out. Ain't no way I liked walking around with two completely different colors of hair on my head."

But, I just said thanks and moved on.

It traumatized me so much that I refused to color my hair again until I had my streak of gray from my first winter in DC, 2010. But, that's another story.

1 comment:

Wanting What I Have said...

Hilarious. I let a friend talk me into orange highlights once...that was my first and last experience with hair dye.

I'm thinking you need a column. Like-in Southern Living. You have such a fun writing style.