Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Scared Straight

The Trouble Started Early

Betty is blessed in many ways but naturally beautiful hair is not one of those blessings.

It’s thin.

It’s straight.

It is resistant to instruction or persuasion of any kind.

You want hair trauma stories? I’ve got ‘em.

A lot of them.

I’ve had perms that fried my hair and served it up like crosscut French fries complete with granules of sea salt. I’ve have hairstyles that made me look like various cartoon characters including both female leads in the Flintstones.

That’s right. Betty and Wilma. At the same time.

I’ve tried a lot of different lengths. Long hair makes my face look like a cookie sheet. Short hair only emphasizes the fact that the width of my head is only a few centimeters wider than a pushpin.

Once, I was driving around, feeling very chic, straight from the hairdresser with a new look when a carload of young girls drove up beside me and yelled, “Get a hairdo!!!”

I thought I finally had a hairdo.

People with good hair do not know horror that a weather prediction of 50% or greater humidity brings. They do not understand that a pool party is akin to Night in Terrorville. A convertible to them bespeaks fun and freedom. To those of us with thin, easily tangled hair, well, just stick our heads in an industrial fan, why don’t you? It will produce the same result in a fraction of the time.

I have my immediate family pretty well trained then it comes to my hair. Their ability to have a car window down, for example, depends upon the number of minutes I have spent on my hair. Here is an easy-to-follow chart:

10 Minute Hair: Windows in car can be down halfway.

20 Minute Hair: Windows in car can be one-fourth way down.

30 Minute Hair: Don’t Even Think About It.

So everyone in the car got fairly nervous when my woefully oblivious brother-in-law recently rolled down a car window nearly all the way. The rest of the inhabitants of the car gasped and looked at me. “This is 20 minute hair,” I shrieked. He acted like he didn’t know what that meant. Study the chart, Buddy. He rolled his eyes first, and then rolled up the window.

Believe it or not, I have actually become a bit more relaxed about the whole hair thing as I have gotten older.

In college I once got my hair looking just perfect (40 minute hair). Since I lived in a co-ed dorm, I decided to go to the lobby and make the most of this rare occurrence. Once there, I started flirting with some of the guys who were hanging out.

They looked at me with quizzical glances that I took to mean “Wow! Where has this chick been all our lives? What great hair! She’s so cool!”

Finally, after about ten minutes one of them said to me, “Does your neck hurt?” I brightly replied that it didn’t. “Well,” he said, hesitantly, “Why aren’t you moving your head then? I smiled and immediately excused myself, taking the round head upon the silver platter back to my room.

My attempts to keep my hair perfect had, apparently, resulted in my appearing to wear a very strong back brace.

Indeed, it still takes a lot of time and effort to get the meager strands on my head to resemble any sort of recognizable, socially acceptable form of hairdo. It also takes a lot of what is referred to in the hairdressing world as Product.

It all other areas of my life, I eschew strong chemicals. I use vinegar as a household cleaner. I live with bugs and spiders rather than call the men in the white trucks with the giant insect on the door. I check all the labels on detergents and soaps to get the least harmful for the environment.

However, when it comes to hair products—bring on the chemicals.


Vinyl Neodecanoate?

Aminomethyl Propanol?

Oh yeah.

More please.

I once found my dream hairspray. This stuff had it all: durability, just the right hold, and maybe more than just a tinge of hallucinatory mist to make the hair preparation time more enjoyable.

One day, to my dismay, I discovered that it was being discontinued, some sort of silly governmental regulation about a lethal chemical. I went on an immediate hunt for more and hoarded what I could. Later, when I found out it was still being sold in Mexico, I briefly toyed with the idea of hiring a hairspray mule to smuggle some back in the States for me.

Early in our marriage, HOB tried to get me to give up the stuff.

He told me it was bad for me and accused me of being addicted to it. He pointed out the highly visible residue on the back wall of the bathroom that had built up like a sticky trap for rodents. “You’re breathing this stuff in!” he said, while waving my own can of hair spray at me.

Sorry, man-with-naturally-curly-hair who just gets out of the shower and dries his hair with a towel. Put the can of hairspray down next to the mousse and the gel and nobody gets hurt.

When we had children, HOB conditioned them early on to run whenever they heard the spraying of an aerosol can in the vicinity of my mirror. “Run away!” He would yell frantically. “Don’t breathe!”

They would run, mimicking his warnings, calling out “Run away! Don’t breathe!” as they scattered throughout the house, frantic to get away.

(This came in handy later when during those brief times when the boys became whining monsters. All I had to do was wave the can and say menacingly, “I’m going to spray!” They couldn’t help themselves. By this time it was Pavlovian. They would run immediately, giving Mommy just enough blessed alone time to keep her semi-sane and off the evening news.)

Naturally, this reliance on product has a price. Both fiscally and psychologically.

As you can easily guess, my frantic avoidance of smokers goes way beyond hideous smell and potentially life-threatening health hazard of second-hand smoke. I see a smoker and I hold the secret, terrifying knowledge that the smoker holds in his hand or has on his body, a device that, lit and held close to my tiny head, could result in my chemical-laden hair exploding into flames—the Olympic torch come to life.

The other day the power company had a planned outage in our neighborhood. I was running late and didn’t get to take a shower until around 11:00. I did so, forgetting the harrowing circumstances that awaited me afterward.

No blow dryer.

No curling iron.

I did the best I could, flopping my head up and down, fluffing the few strands of hair upon my head with my fingers, but in the end, the result was tragic. I looked in the mirror and saw what I would most likely look like if I were in prison. Believe me, it was not pretty. One look in that mirror and I decided to never take up a life of crime, or at least to limit those crimes to misdemeanors at the very least.

It rains quite a bit here in the winter, which really plays havoc with my hair, especially my bangs. There are days when I have to stay on campus from 8:00am to 8:00pm, so saving the hair for my late night class is essential. This is why, while all my students, with their naturally curly hair, stroll across campus in a light drizzle, looking carefree and happy, I cross campus in my black raincoat, the hood, not only up and over my hair, but the drawstrings tightly drawn in around my face. The Grim Reaper cometh to the Classroom.

This brings us to one of my brilliant ideas concerning how to help my fellow hairdo-impaired people. I hereby release this one to the universe so someone can get working on it, hopefully before the rainy season.

I would like someone to modify a heat vent deflector so that it can be worn over bangs in wind or rain. A great idea? Oh yes. It is.

Make mine with a little bling on it and we’ll all be happy.


Teresa Evangeline said...

Hair, oh hair, oh crazy hair. I was blessed. I think. Although sometimes, in the summer, it feels like I am wearing a rug on my head. But I shan't complain. Your early picture says so much. It looks like you trimmed your own bangs for the school photo as I did in first grade.

Thanks for the laughs, touched with compassion, of course.

I love having my morning coffee with you.

Linda at To Behold The Beauty said...

Oh Betty, this is priceless! I especially chuckled at the part about the hairspray and the mental image you painted of the hairspray mule delivering the contraband stuff from Mexico. Loved this. A wonderful post.

Leah J. Utas said...

Ah, the things we do for hair.

Larri said...

What a hair-raising tale you've woven this morning! Thanks for the giggle.

PS...I decided to let all the color grow out of my hair. It's not as traumatizing as I thought. I've actually received some compliments on my 'highlights'. When asked where I got them, I say, "God." :o)

Happy Wednesday! :o)


I enjoyed the read Betty, I love to get my hair coloured when I feel like it.

Have a good day,

Hilary said...

Hair, hair! And excellent post. Not too many people can make me laugh before my morning coffee. You're such a treat!

Pearl said...

Betty, not only does my hair predict the weather but it can also, grown long enough, double as baling twine.

Lovely post. :-)


My Mind's Eye said...

BB you have 200% outdone yourself with today's post. OH MY STARS thank you for letting us laugh with you. You are the next Ms. Bombeck!!!

thankfully my hubby was in the shower and could not hear me rolling on the floor laughing.
Hugs C

Laura said...

Love love love this! We are kindred spirits. Except my thin, straight, uncooperative hair sits atop my big, round head. It's sad.
A couple of years ago, it started falling out in frightening amounts. I finally went to the doc and got blood work. Found I had a very low level of Vitamin D. Seriously. What little hair I had to start with and it was falling out! When my D level started coming up, my hair stopped falling out, but I never really recovered what I loss. I've started to avoid chemicals and too much heat (I can't afford to lose any more!!). I've discovered that, as I've aged, my thin (very thin) straight, turning gray hair is now a little frizzy and fly-away. Great.
See Betty...we are kindred spirits!

Out on the prairie said...

Wait messed up hair is the style. You were building a trend and now it is here.

Anne Gallagher said...

My mother complains about her hair, well used to, like you do. She decided she didn't care or want to care anymore about so she got a pixie.

And if you think it's better for us who have long curly hair, it's not. Humdity over 40%, can't brush it. Bugs fly in it and get caught (talk about freaking out). I have had to dye mine since I was in my 20's and a whole box of dye does not cover it all.

It's not easy being a woman is it?

Old Kitty said...

Make my heat vent defector pink with pretty flowers please.

Thank you!

p.s. backcomb, BB, backcomb like the wind!!!

Take care

Jules said...

I'm so with you on the thin, straight stuff, though the weather does not even move mine. I'm the poster girl for all those stick hair people kids draw :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Terry's Tete-a-tete said...

Loved this. So funny. I was one of those natural curlied hair children until lice from a neighbor girl invaded the beautiful curls. Someone told mom you use kersosene (before the modern methods of today) to kill them but forgot to mention you dilute it with water. Scalded my head and burnt off all my hair. It never came back the same way. Sad to say my daughter is one of those unfortunate souls with total Alopcia and has none at all.

LittleSilkDress said...

Rudeness and cruelty aside, it's a pity those youthful girls couldn't come up with something a bit more intelligent than "Get a hairdo!" I'm sure you still looked great!

ellen abbott said...

I totally understand. Only I have naturally wavy/curly (depends on the weather) and I always wanted it straight. I gave up the battle early though and convinced myself I liked it however it wanted to be.

Unknown said...

I gave up on my hair years ago. I work with women who spend hours on their hair and use so much products and spray, it can withstand a windstorm.
I think I have better things to do with my time and money.

Talli Roland said...

Oh Betty, this made me laugh! 'Why aren't you moving your head'! Oh, Betty!

Thank you for sharing your hair woes...

Jenny said...

You're hilarious. Boy, have we got the same hair. I actually learned an amazing tip a few years back that works every single time. Blow dry your hair like usual with the usual products. Mist it lightly with hair spray. Then put foam rollers in it and leave them for as long as you can. Your hair will keep the style for 4 or 5 HOURS!

Lydia Kang said...

OMG, your posts are so awesome. 20 minute hair? When I do that, usually the Queen of England is coming to visit, it happens so rarely.

CM said...

Oh dear, I hear ya! I have the opposite problem, my hair is crazy thick and wavy, but not curly. So if I just let it do it's thing, it just looks messy. I'm forced to blow dry it with a round brush AND straighten it EVERY single day! Ugh.

Let just go bald, K!?! ;-)

Anonymous said...

me.haz, waaaaah.

Thanks for stopping by today!!


Brian said...

You sure do put some funny sounding chemicals on your hair!

KLZ said...

Motorcycle helmets are excellent at keeping rain off hair. Although they may have other drawbacks...

Parsley said...

This is something most of us can relate to on some level. You just crack me up!

Unknown said...

hahaha! Funny post Betty! My hair is fine and thick, sits upon my big square head, and has been known, in the summer, to get flies caught in it...that's a funny thing for others to see, but it was a major freak out for me!

Bethany said...

Oh, Betty. So tragic. I had so much hair as a teenager that I could only wrap an elastic around it twice. Then I had kids and stress and it all fell out. I can now get a good 4 wraps. I have lost half my hair. And you've given me so much to look forward to if I lose any more... Thank you.

floweringmama said...

I feel your pain! As a young girl, my mom finally gave up and just kept my hair very short. And now, I have given up and just keep it pulled up in a clip or a pony tail. I wash it, comb it and let it dry. No mouse, gel, or hair spray.

Tracy said...

Oh Betty...I can so relate...too much I'm afraid! My mom has alopecia and of course, I got her genes; even though I didn't ask. While I am not bald like she is (seh wears a wig and has for longer than I can remember) my hiar is still baby fine and very thin and it drives me crazy. I am so self-conscious! I had a student once tell me his dad and I had something in common; we were both bald. I was horrified and it took me a long long time to get over that...I realize this is an ADHD kid with a Learning disability so I didn't 'blame' him but did caution him about saying hurtful things. I now have a curling iron and hairspray in my classroom!
thanks for sharing...

Unknown said...

I too have short hair. In my youth I had good hair but age has not been kind. I was told to try biotin capsules..good for hair and nails and it does seem to be helping. Might try that..good luck..enjoyed the blog, know I'm not along lOl

Kazzy said...

Hair is so much more than just stuff on your head. And when you have to work so hard at it it is crucial that it stays put!

Dianne said...

see now all my life I dreamed of having straight thin hair!
I was positive it would make me look like Peggy Lipton in the Mod Squad

I have wavy, kinky, often frizzy thick hair
imagine Gilda Radner hair during a sketch about bad hair


thanks for your visit :)

Dillypoo said...

My father's side of the family is blessed with thick, wavy hair. My mother's side of the family not so much. Grandpa went bald in his forties, my brother is following suit, and If my mother were my father, she'd probably give up and just shave the few strands perched on her head.

Guess who I unfortunately take after? Biotin is my new friend!

Jayne said...

Betty- Too funny! I feel for you. I know the horrors of humidity. My best friend is Keratin. My greatest love is my hair dryer. What scares me most is lack of climate control.
Vay. It's so much work isn't it? ;)

PeaceLoveandSharpies said...

My, this was an entertaining post!
...and lengthy! :O

My hair is so thin, it makes my heart sad. :(

Donna said...

I gave up years ago....but I LOVED your story!!!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Funny story as always! Sorry about the hair. I use a little hair spray in the front, but otherwise mine's easy to manage.

Unknown said...

That was hil-hairious!

God's Little People said...

Dear Betty
Rarely have I laughed out loud at reading a post but this one had me cracking up! It all sounds very traumatic :-) and so very endearing.
Thank you so much - absolutely love this post!!!

Unknown said...

BB...I've been blessed with a good head of hair and had a brilliant hairdresser for 21 years when I lived in CT. Then I moved down south. I didn't know what humidity was until I moved south. It has taken me 2.5 years to finally learn what to do with my hair in the south. I laughed my butt off at the part where HOB trained the kids to run before you began spraying your hair. Too funny.

Copyboy said...

I love how it's impervious to persuasion. You have super man hair...i mean super gal hair.

Liz said...

I can't say that I relate because I pull my hair back every darn day, BUT I love that you have "levels" of hair and that there are rules that apply to each level.

Also? That those rules are understood by others in your life.

Unknown said...

Waiting for the day when shaving the head becomes fashion!

Ann said...

I can so relate to this. I've got perfectly straight lifeless hair. I would spend forever getting it to look just right only to have it right back to straight by the time I reached my destination. Over the years I have learned to love pony tails.
At least now I have to wear a hat at work so bad hair days can be blamed on having the stupid hat on my head all day long

Nancy C said...

I have that "made for the 80's" hair -- big, thick, wavy. And now, it's gray, mostly at the temples, so if I pull it back in a ponytail, I resemble "that guy" from the Sopranos.

Great post. I can totally relate about the products. If it works, I don't care what's in there. :)

Gigi said...

Those of us that are "blessed" with curly hair might actually call it a curse. Rain, heat, humidity can all do a number on it.

And trying to get it to lie straight? Forget about it. It can be a long (60 minute) process with more chemicals than Dow produces.

Yes, I know your woes, Betty and I commiserate - just from the other end of the spectrum.

Unknown said...

Betty: I am a poor fellow struggler in the hair wars of life, but I will say this:

Donald Trump called. He wants you to know he's rolling his eyes, and singing, "Nobody knows dah trubble I seen".

Connie said...

I'm with Gigi up there. I have struggled with thick, naturally curly hair all my life. ha! The grass is always greener on the other side. Great post, Betty. Very funny. :)

Jennie Bailey said...

I share your hair pain, Betty! Oh, do I share it. I had a perm so bad it not only frizzled my hair, it burnt my scalp! We're talking trip to the ER time. :-( I found a hairdresser over a decade ago that knows my hair and haven't left him. This means humiliation in the chair when I try to tell him what style I want and he laughs so hard he cries, but he never gives me a bad cut. "If you look bad, I look bad." I heart him tremendously.

Liz Mays said...

You made me laugh over and over as I pictured you with various head shapes and a rigid posture as you tried not to ruin your do. You're such a kook!

Ms. A said...

I feel your pain, literally. I have horrid hair... at least what's left. I can't use products. Total ponytail, all the time and an awful looking one, at that!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for making me laugh at my own thin and thinning hair! It's all about the 'illusion' of hair, now.

jenny_o said...

"The Grim Reaper cometh to the Classroom" - Oh so funny!

You sure were a cute little 'un!

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Hahahahaha! How fun to read this post. You'd probably hate me - I shower and go. But, then, good thing as I don't have a clue how to fix my hair. I keep it long enough to pull into a pony tail when I get a hot flash - with the rubber band that resides on my wrist. I'm a fashion queen, too.

Enjoyed it.

Sally Wessely said...

What is it about hair? So many of us hate the hair we have and wish we had someone else's. I feel your pain in many ways. Except, you and I have a very major difference. I have curly hair. It is thin and fine and has a mind of its own. I've wished for straight hair all my life.

You had me laughing with this post. Loved it.

Marlene said...

Oh dear...your hair long is like a cookie sheet? LOL!!! I'd be hungry all the time if I had to look at that....ha ha ha.

I guess I'll stop moaning about my locks then. Alrighty.

Betty Manousos said...

hilarious post!

I feel your pain...i have horrible hair! I've been born with really thin and curly hair and i'm sick of it.
when i straighten it it takes ages and some parts still look curly.


Powdered Toast Man said...

I'm not sure what this post is about. If I had to guess I would say your fear of frogs.

Ally said...

awww, great post, betty. to be honest, i'm no hairdresser but i always felt that blow dryers, dyes, sprays, etc. weaken hair ... though i am at fault for dying it yearly since the fifth grade (oh sun-in) and rollers and hair products galore :(

Stephanie V said...

I'm not laughing at you...honest! But this was so-o funny. And I'm not sure I should confess to hating my thick, naturally curly hair until I've become "a woman of a certain age" who now eschews product and keeps the hair very short. Interesting way to keep the kids in line, though.

Baby Sister said...

Oh Betty I love your stories. This one cracked me up!! I have lived on both ends of the spectrum and let me just say that I prefer the thick hair end. Thanks for the entertainment. :)

Susan Fields said...

My thin, straight hair has been so mistreated! In middle school, the boys I worked on the newspaper staff with called me "Steel Wool" because my poor permed hair was so frizzed out. I'm still scarred.

Empty Nester said...

Brilliant post! I'm laughing so hard I can hardly comment!!!

Sarah said...

You hair in the profile picture doesn't look bad at all. Worst case--get a wig?

SUGAR MOON said...

You described me. My husband has learned to unlock that car door quickly and oh my goodness I never leave home without the curling iron. Loved your post. Have a nice weekend.

SquirrelQueen said...

We must have been addicted to the same hairspray, I had a supply brought in from Mexico and it cost a fortune.

Too funny Betty.

Anonymous said...

Hahahahahaha you think that us curly hair people have it easy?! I don't give a dang most of the time about what my hair looks like. Most of the time all I worry about is either, frizz, is it in my face, and my bald spot from my trichotillomania. And even then it's nearly impossible to have my hair look halfway decent!

Pat Tillett said...

I'm on the other end of the spectrumm. My hair is like a brush. I'd like it to be in the middle between yours and mine.

After the girls yelled that remark at you, didn't you want to run them off the road? I do...

Nicolasa @ {My}Perspective said...

Oh my gosh! You make me laugh so hard! Hair is crazy and I found what works for mine so I don't do much else with it... it's pretty boring!

Lin said...


I have "good" hair--it can be straight or it can hold a curl like a mutha. That said, I still don't like my hair blowin' around the car with the windows open.

I once had a friend with a convertible. She would like to drive around with the top down and the country tunes cranked. I thought she was an idiot. I also asked her to put the top up when I rode with her. People with convertibles think we all love them. Yeah/no.

Sueann said...

I lust after good hair days for sure! I see you do too!!
Great story telling
Congrats on your POTW

Cricket said...

Heh, heh. Guess I missed this first time around. Congratulations on your potw.

Well, you could always do as Annie Lennox did way back when. Pretty much shave it off and have an assortment of wigs, from flowing tresses to psycho-clown, as you choose.

I shaved mine off and skipped the wigs, but that's something else again.

Shan said...

Girl, you crack me up! You don't seem to have a pinhead to me... but since you're concerned that you do we can never have our photo taken together. Tom doesn't have a pinhead (either), but there's this photo that was taken a the worst angle possible, apparently... my head seems to be twice the size of his. That photo was taken almost 11 years ago and it still haunts me.