Friday, 26 November 2010

On The Fringe

Article and illustrations by Mrs. Tami Thirlwell-Nicol
Mr Mark Bolan's famous hair
How often have we heard ourselves complain about the texture of our hair? It seems many ladies yearn for the opposite of what they possess. For example, gals with curly hair long for straight and vice versa. I happen to be an exception and you won’t hear me lament, “oh my hair, what cruel strands have I been’re sooo lucky you have wavy hair”. Although it could be a little thicker, I am, in fact,quite satisfied with my unremarkable straight hair.
This wasn’t always the case. Let’s dial back to a time when ‘classic rock’ wasn’t yet classic, it was just ‘rock’ and punk had yet to be invented. I’m reminded of a small window of time during that era when my straight Valerie Bertinelli hair was convinced it might look cooler with a perm.

"...My mom actually cried when she saw the hatchet job. Now you know how I feel, lady, I thought to myself..."

A Spiral Perm. This should be a perm to rival Peter Frampton’s. From the ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ live (duh) double album. I believe it was overuse of the Wah-Wah guitar pedal that actually made his hair come alive. As was the case with the hair condition of Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and that guy from Metallica-- all Wah-Wah pedal aficionados. But, as usual class, I digress. Maybe it was a little earlier and Marc Bolan drilled it into my head with the line “I ain’t no square with my corkscrew hair” as he banged a gong. Would this imply that with my non-corkscrew hair I am a square? I want the “universe reclining in my hair” too. To the nearest hair saloon, I must texturize!
This would be my first time at a real beauty parlor. Up until then it was all, ‘Sit still, godammit!’ as my mom tried to square off my fringe year after painful year. The outcome always lopsided, it looked as if she had been cutting my hair on the Andrea Gail during a perfect storm. And then there was the time I did it myself when I was six and discovered scissors. My mom actually cried when she saw the hatchet job. Now you know how I feel, lady, I thought to myself.
Since my mother wasn’t up to speed on home perm kits (thankfully), I nervously settled my teen-age self into a salon chair-- not unlike being at a dentist appointment. In fact, some measure of anesthetic would have been comforting when the state of my freshly permed hair hit full force from the giant mirror in front of me, and behind and beside. After hunkering down for about two hours with tight rollers wedged into my head it was a foregone conclusion: I was a frightening surround of Robert Plant and Stevie Nicks’ love child multiplied ad infinitum. 
Not only that but I had to fork over six months of babysitting money for the privilege. I had heard about salon nightmares and now I had my own initiation. The saddest part is that I tried to convince myself that it was an okay look. But it wasn’t. My Bertinelli feather-winged bangs had morphed into a horizontal mopped Don Martin character from Mad Magazine, which was a fine tribute if that’s the look you were going for. I tried pulling a few fusilli strands straight and down into a considerably more natural gravitational position, only to let go and hear “boi-innggg” as they snapped back into place.
Classic Don Martin 
It was on the way home when the word ‘perm’ really sank in. Noooo, I thought with a sinking horror. But it’s true; perm is short for permanent. I’m going to look like this for the rest of my life! I darted into the house and into the sanctuary of my bedroom before my brother and his friends could feast their eyes on this moving target. Damn you 1970s classic rock icons! I shook my fist at the KISS army poster above my bed. I tore off my jean jacket (adorned with the Rolling Stones’ tongue logo I had painstakingly hand-stitched on the back) and reassessed the damage at my large vanity mirror. Sob.
My new hairdo happened to be all the more tragic because at this point in my life I had just started to ‘transition’. No, I wasn’t pre-op sex change. It was that all-important time in a young person’s life when they heed the call to transition from their Led Zep “Good Times, Bad Times” hard rock ways to the new “let’s see my hippie parents figure this shit out” cult of punk. So what was I thinking when I opted for a knock-off Wilson sisters (of Heart, not Wilson-Phillips) hair sculpture? I don’t know. Perhaps some mystical deep-rooted sense of loyalty to those days of yore took hold of me -- or maybe it was that after-school joint. I tried pulling a comb through it. Nope. The universe will most definitely not be reclining in my hair anytime soon. My ‘do’ would be rejecting whatever might come near it. I now have my own force field. This will not be terribly handy if I happen to attend the upcoming high school dance.
Sure, I could have shaved my head or sculpted a Mohawk. But Skoolers, I at least had the wherewithal to assess my face shape and I came to the conclusion that removing all my hair would render me rather moon-faced (not an alluring look), and just a tad too exposed for my environment. But why was I thinking in terms of extremes? Why not have the best of both worlds? No I was not going to entertain the mullet nor would I implement the ‘faux hawk’-- I’m just not that butch. I would have to be patient.
At every reasonable opportunity I trimmed the fringe and looked forward to the full recovery of my smooth bangs. I found a way to accept the waviness elsewhere on my head. I told myself that it would look rather Joey Ramonesque. It would be okay. I’d make sure to supplement with plenty of heavy liquid eyeliner. And slowly, like a caterpillar shedding its unbearable David Lee Roth wigged cocoon, I would emerge with my lovely limp locks free from the bondage of 1970’s freakytown. Yes, free at last from the ridicule of my brother and his friends telling me not to go near any more light sockets. Free from my dad telling me that the school janitor called and said he wants his mop back. And free from being mistaken for Twisted Sister’s younger sister.
Meanwhile, I looked up again at my KISS poster, “Why, Paul Stanley, why?” I implored. The room started to spin (which wasn’t unusual actually), Paul shifted his intense rock god gaze down to face me and imparted these words of wisdom: “Be yourself and follow your own look”. Wow. That’s heavy. “Oh, and by the way”, he added, “You’re soooo lucky you have naturally straight hair”.

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