According to my father, the only memory he has of me as a child is my mother trying to comb my hair and me screaming. This is only a partial exaggeration. Hair care products in the late 60’s and 70’s left a lot to be desired. My mother made finding a hair care product that would make combing out my hair easier a part-time job. She researched all the products and finally thought she was on to something when she found a product called Hair So New. It came in a pretty pink bottle that no little girl could resist, nor could a big girl whose nerves were shot from fights with her daughter over combing her hair. She was wooed by the product’s promise that she could just spray something in my hair and the knots would comb right out. The reality was that a lot of mothers probably got suckered into buying this crap which was probably no more than water and fragrance. The screaming continued.
The 70’s were a time that I refer to as BC…before conditioner, when girls with curly, frizzy hair like mine had few options for wearing their hair down. To make matters worse, my hair was red at the time and all my big hair needed was a red nose and clown shoes to make the look complete. At least back in those days, having red hair in itself was not considered a bad thing, unlike today when “Kick a Ginger Day” has become an annual event. I was the only red head in my class and people who didn’t know me just called me red. Today my hair color is a cross between Clairol’s Chlorine Infused Yellow, Loreal’s Sun Damage Supreme, and Old Fart Gray, but at least I don’t have to worry about being kicked by all those ginger haters.
To keep my hair in check during those early years, mom would select a hair style that gathered up as much hair as possible and hid it somewhere. In kindergarten and first grade this meant a botox inspired back ponytail and in second grade mom branched out to two side by side ponytails that balanced out the missing teeth on both sides of my mouth.
Mom nearly had a stroke every year the night before school picture day when she would scramble to create a hair style that wouldn’t result in conversations from me years later along the lines of “You let me leave the house looking like that???” The night before picture day, mom set my hair in big plastic curlers and let me sit underneath her fancy hairdryer for an hour or two. When I could no longer stand the itchy, burning feeling that was part and parcel to scorching your hair for 90 minutes, mom would take out the curlers and see what she had baked. I still had curls; they were just much bigger and harder to manage but most of the frizz was gone. Mom would encourage me to sleep lightly on my head and not move around too much (what?) so my hair wouldn’t be a mess in the morning. By 8am the next morning, some of the frizz usually creeped back in and mom felt defeated.
By the fifth grade, mom convinced me to cut my hair short into a sort of bob. The look was not a great one for me to begin with, but what made matters worse was that I had bangs. Girls with curls should not have bangs because the bangs curl in all different directions and make you look like you had to cut your hair that way because you accidentally got chewing gum stuck in it the day before.
In seventh grade everyone was watching Charlie’s Angels and all the girls wanted to have hair like Farrah Fawcett. We girls studied the semen stained poster of Farrah in the red bathing suit that hung in every 13 year old boy’s room and waited for the big day when we could go down to Natural Identity Hair Salon and get our new doo. Mine lasted 45 minutes and then turned into a mass of curls and frizz. Shortly after, I ended up with a pixie haircut which made me look more like Charlie’s underling Bosley than Farrah.
During high school, I tried to grow my hair out again, with varying degrees of success. My hair never really grew down but rather out, kind of like a poofy triangle. But I decided that this Jewfro was the lesser of two evils and kept it that way for a few years.
In the early 80’s, I was given a new lease on life when hair conditioner became an easy to find and affordable hair care product. Gone were the days of hair that was as wide as I was tall and I finally made peace with my arch enemy, the comb. Years later, hair conditioner was joined by its soul mate, hair gel and I finally started having a semi frizz-free life.