I was listening to the radio one day recently. Someone was interviewing Vidal Sassoon. Remember him?
It was the mid sixties. America was fighting in Vietnam. Twiggy was making emaciation so sexy that curvy women were jumping off tall buildings [well, thinking about it, anyway.] Hairstyles ran to flips and bee hives, teasing [back-combing] and lots and lots of hair spray. Looking natural was considered un-natural! Instead, we were supposed to torture ourselves by "setting" our hair in "curlers" every time we washed it. These were cylindrical torture devices with prickly bits to catch and hold the hair. I'm pretty sure sleeping in them caused brain damage as well as painful dents in the scalp. Rebellion was frowned upon. What? Go out without setting your hair? As soon as I washed my hair my mother would miraculously appear, all business, ready to set it for me. She was probably afraid I'd just comb it and go, and how would she ever live with the shame? Arguing with one's mother was not encouraged back then so I would grit my teeth, groan inwardly and submit.
My mother was petite. And stylish. It was a penance for her to have string bean daughters instead of dainty persons who enjoyed wearing make-up and letting her "beautify" them. Looking back, I realize the problem was that I was born either too late or too early. I would have fit right in had I been born a hundred years earlier, in my grand mother's day. Likewise if I'd been born when my sister was. But, I was born when I was born and so had to submit to my mother's plans for the perplexing question of how to turn her duckling into a swan.
I hated it! After every last hair had been tightly wound onto rollers I'd have to sit under another instrument of torture---the hairdryer. After my head cooked for half an hour and I began to think it would surely catch on fire, my mother would reappear brandishing combs and brushes and the dreaded hair spray. Taking the curlers out was torture in itself, as those prickly rollers did not easily release their prisoners. Some hairs inevitably got yanked out by the roots. Ouch! Then she would brush vigorously, but the hair promptly "boinged" back to sausage shapes. She was not a woman to give up easily. There were ways to make my hair do what she wanted it to. Teasing, or backcombing, for instance. Lord, how I hated that!
"Only a little," she'd coax. "Just to give it a little height."
Additional height was the last thing I needed. I was already taller than I was comfortable being, I didn't need six more inches of fluffed up hair! And besides, why would you tear perfectly healthy hair like that? And then, to add insult to injury, she'd spray the whole lot with hair spray. Because everyone knows that Prince Charming, when he finally shows up [and it could be any minute now,] will be longing to run his fingers through my helmet! Finally satisfied that I looked presentable she'd encourage me to go look in the mirror, hoping each time that this time I'd love it. Poor woman. Her efforts were wasted. I was an unappreciative ingrate, but would manage a sickly smile so as not to hurt her feelings. Though now I have to wonder why my feelings weren't taken into consideration? Considering it was my hair.
My sister [aka Rise, the unblogger!] was only six years younger than me but we seemed to belong to different generations. By the time she came along, rebellion was all the rage. "Teenagers" were beginning to be looked upon as a breed apart, in need of special handling. I don't think her glossy mane was ever wound up in curlers. If anyone had tried they'd have had to catch her first!
And then, one day, Mum sent me off to town for a haircut. And didn't come along to dictate how it should be done. Vidal Sassoon had just exploded onto the hair style scene with his radical ideas.
No hair spray.
It was all about the cut.
This was my kind of guy! I went, in one short half hour, from a boring school girl haircut to the very latest sculptured hairstyle. Vidal, he said in the interview, would like to have been an architect if he had not been cutting hair. Not such a stretch. In the past I'd come away from the hair dresser's feeling naked, as though I'd been scalped. [My hair was wavy and it was my mother's considered opinion that it looked better short. My considered opinion didn't get a look in]
From this haircut I came away feeling gorgeous! Me! And it wasn't because of any artifice. It wasn't because my hair had been teased to within an inch of its life, or sprayed until it was stiff as a board! I couldn't stop smiling. I felt beautiful. For the first time in my life.
Next day, of course, I had to go to school. And face the nuns. Amazingly, the haircut looked just as good after I'd slept on it. My friends were wildly enthusiastic. The unassuming MB had gone and done something daring! There were some raised eyebrows and pursed lips, notably from the Mag, to whom this new haircut looked alarmingly unsuitable for a convent recruit [she was still entertaining hopes for me at that stage!] The Mag was the squirmmeisterin, but this time she didn't succeed. I just tossed my newly glamorous head and refused to feel bad about looking good!
Vidal came along just in time to save me. If growing up was to be about masochistic hair setting rituals, I wasn't sure I wanted to have anything to do with it. His architectural approach was perfect for the way I thought. A good cut every 4-6 weeks and the rest of the time just comb and go! Maybe growing up wouldn't be so bad if you could do it your way!