Thanks to the close of Daylight Savings Time, I’ll get to enjoy an extra hour of being 46 (shhhhh!) before another birthday comes barreling around the bend.  When it arrives, I’ll blow out my candles and wish that every senator and congressman had half as much common sense and human decency as my hero, Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders.  Oh dear, I can hear you thinking, she’s a Socialist!  We don’t need to get all political here.  What I am is an authentic person trying to live in line with my values.  Bernie’s statements mirror those values, so I support him.  It’s simple.  Like childhood Novembers when politics were not yet a concern and turning a year older was a cause for celebration.  Every year, a two-layer cherry chip cake, Dad’s version of the Birthday Song (the one where you look like a monkey and smell like one, too) and a couple snapshots of me making my wish.  If you flipped through our family albums, you’d see that this Birthday Girl’s bangs are always uneven.  Always.  It’s just one of the downsides of having curly hair:


Natural curls are the envy of straight-haired folks and the nemesis of those born with them.  I had wavy hair as a child, the worst of both worlds, really.  The very same waves that rendered me exempt from beauty tortures like sponge rollers and curling irons were a constant source of tangles and snarls.  I could have been the poster child for Tame, the only brand of “crème rinse” that existed back in the 70’s.  Worse yet was the evil magic they worked on my mom’s “bowl” cuts.  She would wet my hair and comb it straight down, then snip two meticulously horizontal lines, one across my forehead and the other around the sides and back.  It looked the same on me as it did on my straight-haired sisters… until it dried.  My trademark split-level bangs appear in every photo and are usually accompanied by a variety of other unruly lumps and cowlicks.

I got my first professional haircut in middle school.  The stylist was a former neighbor who worked out of her home.  She tended to stick with “the classics” although I recall one “shag” cut she had to redo after my little sister cried about it for a week.  She always gave me a “pageboy” which looked suspiciously like a bowl cut with the bangs angled a bit into the sides.  It did little to solve the problems created by the waves.  When I complained, she suggested a home perm “to help even out the curl.”  Mom took her advice to heart and shortly thereafter, I was intro-duced to “Toni”.  When I whined that the rollers were too tight and the solution was burning my scalp, Mom told me pain was the price of being beautiful.  I accepted this sobering reality and sat obediently still until it was over.  The curl did even out… into a frizzy-kinky borderline-Afro.  Daily battles with a hot curling brush relaxed it back into lumpy waves.  Where, oh where, I lamented, were the hard-won spoils of my sacrifice?

Countless stylists threw their advice into the pot over the years.  Most advocated “going shorter.”  An old adage rings true here:  if the only tool you have is scissors, you tend to believe every hair problem can be solved with a trim.  One woman told me salon perms were “different” when I resisted getting one based on my childhood “Toni” experience.  Then it was all about the products; I needed shampoo and conditioner specially designed for my hair type.  Finally, when no other weapon in their vast arsenals could make my hair behave, they would whip out a can of Super-Mega-Hold spray, take aim, and just keep spraying until the wayward waves had been paralyzed into the desired shape.

Ultimately, the solution to my hair dilemma came from a lay person, my husband.  Just let it grow, he begged.  I was skeptical but out of options and desperate.  I took a leap of faith and endured eighteen long months of awkward headbands, clips, pins, and ponytails while my bangs caught up with my shoulder-length bob.  In the end, my nemesis became my friend.  I loved the ease and versatility of my new all-one-length style and its serendipitous bonus:  those extra inches transformed the once-pesky waves into full-blown curls, loose ringlets that looked amazing and required surprisingly little maintenance.  The real price of beauty, I realized, is not pain, but courage–the courage to relinquish control and allow our authentic selves to emerge and flourish.

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  1. Carri November 1, 2015 / 9:03 am

    Enjoy the memories you share. I can relate myself and the girls have shared these same sentiments with me with eye rolled!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan November 1, 2015 / 10:49 am

      You and Aunt Marilyn were the coolest! I still remember rides in the Camaro and you guys dressing us up in wigs and teaching us the words to “Long-haired Lover from Liverpool.”


  2. Ursula Kender December 6, 2015 / 3:01 am

    Great trip down memory lane.


  3. Ursula Kender December 6, 2015 / 3:02 am

    Forgot! Happy Belated Birthday!


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