When Good Hair Goes Bad

Bad hair. 


It happens to us all. And I’m not talking about the kind of bad hair that can be fixed with a dab of gel nor do I mean the sort of thing where a quick little trim to spruce it up will help. No, I’m talking the kind of bad hair day that stretches into a week or two and sometimes can last as long as several months.


Ladies – Step Away from the Styling Products!


Clear your mind of anything and everything that may be going on around you at this exact moment. Picture a time when your hair was wonderful. It was bouncy, full, and silky-strong and it did whatever you wanted it to do.


Now - toss all those wonderful memories aside and try to remember your worst hair memory. Don't fight it. Let the dark moment loose once again. I promise - you will be alright. Are you there? At that moment...


Maybe it happened long, long ago when you were much younger and thought you’d absolutely die if didn’t get the coveted Dorothy Hamill ‘wedge’…


Unfortunately, when you decided to embrace the Olympic zeal and perkiness of the gold medal winning ice skater and her famous hairdo back in ’76, you wound up with a cut that looked like your hairstylist used a set of nesting Tupperware bowls to get crisp, even, all around layers in your hair. And then, to add a little more insult to your look, your stylist du jour whipped out a pair of hedge clippers from their drawer of magic scissors to try and reproduce that coveted ‘V’ shape.


And, sadly, in the end... what you wound up with was something that looked more like a Cyrillic letter one might see on the back of a warm-up jacket worn by a masculine looking Soviet gymnast.


Yes, it was an all-around tragic moment in your life. And you had to endure Hamill-Hell for months. (Unless you were one of those lucky people who has quick hair growth genes.) There were a few snickers about the resulting hair do that you decided was a definite what the hell was I thinking? less than five minutes after you heard the few first snip-snip-snips but you made it through the ordeal with the loving support of your family. Or perhaps you had a significant other back then who learned one of the most valuable lessons when these words slipped not so smoothly from his or her lips, ‘Don’t be silly, Honey. It looks... (a moment’s hesitation) ...great’. 


To that I say… Oh no you didn’t!


To the ears of the hair-don’t victim – a hesitant compliment – is like shouting, ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God, what did you do to your hair?’ Because what your significant other thought was a barely noticeable hint of hesitation turned out to be the ultimate no-no as far as hair compliments are concerned because one should never ever  pause when commenting on the new hairstyle of a loved one. Believe it or not, in this sort of situation… honesty is okay. (Just make it gentle) After all, it’s not like she didn’t know her cut looked horrid before asking you. But for a person to feign enthusiasm is like pouring salt in a wound. So, be honest. 


*Though one must note the important caveat to such honesty: Frowning or smirking while commenting on a horrid-hair-happening negates the honesty clause. Should an honest remark come across in any way other than sympathetic, the author will not be held responsible for any ‘WHAT DID YOU SAY?!’ retaliation levied on the moron who dared be anything other than supportive!*


So maybe your hairtastrophy came a little later than the dreaded Wedge-Head…


Were you an 80s gal? Were you were mesmerized by Madonna back in 1984*?  And maybe your hair hair-mare came to you when you simply had to mimic the hip, new and somewhat punkish looking singer of the ‘Like a Virgin’ pop smash. Yes, maybe in your addled, youthful head you thought Madonna had a look that screamed ‘Come on Girl! Let your inner Material Girl loose!’ 


(*1984 – I think Orwell would laugh at the irony of so many young women wanting to look and act like someone else instead of being themselves.)


So, you went to a stylist who you were sure would be able to give you that same hot ‘stand out in a crowd’ coif that the once known simply as the girl with the last name of Ciccone donned so famously.


You figured a little peroxide here, some snipping there, and a little dab of the newest, coolest styling product on the market... mousse... and you’d end up with a hairstyle that would electrify your personality. Only when you saw your reflection in the mirror, you thought you looked like more you’d been struck by lightning than you looked like Madonna with her expertly dressed messy locks. 


How did that happen? How is it that her hair made her look hot-n-sexy and yours just made you look like a hot mess? Because unlike Madonna’s professionally maintained style, your hair was fried by all the peroxide and then it was snipped-and-clipped so severely in spots it stuck out in all directions. And as if that weren’t enough, you wasted all the money you made while working that summer at the WeinerKing buying mousse by the crateful just so your hair could maintain its sadly more shabby than chic shape!


But ho ho! There were other odd styles from the 80s, too. Yes, I’d be remiss if I didn’t dredge up the harsh, asymmetrical-dos that some women chose to embrace as if they had stepped out of a Museum of Modern Art with some nouveau piece of keratin wrapped art attached to their shoulders. Many was the time I remember walking down the halls of my high school and seeing some of my classmates who’d opted for this sort of split-level cut coming towards me.


When they’d stop to chat, I felt like I was getting seasick because my friends tended to walk and talk with their heads tilted to the ‘short’ side so that their less lengthy locks looked to be about the same length as their longer tresses. So I, who was walking upright in the standard homo sapiens stance felt as if I was off balance enough that it made me queasy.


Then came the 90s – God bless us. What were people thinking? But women you’ll have to wait. I want to take a few minutes to discuss masculine hair goofs… 


That’s right boys, it’s your turn now. Time to buckle up… it’s going to be a bumpy ride because we know what you did…


 Gentlemen – It’s Never too late to Own-up to Your Hairy Harebrained Styles!


That’s right. And don’t even begin to act like you don’t know what I’m talking about! 


Oh, your lot played it safe over the last half-century or so. Prior to that though was the masculine Golden Age of Hair also known as the 19th century where you XYers had quite the love affair with your hair – but alas, 19th century hair is a hairtastrophy in and of itself. So let’s bring this narrative a little closer to today.


Yes, your gender donned slicked back, neatly barbered hair from the 20s to the 40s and then came the flattop crew cuts of the 50s. But sometime around the early 60s there was a definite shift from neatly cropped heads to mop-top shaggy dos and a little later on in the late 60s and early 70s you saw fit to don long-stringy hair or fluffy-puffy-fro styles. 


Though I will say aside from those minor follicle faux pas moments, all was well in man coif land because that was about as exciting as you got with your hair. But then along came the 80s and suddenly you decided the women were having entirely too much fun with the various hair styles and styling accoutrements which let them express themselves in a way that let people know who they were from at least a block away.


Yes, those damn 80s. It was bad enough for women. But the men… for some inane reason they fell in love with what are, without a doubt, some of the most stupid looking hairstyles ever!


Yes, that’s a harsh statement; true but harsh nonetheless.


If you weren’t lucky enough to be a man in your teens to mid20s during the 80s, you missed out on quite the 'happening'. You see, the worst part of the whole 80s experience was that while there are still some women who live with their hair poofed out to high-heaven today their numbers are growing smaller every day. However there are oodles of grown-ass adult men – those adorable creatures – who have clung to their styles since their chests were broader than the pot bellies they have today well into the 21st century.


The style about which I speak is… the mullet. Yes, the quasi-hair cut that melded together the bad boy ‘long hair band’ look with the neat ‘my Mama made me get my hair cut’ look creating a strange hybrid of the two. As if that wasn’t enough of a keratin-calamity some of you even went so far as to get – perms for the front half of your heads to really make the business end of your cranial covering stand apart from the party in the back half. 


Best of all were those of you who decided the dual-purpose hairstyle wasn’t quite enough so you added a little something extra – the rattail. Gentlemen, for future reference, if someone suggests to you a hip, new hairstyle wherein a rodent is used to described any aspect of the look – run away. Run far, far away and don’t look back. 


Otherwise you might find yourself in the throes of hair-passion as you lovingly consider getting a mullet (either with or without a tail). That’s right. But don’t try to fool yourself into believing the mullet was the only hairtastrophy to befall men in the 80s (lasting well into the 90s and even*gulp* beyond). No… there’s more. 


Let’s take it on back to the early 80s. Are you feeling the groove? Yeah, that’s right. Get that quarter time synth driven pseudomusic in your head and you’ll be there. Close your eyes.


No, wait, don’t close your eyes – you can’t read this if your eyes are closed.


Do you remember the group ‘A Flock of Seagulls’? I seriously doubt a young Mike Score (lead singer for the group) had been struggling to come up with a name for his sort of punk but not quite punk English band (Damn those English! They gave the world some seriously dumbass man hair in the 80s and… oh, I forgot about the mullet... sorry to any of you may be from the UK for that one – let’s call it even)


Back to the struggling Mr. Score and how he may or may not have looked in the mirror after getting what his stylist promised him was a cool new cut and exclaimed, ‘OH YES! That’s it! God! Yes! Yes! YES! We’ll call ourselves A Flock of Seagulls!’ (Granted it might not have been such an intense moment that came across quite as sexually charged as presented but if it is how it went down, it was, no doubt, a moving moment for him.)


That look worked so well for him especially since music videos were but a burgeoning arena for the world of music. It made him stand out among a field of other odd-hair fellows which was quite a feat considering there were so many weird man hair styles around at the time. Today, when I’m driving down the road and my car’s HD satellite radio is tuned to a Classic 80s’ station and I hear I Ran (So Far Away) I sometimes pause a moment to ponder what Mike Score thinks of that haircut today.


And then, invariably, my mind runs amok through memories of my high school days where I felt like I should carry a bag of bread with me to feed the boys sauntering down the halls sporting their bird like styles. Sometimes, I even find myself preoccupied with moments wherein I ponder what came over the guys who watched what is now considered a cult-classic music video and said of the wacky avian hair do, ‘OH! I HAVE TO HAVE IT! I MUST! AND I WILL HAVE IT! AS GOD IS MY WITNESS, I WILL LOOK LIKE A FRIGGN’ BIRD BEFORE THE DAY IS DONE! YES, I WILL!’


I have to wonder what the stylists thought when one of those guys walked into their places of business and tried to describe what it was they wanted – remember there were no smart phones one could whip out and use to show the person tasked with creating the style – so there had to be a lot of hands to head mime-like description that probably went like this. “So, yeah, I want it to… you know… swoop in the front but it’s gotta have wings on the side and the back it’s gotta have like a dove tail only a really long dove tail. Yeah, that’s it.”


Incidentally, I went to school with a guy whose mother owned her own salon and she gave her son exactly what he wanted. No joke. One day Chris looked like a normal blond haired, brown eyed, and relatively attractive guy with an adorable laugh. The next day I looked down the hall and saw this hair-thing sort of floating over the top of all the students and I was like What the hell?


When I saw it was Chris, all I could do was shake my head. But I have to say, it worked for him. Suddenly he became the guy all the girls liked. Only I’d known him for years so my poor brain just couldn’t see it. (And when I say his hair floated above the other students you need to know Chris was about six feet tall at sixteen then with his new do, I swear his height from the tip of his… wings to his toes jumped a good eight inches – seriously)


So many variations on the seagull look came after that first incarnation. Men all around the world decided to try different colors, multi-colors and asymmetrical shapes. I’ve got to say, it took some serious cojanes to pull off those looks. Heck, some of my favorite high school memories come from me sitting in my group in Physics class and looking at Mark (he with the mighty mullet head) and Chris (he with the gullet feeding bird head) working out linear wave equations. I swear sometimes I’d just stare at their hair and be like what the f#ck were you thinking? (They probably thought I was scoping them out because I thought they were hot – nope)


But wait men, if you thought I was only going to touch on the 80s – you are sorely mistaken. Likewise, to you beautiful men of color, I’ve not forgotten you. Heaven’s no.


In fact, let’s jump forward to the early 90s and the Look at this! I had someone shave a word or image into my hair styles made popular by young black men back then. Their heads became canvases that could spread a message to the world about who the man sporting the look was. Consider this – you’re a fly on the wall in one of the barber shops where these proud young men walked in and when asked by the barber, ‘So, what are we going to do today?” those young men sat down in the chair and replied thusly to the question…


  • I want it flat on the top (I can do that, thought the barber)
  • I want that to be at least an inch high (doable, thought the barber).
  • Then I want you to shave the sides down so I’ve just got the flattop (Odd, but alright – it’ll be sort of a stove pipe hat look, thought the barber)
  • Only don’t take too much off the sides because I want you to shave my name into my hair. (Excuse me, son? Are you figurin' on forgetting who you are in the near future?, says the barber)


But, being professionals and knowing that the 'customer is always right' they gave their clients that which they had requested. Of course, in the back of my mind I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the barber spelled the words incorrectly? Or what if they’d not properly assessed how much space would be needed to spell a name like DeShawndry (Yes, it’s a real name)



 Ladies – It’s Your Turn…Again!


How could I discuss tragic hair disasters without broaching the 1990s? It was the time when so many women fell victim to the over inflated supermodel styles of the 1990s. After all, we all wanted those thick, luxurious perfectly highlighted locks of hair even though we knew that there was no way on God’s green Earth that we’d ever get it. Or maybe you saw Rachel on Friends sporting the same sort of fuller-than-naturally-possible hair and you decided you simply had to have the ‘Rachel’ cut. 


On TV and in print ads it’s a style that looks adorable. Sadly though, you quickly learned that while it was a great look for Jennifer Aniston, it didn’t quite work for you. Sure if we all had crews of knockout hair dressers who could touch up our hair between trips to the grocery store and who could put in just enough of a curl at the ends of our hair to frame our faces, we’d all look as if we were walking, talking Da Vinci masterpieces.


Only we don’t. And many of us had to learn the hard way that sometimes it’s best to adore a style from a far. Yes, I know imitation is considered a compliment by many people. I also know a bad decision when I see it. And sadly, getting that coveted Rachel hairstyle didn’t work out too well for SO many of you.


That’s right. Thousands of women had to face a harsh reality the day after getting that cut. They washed their hair and tried their damnedest to get it to look like it did not even twelve hours earlier. Only they realized that to reproduce the wonderful, bouncy style they’d so proudly shown off to their friends and loved ones right after they got it cut, they needed to have 4 arms, 3 bottles of hair styling products, and 2 hours to walk away with a style that was more Rat Hell than The Rachel. Good grief! All they were missing was a partridge in a pear tree and they’d have been set. 


 Gentlemen – Right Back at Ya!


Oh, you guys… those first few years of the 90s gave way to the grunge look of groups like Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Now those guys always looked like they’d just rolled out of bed and it was so cool because it was the sort of look that you figured only a moron could screw up. After all, you’d perfected the whole ‘looking like a mess after a long night’s sleep’ thing years earlier.


But for some crazy reason your grungy morning hair just didn’t look the same as theirs. Nope. It didn’t even come close! In fact, I’ll bet you looked in the mirror and wondered How did I f#ck up grunge?


How can anyone mess up intentionally messy looking hair? How can that even be possible? Perhaps it’s because the guys who sported that look were like the lovely Ms. Aniston and had ‘people’ who perfected their ‘just rolled out of bed’ look before they took any publicity photos or appeared on the Grammys. Who knows? Maybe when the kings of grunge rock plopped down in their ‘make me look cooler than awesome’ chairs they were actually clean cut, button down sorts of fellows! It’s one of those things that will have to remain a mystery.


Why? Because just as no magician worth his salt spills the behind-the-scenes beans to his tricks… hair stylists – the really amazing ones who get paid oodles of money to cut other people’s hair – wouldn’t dare share their styling secrets.


Hey, Ladies –  Let’s talk aging hair


Oh, my lovely XX chromosome sporting fellow humans, maybe you survived all those years without once giving into the temptation of a ‘hip’ cut and made it to the aught years of the 21st century with tried and true hairstyles that will always be in style after all that’s why they are tried and true. But then somewhere mid-decade you looked around and saw that your children or maybe your nieces and nephews were sporting cuts that you remember back when you were younger and thought that maybe you were due for a little bit of a change.


Maybe you considered a ‘light’ perm so that your hair could look bouncy and vibrant like that girl from Desperate House Wives (Which girl? Does it really matter? They all had stunning tresses). Only so many of your friends had tried that look and had failed miserably. Thank the Lord above you kept your head and didn’t jump into the idiot pool. You knew that you were entirely too busy with work, family, etc and would never be able to maintain a look like that anyway. (And this you knew because you’d already tried that with The Rachel about ten years ago)


Essentially, you’d come to the disheartening realization that the long, flowy ‘pretty enough to be on a shampoo commercial’ hair that had been a dream of yours for years was more delusional than dreamlike. So you decided to go in the extreme opposite direction... the cute little pixie cut. You figured not only was a pixie cut adorable but it would be so easy to fix each morning... wash it, towel dry it, add a dab of the current hip hair product and POOF a perky little do.


Ah, you were a dreamer in those first few years of the 21st century, weren’t you? But when you heard the swish of the scissors as your twenty-something stylist started the radical hair change it dawned on you that maybe your face wasn’t right for a pixie cut. Or maybe you realized you’d have to come to the salon every ten days and lay down lots of money to maintain it.Or worse yet, perhaps you remembered the annoying cowlicks you had and the reason why you let your hair grow out in the first place.


Unfortunately, it was too late to stop the madness. Sure you walked out of the salon looking terrific and feeling better about the choice you’d made to give yourself a cute and yet mature hairstyle but you woke up the next morning with hair that would have made the late-great Phyllis Diller proud.

+ Hair for the Long Haul.


Luckily for men the first decade of the 21st century wasn't too bad... hair wise. Meaning, there weren't really been any far out sorts of styles to emulate other than the reemergence of the sk8er dude look. Only you knew you were entirely too old to be wearing your bangs in your eyes like a sheepdog but never fear there’s still plenty of time left in this century for you to wander back into the land of outrageously bad haircuts.


Ah yes, hair and the various ways which people try to style it has been the bane of human existence since the first pretty little braid was woven back in the day of mammoth pelts and bone jewelry. What’s more, I’ve no doubt even the earliest women found themselves looking at their reflections in the still water of a pond saying ACK! Ooga mugha oooh? (Roughly translates to Holy Sh1T! What the hell did I do to my hair?) Then they looked to their mates with that what do you think honey? look.


To wit their mates glanced at their women and for the slightest moment hesitated before responding with a toothless  Moog accka su mu  (I think we all know what he was saying) followed by a toothless smile. His mate did not take that too well. Yes, even back then men couldn’t escape the hesitant hair trap.



Salad Bowl Head

One day, as I stood in the checkout line at my local grocery store, I noticed a harried looking young mother and her daughter, who I soon learned was named Chelsea, standing in line behind me. The mother, who kept running her fingers through her daughter’s thick brown hair, wore a look of absolute dread on her face as she lifted her daughter’s bangs again and again all the while shaking her head in the classic ‘Oh, no! What did you do and how am I going to fix this?’ motion.


From the expression on her face, I knew deep down in my bones that Chelsea had done something to her hair; something so dreadful it put her mother into a state of panic.


But what was it? What did little Chelsea do to her hair that caused all the color to drain from the face of the woman from whose womb she did spring? My curiosity got the better of me. I simply had to know.


So, I nonchalantly went to pick up a copy of some weekly tabloid magazine as I smiled at the little girl and said in my syrupy ‘Southern Mama’s voice’, “Well, hey there precious, aren’t you a pretty little thing?”


To wit the girl’s mother did reply in an exasperated voice, “Why thank you. Tell the nice lady thank you, Chelsea” (Hence, the learning of Chelsea’s name.)


Chelsea replied, “Thank you.”


To the lovely child I said, “You’re very welcomed, Chelsea. You remind me of my own daughter when she was your age.” Then to the mother I offered her some kind words laced with an understanding, motherly nod of my head, “She’s lovely. They’re so sweet when they’re little like that. And a handful, too.”


The tense mommy sighed heavily, “You can say that again. If I live to see her turn five without having a heart attack, I’ll thank the Lord.” She looked down at Chelsea and said, “Tell the nice lady what you did, Chelsea. Go on, tell her.” (Ah, the heart of the matter.)


Chelsea smiled, “I snip-ped my bang-bangs with Me-Maw’s snippers.” The little cherub of a child then raised her right hand and made a clipping motion across her forehead with her fingers. (For those of you who may not know what a Me-Maw is, it’s a grandmother)


The young mother laughed sharply, “Snipped?  It’s more like she took a weed whacker to her head.” Then she said, “Show the lady, Baby, show her.” Chelsea pressed down her bangs – correction – what was left of her bangs with her hand.


Oh, woe and despair! Yes, one look and I knew in an instant why the mother was at her wits end because dear little Chelsea had done a real number on her hair as she had ‘snip-ped’ her bangs in various lengths across the breadth of her tiny forehead.


Chelsea’s mother resumed her somewhat frantic smoothing of her daughter’s bangs as she said with an almost ashamed voice, “I don’t know if it can be fixed. We’re going to see if the hair stylist can do anything after we’re done here.”


At that point, we all stepped forward in line whereupon I suppose I could have simply said, ‘Good luck.’ However, I took the opportunity to tell her of a similar event that took place in my own life; however, it is one that makes Chelsea’s pale in comparison. Yes, my very own tragic tale of which both my mother and I lived through and are no worse for wear today as a result of because like all things, so too shall bad haircuts pass.


(Incidentally, you, kind reader, get to hear the full version of the story whereas Chelsea’s mom only got the basics because when I started my tale the clerk was busily ringing up the items in my cart.)


And so the story goes...


Like Chelsea, my first major hairtastrophe occurred when I was just five years old. I was riding in the backseat of our family’s car with my older siblings as we made our way to my grandparent’s house. Just as we taken our designated spots in the backseat of our land yacht, the USS Williams (though my brother liked to call it the Growling Green Giant),


I had begged my sister for some of her Fruit Stripe chewing gum and she obliged because she was trying to gather up enough gum wrappers to make an extremely long daisy chain necklace that she could ‘double loop’ around her neck. She gave me a piece and I chewed away – happy as a June bug on a hot summer’s day.


How I loved Fruit Stripe chewing gum with its individually wrapped gum sticks flavored with either lemon, lime, cherry, or orange and mixed fruit.  And each flavor came in a stick that was ‘striped’ in the properly corresponding color. My absolute favorite flavor was lime only they never put enough lime gum sticks in the package. Personally, I think it’s a miscarriage of flavor justice! After all, lime should have been more evenly represented!


Now, if you’ve never known the joy of Fruit Stripe chewing gum which came and still can be found if you’re lucky in a rainbow colored package with a jolly zebra named 'Yipes' wearing a smile – oh, pity to you since it’s one the tastiest and most intensely fruit flavored gums there is. Although, in my humble opinion, today’s Fruit Stripes chewing gum doesn’t taste nearly as wonderful as it did back in the mid70s.


But I digress. It always amazed me how the makers of the gum were able to squish all that flavor into each individually wrapped stick in such a way that somehow the flavor didn’t last nearly as long as the chewy goodness of the actual chicle! Meaning, after about eight minutes of furious chewing, it seemed to me as if all the tasty goodness had been chewed out of the stuff.


That, in turn, meant a whole new stick of gum was needed to maintain that fruity-licious joy in my mouth because all the flavor was chewed away before I was ready to stop chewing. Reflecting back on it today, I realize the folks behind the scenes of Fruit Stripe Gum had a terrifically sly marketing technique ‘all the flavor that lasts half the time’. Though I suppose it was nice that a pack of the stuff came with something like eighteen sticks of gum!


So, I asked my sister if I could have another piece and my she gladly gave me a few unwrapped sticks knowing I was bound to ask her again for more after I’d chewed all the yum from the gum. That having been said, my sister wasn’t about to give me one of her precious wrappers so I could spit out the old, worn out flavor into a wrapper before shoving a new, fresh stick of gum in my mouth!


Granted, I could’ve asked my mother for a tissue or I could’ve even thrown it out the back window. Only I didn’t. No, because being five, I did what pretty much any five year old would do – I simply packed my cheeks with more gum… again and again and again.


But the drive to my grandparents was a good hour away and it was such a boring drive, too. So, after about 4 sticks of Fruit Stripes, I unwittingly fell asleep with the giant wad of super sticky gum in my mouth. And this is the point where things went terribly wrong.


There I was, five years old, snuggled up on the backseat of our land yacht, and asleep with a giant wad of gum that fell out of my mouth and landed in my hair... my very long, baby fine, straight as a stick, blonde as blonde can be hair. And one mustn’t forget that this blob o’gum wasn’t just one piece of gum. If it had been, the wad of gum that became a glob of sticky fruit scented gummy-goo would’ve been a fairly easy-to-remove small piece.


Well, it might not have been exactly easy to remove but I doubt things would’ve gotten so out of control had it only been one little piece of gum.


However, as I said, it was much more than one piece and things got terribly out of control when it landed in my hair for as it turned out I had wiggled and squirmed while I slept thereby spreading the warm, gooey mass of sugary chewing gum throughout my hair so that when I awoke, a vast majority of my hair was tangled up in the stuff. I’ll never forget the expression on my parents' faces as they turned to see what had gotten my siblings so stirred up that all they could do was laugh and point and say, ‘Oh! Oh!’


My mother looked as if she’d been smacked upside the head with a 2X4 dipped in cement and my father’s jaw dropped so far, I swear I could have reached in and tickled his tonsils if I wanted to. Daddy quickly parked our giant, forest green behemoth of a Ford in the lot of the first convenience store he could find so that both he and my mother could get a better perspective on the situation. And apparently, it was a rather grim realization.


As they stared at me in my gummed hair state, my siblings continued to laugh even though my parents did not. I think they were trying to come up with something to tell my siblings because they knew that at least one of them was somehow to blame, at least partially for my current hair calamity. But neither one of them could find the words. No.


At that particular moment I could practically see the wheels in my mother’s head turning as she became more and more frantic because she knew that getting the gummy glob of sticky sweet stuff out of my hair was going to be nothing less than an ordeal. And with both my parents eyes leveled squarely on my Barbie blonde hair and being the bright child I was, I knew something was terribly amiss which led me to crying.


My mama tried comforting me as did my daddy but the harder they worked to pacify me, the more agitated I grew. And my siblings continued to laugh which made the situation even worse. But that ended quickly enough when my mother snapped to her motherly senses and gave them ‘the look’.


Surely you know ‘the look’... it’s the expression a mother wears when she’s beyond angry. It’s the look wherein one eyebrow is raised to a height that would make Mr. Spock envious followed by the twitchy eye… My, oh, my - the power of that twitchy eye! I swanny ‘the look’ is louder than the most thunderous shout. Perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end of one or maybe you’ve had the chance to throw it.


But regardless of whether you have given or received this powerful glare, I am sure that you know of its colossal power. And as would be expected from such a stern eyeing, my siblings stopped their cajoling for fear our mother’s wrath might be unleashed upon them right there in the parking lot of the 7-Eleven.


My daddy dashed inside and bought some ice thinking if they could chill the stuff so that it turned solid it could be pulled out. In theory it was a good idea.  And so my mother started rubbing ice over the larger spots of gum. Now, had it been a single piece of gum her efforts might not have been in vain. But as I said, this was a wad. A blob. A mass of goo that was smeared all throughout my hair.


Needless to say, there was no way a cup of ice was going to freeze the chewing gum in my hair so it could be ‘picked out’. No, in order for that to happen, my parents would have had to dip me in a vat of ice water much the way that Thetis dipped her son, Achilles, into the River Styx.


Then a passerby suggested to my parents that they try using mayonnaise or salad dressing on my hair as they are oily substances which might allow my parents to ‘slide’ the gum out my hair. Did it work? Let’s just say that there was so much Italian dressing in my hair that by the time my parents pulled the USS Williams into a parking space in the center of the tiny town nearby, all you would have needed was a bowl of lettuce and some bacon bits and you would have had one mean salad – with a side of hair-n-gum.


And dread upon dread there was no beauty salon nearby... only a barber shop. The kind of place my father went to every few weeks to get his hair trimmed so that it looked neat but never ‘styled’. But since the barber shop was the only thing available – the barber shop it was. I could see a look of fear in my mother’s eyes as I sat in the chair. I know what she was thinking: Dear Lord, he’s going to have to shave her head!


The barber, a very old fellow, didn’t even wash my hair first as it would have been for naught and might have made the situation worse. It was all my mother could do to stay calm as my father comforted her. I remember the barber wrapping a piece of white tissue paper around my little neck and then whipping the cape up and then snapping it into position. He lifted his super sharp scissor and then I heard my mother give a pained sort of yelp with the first ‘snip’. Snip-snip-snip and snip-snip-snip some more until the stuff was cut out.


Next came the job of washing out the zesty dressing. I’ve often wondered how much shampoo was needed to get all the salad oil out of my hair. Likewise, I can only venture to guess what the barber was thinking when he saw me walk into his thoroughly male barbering shop.


What a sight it must have been; a little girl dressed in her Sunday best on a Saturday afternoon sporting a head doused in salad dressing and dotted with clumps of strange purply-colored chewing gum that still retained a bit of its fruity-licious aroma standing there with two utterly frustrated parents.  Oh, heavens, I’m sure he told my story until the day he died.


Once the oil was all washed away, the barber returned me to the chair and set about ‘styling’ my hair the best he could considering that the first go round with his clippers was simply to get the stuff out. What was left was nothing more than long, uneven strands of squeaky clean hair.


And for once, my mother, who’d actually had a permanent put in my hair when I was barely four (no one really worried about the effects of such powerful chemicals on small children in ’74) to give it a little personality (it ‘fell out’ about a month later), was grateful my hair was straight as a stick. Because the resulting haircut was a boxy, layered cut somewhere between a page-boy and a pixie and if my hair had been in anyway ‘bouncy’ it would have looked like I stuck my finger in a light socket as opposed to lying flat on my head.


We finally made it to Grandmother and Granddaddy’s house, albeit a few hours late, and my grandmother laughed when my parents recounted the harrowing hair tale and then she reminded my mother that even the worst haircuts grow out and not to worry because one day, it'll make a terribly funny story. Which brings me back to little Chelsea as I told her mother what my grandmother had told her - don't worry, it'll grow out and you'll laugh about it later.


Then, with my groceries all bagged and paid for, I bid adieu and good luck to the mother-daughter duo knowing in a couple of months no one would ever know of the misfortunate hair cutting incident. And I could see that Chelsea’s mom was coming to realize her plight wasn’t so bad. After all, there are people all over the world who dream of having troubles as trivial as the ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ trials and tribulations of ‘bang-bangs having been snip-ped with Me-Maw’s snippers’.


As for what became of my hair, my grandmother was right. My hair did grow back. In fact, it grew very long – all the way down my back. After a while though it lost its bright blonde brilliance and turned a rich honey-golden blonde and then it got darker and darker until it got to the warm brown color it has now, several decades later.


But it’s still straight as a stick and as baby fine as it was when I was a little girl. Although there was one catastrophic moment years after my ‘Salad Bowl Head’ days when it wasn’t so straight…


Absolutely Faaaaabulous!

I would like to say that the salad bowl head incident back when I was 5 was my only real hair catastrophe but alas, I cannot. Oh, yes...I would like to say that was the case.


However, there have been more. Some were not nearly as bad as having wound up with a pseudo-pageboy haircut while others were, regrettably, even worse. Like when I was 16 and in an expression of love for my sister who was getting married, I agreed to get my extremely long and still baby-fine but considerably darker hair permed because she thought it would look absolutely fabulous in her wedding photos. I was a little wary at first but I must confess that I’d always been envious of my sister’s thick, wavy hair so I agreed and secretly hoped that maybe it might wind up looking almost as luxurious as hers.


But…it didn’t. Nope. Not in the least.


That’s right. After spending nearly four hours on a lovely Saturday afternoon smelling the foul odor of the permanent wave solutions (yes, solution with an ‘s’ because I was told my hair was so long it required two {yes...2} permanent wave kits to get it all thoroughly coated) and feeling as if my head was going to fall off my shoulders because the weight of the dozens and dozens of curling rods and the wet solution made me feel as if someone had poured a stinging cement concoction atop my head, when the rods were all removed and I had been rinsed…it was clear that the permanent didn’t turn out as expected.


That’s right - I had neither luscious curly locks nor ravishing grapevine tendrils cascading down my back. Although, I suppose my hair did look somewhat – how should I put it? – fluffier…in a frazzled sort of way.


And I thought, Fluff is good. Right? 


No.  Not so much!  As I was soon to learn - while fluffy is somewhat synonymous with full when one speaks of hair…the particular version of fluff on my head was actually little sprigs of fried hair that had been eaten away by the caustic solution. 


Then, as if that wasn’t enough, when Shelley, the beautician who gave me the perm, saw that my mother, sister and I realized that her handiwork didn’t quite turn out to be all that we hoped it would be she said, “Oh, don’t worry. This sort of thing sometimes happens with fine hair. You can come back in 2 weeks and I’ll put a protein pack on it. Then we’ll redo the perm. It’ll be fabulous!”


We looked at her as if she was crazy whereupon she emphatically added, “I promise. Trust me. It'll look absolutely faaaaabulous.


Who can argue with ‘absolutely faaaaabulous’? Besides, she said she promised! How would someone dare consider breaking a promise of such magnitude? This was her job…she was a certified beautician. I saw her little license in a frame over her booth. It even had a gold foil star on it and if I’d learned one thing during my nearly seventeen years on Earth…they don’t give gold foil star sticker to just anybody.  


*Note to self:
● Promises, where money is concerned, are as reliable as a dam made of toilet paper; 
● Beauticians often trade booths so the license you see may not be for the person who stands in front of thee; and,
● Yes, they do just give those to anybody!


I nervously stared in the mirror as Shelley tamed some of the wilder looking sprigs with her clippers and when she was done I suppose my hair didn’t really look that bad. Sure, it was poofy. But it was the late 80’s and thanks to the proliferation of hair-bands and mullets, ‘poofy’ was popular. And Shelley even showed me how to ‘scrunch-n-dry’ my wet hair with super-hold mousse and a dryer so that when I went to school the following Monday I could look fabulous for my friends. (But not 'absolutely faaaaabulous' because I’d have to wait 2 more weeks to experience that level of awesome hairness.)


So, I washed my hair then scrunched and dried my fluffy-frizz-fried 'do' on Monday morning and smiled brightly for my parents before I left for school. My father, who was usually quick with his words, looked up from his breakfast plate and stared at me for a moment before asking, ‘why does it still look wet?’


I remember laughing and kissing his forehead before I walked out the door as assured him that was it was supposed to look that way.  Honestly, didn’t he know anything about fashion? 


When I got to school and went to my first class, I got rave reviews. At least I think they were rave. But now I’m not so sure if they were just being nice or if they, like the citizens in the story the Emperor’s New Clothes who fawned over the naked king thinking they’d be seen as foolish for not knowing style when they saw it, were putting up a front when they commented on my new look because most of the remarks started with, ‘Oooh, did you do something to your hair? Did you get it permed?’


Maybe that should have been a clue to me as it was beyond obvious to anyone with half a brain cell that my hair had been permed…either that or maybe they thought I’d finally decided to forego all those silly warnings and stuck a pair of scissors into an electrical outlet.


It was only after my friends had been assured that yes, I did intentionally alter my hair using a corrosive chemical concoction that they said, ‘Oh, my God! It looks sooooo totally – (hesitate) – different’ after which they reached out to touch my mousse-epoxy coated hair, squeezing it in their hands which caused it to crunch much the way grass does in the summertime during a drought.


And being that I was only 17, I must admit I loved the attention I got even though I played it cool and nonchalantly replied to their compliments with, “Thanks. But it didn’t turn out exactly like we wanted so I’m gonna get it redone in a couple of weeks. Totally free.  And the lady who did it says my hair will look absolutely faaaaabulous. Or maybe even better when she’s done.”


To this my friends all nodded with (genuine) excitement as they scrunched my hair some more and said, “That is so totally awesome!”


But the real test of my new do’s appeal rested in the opinion of my boyfriend (who later became my husband). I’d worried all weekend about whether or not he would like it. I’ll never forget the look on his face when he saw me that Monday morning. It wasn’t so much shock and disappointment as it was confusion. I asked him how he liked it and he replied, “It’s…(hesitation – which, after 20 years of marriage I have learned is his way of processing thousands of possible responses that don’t sound dreadful) - different.”


This was immediately followed by, “But if you like it that’s all that matters. But it’ll take some getting used to because I liked it the way it was. But it’s okay…I guess. Yeah, it’s alright.”

*Note to self: 

3 'Buts' in one response is never a good sign.

*To Do List: 

Bake some brownies for him and tell him thank you for consciously being kind when he could’ve been so intentionally cruel way back then!


Of course, when I saw that he wasn’t 100% thrilled with my coiffure-transformation I explained to him about the do-over that was planned for the following fortnight and told him that I was promised that when Shelley was done my hair was going to be absolutely faaaaabulous. And he simply smiled; what a smart man. 


For the next two weeks I cleaned, conditioned, and scrunched-n-dried my hair believing deep inside that I was going to wind up looking like someone who’d stepped out of the pages of Seventeen Magazine. And with my sister’s wedding coming up just a couple of weeks later, I envisioned that years down the road when people glanced through her wedding album they’d all point to the petite girl at her side and go, ‘Wow! I wish my hair looked that good.'


So, when the day finally came and I drove myself and my mother to the salon I knew without a doubt that when I walked out of there my world was going to be somehow brighter and lighter.


But when I checked in and told the receptionist who I was and with whom my appointment rested I got a little concerned because as she ran the eraser tip of her pencil down the appointments list and got to my name I saw that they’d blocked out a 3 hour time slot and put 2 big stars followed by an exclamation point.

*Note to self:

In a salon appointment book (**!) means 1 of 2 things –
● The client is already absolutely faaaaabulous and must be treated like a demigoddess - OR-
● Something bad had happened.  Something very, very bad! 
(Incidentally, I do not own a toga and my father’s name is neither Zeus nor Odin.)  


The receptionist looked up at me, smiled and said, “Oh, it’s you. Let me just go get Janice.”

*Addendum to Last Note to Self: 

(**!) is also beautician’s code for ‘Oh, Sweet Jesus in a Cradle!  Time to call in the big guns!’


Janice, the manager, was also a friend of my mother and my mother had been a client of Janice’s for years. Now I might have been only 16 but even I knew that when the manager is called in before the appointment ever takes place it cannot be a good thing. That’s when I looked around and saw all the mirrors in the salon. Mirrors here, mirrors there, mirrors everywhere. And I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.


When Janice walked over to greet me, she wore an expression of woeful regret and her arms were extended – ready to give me a hug. *GULP* I thought, Maybe she’s just overcome with joy at seeing me? 


The first words out of her mouth were, ‘Oh, Baby Girl, don’t you worry. Janice is going to fix this mess and you’ll look just fine.’ 


*DOUBLE GULP!Mess? I’ll look fine? Only fine! Nooooooo! I'm supposed to be Absolutely Faaaaabulous!


My heart sank and my Seventeen Magazine cover girl dreams flew away from me because apparently, my hair was as far from absolutely faaaaabulous as I was to the moon. And I’ll never forget looking at my mother with her lips spread thin across her teeth…it was Salad Bowl Head all over again! I walked sullenly to Janice’s booth with its multiple licenses, awards, and photos of happy customers and she set about fixing the damage that Shelley, who we found out had only been licensed for six months, had done to my hair. And I do not think it coincidence that I saw neither hide nor hair of Shelley in the salon that day…or any of the many times I went there in the years following.


Janice slathered my head with some strange thick, herbal scented goop after which I had to wear a little plastic shower cap and was placed beneath a warm dryer hood for 30 minutes so the ‘remedy’ could leach its way deep  into my chemical-fried hair. When I was done with part one of my redo, Janice dried my hair just a bit and started clipping away as much of the frayed mess as she could without taking off too much of the length…sadly she ended up taking off about five inches.


But trimming away the frizz didn’t do enough to make my hair look ‘fine’.  No.  Because once I was frizz-free, I looked as if I was a poorly groomed poodle with poof from my ears down and I had not one ounce of bounce on my crown. Janice told me that if I wanted her to, she could reperm my hair using something not nearly as harsh and which wouldn’t last but a couple of months. I glanced around in the myriad of mirrors and thought I’d cry if I had to walk out there looking like Fifi, the Wonder Dog. So, I weepily told her to do it.


That was the point where I sort of tuned out everything around me. All I know is that when Janice was done my hair looked better than ‘just fine’…in fact it was fairly close to fabulous albeit my hair wound up about 8 inches shorter. (Thank the Lord my hair was very long pre-perm #1.) The frizzies and wicked split ends were finally gone and in their place was a head of fairly wavy looking hair that did not look stylishly wet and was not in the slightest bit crunchy because Janice had barely moussed it and only very lightly scrunched it.


Thankfully, the crisis I didn’t know was really a crisis was resolved in time for my sister’s wedding. Because if had I known just how bad it was, you’d better believe I'd never have gone around my school showing off my deep-fried, mousse coated, ‘looks like I stuck my finger in a light socket’ hair. Interestingly enough, I never saw the pictures from my sister’s wedding so I’ll never know how my nearly absolutelyfaaaaabulous hair looked in them.


The moral of this Tragic Tale of Beauty: 


Be wary of beauticians who promise

they’ll make you look absolutely faaaaabulous 
after they’ve already screwed up.



Creepy Mole Lady

I am a strong proponent of sunscreen.  And as such I tend to always carry some sort of solar blocking skin solution with me in my handbag.  In fact, right now I know that somewhere in the vastness of the black hole that is my pocketbook, there is a tube of Blistex spearmint flavored SPF 15 lip balm as well as a handy dandy twist-to-use cylinder of waterproof Banana Boat sunscreen with an SPF of 50 for those times when I feel the urge to smooth on a micro-thin shield between my pale, fragile human skin and the awesome rays of the giant ball of burning hydrogen called the sun that has temperatures ranging anywhere from 27 million degrees Fahrenheit at its core to a balmy 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit on the surface. 


Likewise, there are several bottles of ever so convenient spray-on sunscreens in my car that can be called upon if ever I should feel the pressing need for a quick coat of dermal protection.  These spray-on wonders vary from one with an 8 SPF and has a lovely aromatic coconut ‘takes you to the beach’ scent to one that has an SPF of 75 with a ‘not so lovely so it must be working’ sort odor.  And all of them have some kind of concoction that adheres to human skin creating a thin waterproof barrier that not only leaves one’s skin feeling a bit tight but can also eat through fingernail polish if not removed quickly.  But the loss of a $45 manicure is a small price to pay in the grand scheme of life.  Decisions, decisions – which one to choose? 


Now, if you’re like me, you don’t know the mathematical/chemical formula used to come up with the bingo board of SPF ratings.  Is a non-waterproof 8 bad?  If so, does using a waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of 95 mean I could have a midday picnic sitting on solar panels out in the Mojave Desert and not worry?  I suppose it doesn’t really matter because what I do know is that it all comes down to how quickly your skin type burns.  Furthermore, I know that if I use SPF 10, I’m supposed to have about 2 hours’ worth of protection...but I’m too chicken to see if it’s true, so I reapply every 30 minutes.


I’m not against the sun.  Heaven’s no.  I love it.  It makes me happy.  So maybe I’m a little overzealous when it comes to the whole skin protection thing but I’d rather be safe and as pale as the White Sands National Monument than wrinkled and leathery or worse yet, dead all because I simply had to look sun kissed.  And I think you’ll agree that dead is a look that doesn’t look good on anyone.


Of course, some people like to tempt fate by not using anything at all to protect themselves.  Maybe they’re just uninforme or they don’t care.  And I can’t spend my time worrying about them.  Granted, I’d hate to see them keel over from skin cancer but then again, when there’s information out the wazoo that tells us over and over again about how important sunscreen is and they still opt to not use it – well, their stupidity simply reiterates the concept of ‘Natural Selection’. 


What gets me – even more than the ‘I’m invincible!  I like going au naturel’ dingbats are those people who go through all the motions of putting on an already low rated SPF sunscreen only to immediately slather oil over their bodies with the misguided belief that the sunscreen will somehow mix with the greasy stuff and magically cancel out the fact that they’ve turned their bodies into giant UVA and UVB ray collecting shimmery blobs of flesh. You may laugh (hopefully it’s not that nervous ‘oh no, I’ve been found out’ sort of laugher) at the absurdity of it.  But it happens more often than you might believe. 


Take for instance the woman who frequents the community pool my family and I used to visit. I dubbed her ‘Creepy Mole Lady’ and the first time I saw her was etched deep in my memory.  It was several years ago and my daughter and I were enjoying an afternoon at the pool. I remember watching Creepy Mole Lady arrive with her fair-skinned daughter and her two practically translucent white skinned granddaughters even though she, herself, was darker than a toasted wheat bagel.


Creepy Mole Lady is (though given the time that’s passed it’s very likely that she is now a ‘was’) a tall – some might even call her regally tall – thin woman who I imagine was considered quite attractive in her youth.  Of course, it was a different time back then.  She probably basked in the sun without a care in the world as she smoked her cigarettes and sipped sickeningly saccharine-sweetened Tab soda.  Whenever I saw her, she always had on a vibrant one-piece bathing suit (imagine various colors of an Annette Funicello Beach Blanket Bingo style of suit).  And then there’s her extremely white hair, which can best be described as looking like puffy spun sugar, which was always adorned with a brightly colored bow that seemed to float on the fluffy bed of stark white.


But the thing that stood out the most to me wasn’t her hair or her cute swimsuits or her long, lanky stature.  Nor was it the disheartening fact that she held onto her cigarette lighter like it was a Holy relic.  No.  It was something altogether...creepy.  


The ‘it’ of which I speak were huge...and I do mean HUGE, thick, crusty looking moles on her back.  I swear these moles were such gnarly looking things, you would think someone had playfully super glued Sun-Maid Raisins to her back.


I remember watching her as she spread her extra-long towel onto her lounge chair and proceeded to pull out her various potions and lotions from her Mary Poppins bottomless pit of a pool bag.  I immediately recognized one item as a can of spray-on Coppertone Sport and another as Johnson’s Baby Oil.  Then I watched as she employed what I like to refer to as the ‘the whiff of a sniff is enough’ method of sunscreen application wherein the process ceases once the scent of the product reaches one’s nostrils.   


Of course, you’re probably thinking ‘well, at least she used the stuff’ which is exactly what I thought, until... 


I watched as she tossed the actual sunscreen back in the pit-bag and flipped the lid on her large sized bottle of baby oil and proceeded to squeeze enough of the stuff into her palm that I heard the bottle ‘crunch’ under her crushing squeeze.  Then I watched as she painstakingly applied what was probably enough of the softly scented mineral oil onto her skin to qualify for a federal oil spill disaster grant. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, when she was done coating every open space of her elder-aged skin, going so far as to smooth it between her toes, she took a water filled squeeze bottle that once held Windex and proceeded to spray her entire body.  (Although, in retrospect, I suppose I should be at least a little bit happy she believes in the value of recycling plastics.)


When she was done, she glistened.  Seriously.  I kid you not when I say...Creepy Mole Lady actually shimmered...honest to gosh shone like a gleaming solar beacon so brightly I could see thousands of tiny rainbows dancing across her skin thanks to the multitude of prisms created by the water and oil mixture while she lay there soaking up the rays.


To be honest, I almost couldn’t believe it when she stood up and didn’t slip on the concrete like a flounder tossed to an amateur fishmonger as the whistle blew for the adult swim to start.  And the fact that she was able to hold steady to the handrail as she stepped into the pool made me wonder if she had suction cups on her soles and palms sort of like an octopus has on its tentacles.  Then, after she’d thoroughly cooled her skin in preparation for round 2, she dried off – though dried off isn’t really what it was as the water rolled off her.  No, it was more like she used a terrycloth boom to soak up the layer of oil from her hands so she could snatch up her trusty lighter and pack of smokes.  After which Creepy Mole Lady stepped outside the pool gates with her daughter to enjoy a smoke while her granddaughters did a quick sunscreen spritz (onto wet skin) before immediately jumping back into the water.


But the thing that freaked me the most and made me want to grab my daughter and dunk her into a vat of SPF Lead to keep her from any UVA/UVB harm happened when Creepy Mole Lady returned to her lounge chair. She completed the ceremonial spreading of the oil so that she could lie down on her stomach and turned her back to me before she lay down.  That’s when I really saw them...all three of all their creepy, blackened, misshapen, larger than a pencil eraser glory.  My Lord!  I declare if they had mouths, I bet they could’ve broken out into a wicked three-part harmony as they extoled the virtues of Ra, the Ancient Egyptian Sun God!


And even though it was nearly 90 degrees Fahrenheit, I shivered and half way expected the crusty things, one of which had a long silver hair protruding out the center of the thing, to look over at me, give me a little wink and smile or something.  Just remembering the image of Creepy Mole Lady, her offspring, and the crusty-cancerous (if they weren’t, I’d be stunned) trio made me yearn to swim in a pool of creamy SPF protection.


Oh yes, I can honestly say that one day at the pool was disturbing enough to make me cherish my sunscreen for a lifetime.  In the end, if you take anything away from this...please let it be that you’ve only got one birthday suit...treat it well or you might never make it to your next birthday.  


The moral of this Tragic Tale of Beauty:

Before you go out to enjoy the beauty of agloriously sunny day,
ask yourself is that sexyTropicana tan really worth it?


Eyebrow Valances

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, 

then the eyebrows are the decorative valances 
that hang over them.

Unfortunately, many eyebrows are
in dire need of a designer makeover...




I thought of that phrase while I was watching a reality television show and saw a man with a massive Leonid Brezhnev-esque unibrow.  And I remember how I stared at the broad clump of dark hair fearing it was going to break out into song or something.  I then told myself that one day I’d write about it because if ever there was a tragic tale of beauty simply asking to be written – it was about a unibrow.  All I had to do was be patient and wait for ‘that moment’ when the it that I needed create a rib-tickling tale would make itself known.


So, I waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  Until several months had passed and quite frankly…life got in the way and I forgot all about my reality TV inspired proclamation.  Though forgot isn’t the correct term.  It’s more like, I tucked it away in the Rolodex of ideas in my brain where it could be accessed later. 


Then, one day, during an early morning trip, on a gorgeous North Carolina summer’s day to the grocery store, I had my moment.  And it was the moment when I saw them.  


● The them  my subconscious had apparently been waiting on for months.   

●The them who would make all those moments when my nifty opening phrase would pop into my head worthwhile.  Yes!  I saw them:  a woman around forty and her mother, as I made my way through the produce section.  Though actually I should say I heard them first…


You see, I was contemplating buying a head of lettuce when I heard the daughter, who had a deep feminine voice that sounded like she’d swallowed sandpaper call out, “Maw-ma, what kind you want?  You want the hot-house ‘maters or you want the vine ripe ‘maters?” 


I glanced over my shoulder expecting to see a big burly lumber Jill of a woman but to my surprise she was about my height (5’2”).  Though technically she was closer to 5’7” because her hair, well actually her bangs, were about five inches tall with super teased afro-esque curls that were no doubt created thanks to a chemical solution and LOTS of tiny curling rods whereas the rest of her hair, from the crown down, was straight as a stick.  And at that moment, I had a flashback to my high school days in the 1980s when big, poofy hair was all the rage and the height of one’s bangs reflected their overall coolness factor.  (Sadly, I was utterly uncool because I had, and still have, boring straight Marcia Brady hair).  


But it wasn’t her super-teased Dynasty inspired tresses that got my attention.  However, I’ll be honest and say I did make a point to store the thought away for later use.  Nope.


And it wasn’t her oversized, totally out of season, black Halloween sweatshirt with sparkly orange sequined pumpkins on it either nor was it her faded blue ‘mom’ jeans.  It was...that’s right...her eyebrows.


The poor things had been plucked to near oblivion; the right one thinner than the left.  And they were somewhat cockeyed.  In a nutshell, her eyebrows wore the mark of a right handed woman who’d probably been self-plucking for decades as self-pluckers usually aren’t dexterous enough to evenly tend their brow hairs so they often over groom whichever side is the same as their dominant hand. 


Now perhaps I wouldn’t have noticed her eyebrows (too much) if she’d not also been wearing heavy dark blue eyeliner and thick mascara that made her eyes appear rather tiny and eye shadow in a shimmering silver with a hint of blue shade that made the space between her eyelids and eyebrows look like a Caribbean strait in the moonlight.  But as it was, I did notice and as soon as the image hit the back of my eyeballs, the phrase which had been dogging me for months starting barking; telling me to remember every nuance of the moment.  Yes, in the split second when I glanced over my shoulder…all the pieces started falling in place.


But lo, there is more.  For as you will recall I said it was not simply a her that I saw.  No, it was a them.  That’s right...the her’s mother, the aforementioned Maw-ma, who also had eyebrows that spoke volumes.   


How so?  Well, aside from the fact that Maw-ma was donning a pair of lavender sweat pants and a summery T-shirt, bedazzled with all sorts of flashy doo-dads and metallic puffy paint tucked ever so neatly into the elastic band of her pants, she also had eyebrows the likes of which boggled my mind.  And now I suppose I ought to describe them though somehow I fear my words alone will not be able to capture their unique je ne sais quoi.


To begin, it was evident to me that just like her daughter, Maw-ma, who I am sure taught her daughter the ancient art of self-pluckification, had obviously spent an abundance of time over her many years grooming her own brows to almost nothing.  But unlike her daughter who made no attempt to dress up what little hair she had remaining on the expanse between her hairline and her eyes, Maw-ma had drawn on fairly thick, high arched, slightly off-kilter eyebrows with a brown eye pencil that made her look as if she was perpetually surprised.  Though I will say the lavender eye shadow that covered her droopy lids matched her sweat pants amazingly well and I’ve no doubt it was done purposefully which leads me to wonder if Maw-ma has a huge color wheel of eye shadow at home so she can coordinate her look before stepping out onto the town. 


Now honestly, I did try to put the two women out of my mind as I gathered the items on my shopping list…I really did.  But the words that had been waiting so long to be written were already spinning around in my head.  And then when I got to the checkout register to pay for my items I couldn’t help but see that they were in the line next to me.  Unfortunately, from my perspective I could only see their backs.  However, I could see the faces of Pammi, a new clerk at the store, and the bagger, Jon, helping her.  And when Pammi, a young woman who was probably all of nineteen years old, looked up from her register to ask if the women had a frequent shopper card, the look of utter shock that crossed the newbie clerk and at that moment was to die for.  Yes, I knew without a doubt that she, too, had been, no....intrigued by their significantly...oh, heaven's me where are my manners?...a little more than slightly over-tended brows. 


The ladies paid for their items and exited the store just as I was pulling out my credit card to pay for my own goods.  As I swiped my credit card through the little reader, I glanced up to see and hear Pammi not so covertly whispering to Jon, ‘Oh, my God!  Did you see those ladies eyebrows?’  


Where upon Jon simply smiled and said, “Yeah, they come in every Tuesday like clockwork.” gh the little reader, I glanced up to see and hear Pammi not so covertly whispering to Jon, ‘Oh, my God!  Did you see those ladies eyebrows?’  


Geez, if only I’d made my way to the grocery store 50-some-odd Tuesdays ago…I would have had one less weird thought running through my already goofy head!


The moral of this particular Tragic Tale of Beauty –


Thou shalt not self-pluck thine eyebrows lest thou be ambidextrous! 




Text: L. Avery Brown
Images: L. Avery Brown
Publication Date: 07-15-2013

All Rights Reserved

For women and men alike who have had an "OH NO!" beauty moment ...take ownership of your beauty boo-boos and know that you are not alone. We have ALL been there...some of us MORE than others!

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