Straight Hair

straight hair, Paul and JaneAt 14 years of age, I want to look like Jane Asher.

You know, Jane, Paul McCartney’s girlfriend.

Jane of the tiny frame, adorable smile, and long straight hair. Hair as straight as grass.

I have curly wavy crazy hair.

But I want Paul. The ‘cute’ Beatle – the one who I know is my soul mate. If we ever get to meet, he’ll look at me longingly (if I have straight hair) and leave Jane and we’ll be together, forever.

I walk to the drugstore with my friend Judy, where I use my babysitting money for the product I’ve lusted over for months: Curl Free. Judy just rolls her eyes when I buy the box and we race home to my bathroom.

My mom is out, probably playing bridge, so I keep the bathroom door open to dispel some of the smell that is so putrid, we both gag. Once I combine one bottle in the box with another smaller bottle hidden in the bottom, we race out of the room. The upstairs now smells like rotten eggs, my brother’s farts, and sauerkraut, all rolled into one malodorous bouquet.

“You aren’t really putting that on your hair,” Judy exclaims as we inhale huge breaths of fresh air from my back porch.

“For 45 minutes,” I reply.

“I can’t take that smell. I better go home.” Judy leaves, and by doing so, I wash my hands of her companionship forever. Our friendship is finished with one long whiff of Curl Free.

But I still have work to do. My mom is reaching for the front door, holding two bags of groceries. Oh No!

I race to the bathroom and shut and lock the door. The smell has only gotten stronger, but I clench my jaw and use the comb provided in the box to rake the goo throughout my hair. The solution is white and putrid and within minutes, stings so badly I think my scalp is on fire.

I sprint to the sink and turn on the cold water, ready to wash the glop out immediately.

But then I think of Jane.

Turning off the water, I blindly open the bottom drawer underneath the sink and feel for my hidden Beatle magazine, the one with a photo of Jane and Paul attending a play in London. However, my eyes are watering so badly, I can’t see the picture.

“OW OW OW OW,” I scream.

“Pammy, are you alright in there?”

Oh, shoot. I forgot about my mom.

“I’m fine Mom.”

“Are you sure? Something smells funny. Are you feeling okay?”

Face flaming red from embarrassment, and probably from the beginning of second degree burns, I shout out “I’m FINE.”

And then I throw my head into the bottom of the sink and turn on the water, emitting groans as the cold water sooths the burning sensation. I only lasted 10 minutes with Curl Free. Will it make a difference?

I towel off my hair, now as stiff as dry wheat, open the bathroom door and suffer through my mother’s questions about my intestinal problems. Do I have a stomach ache? she asks worriedly.

“No, Mom,” I respond, biting the inside of my lip. My hair is drying rapidly this warm May day, and I do not look like Jane Asher.

I dash past my mother and head to the basement.

I hate the basement, so she is suspicious. “What are you doing now?”

“Ironing,” I answer.

Supposedly, that’s the next best thing for hair straightening.

straight hair, Curl Free, adolescence

31 thoughts on “Straight Hair

    • We don’t need to be teenagers to struggle with ‘hair issues.’ :+) Electric hair rollers, anyone??


  1. Haha, what memories this evokes! I always wondered what Paul was doing with Jane when he was supposed to be MINE. : ). The difference is I had the straight hair. I was in MY bathroom experimenting with Dippity-Do and ending up with crunchy boing-y curls that immediately wilted in the humidity like dying tulips. I guess at that age none of us was satisfied with what we has. Except maybe Jane Asher.


    • I can tell now that you were the competition – you had blonde straight hair and were (and still are) pretty as a pansy. As much as I like you as a ‘grown-up,’ not sure I would have as a Paulie groupie. :+)
      Oh my, yes, I remember Dippity-Do too. Wicked stuff.


  2. Hahaha…this is so funny! Reminds me of my early teens when a friend of mine convinced me to try henna on my blonde hair. She claimed that it would give my hair a lot of shine….30 minutes later, my hair was flaming red! Ran to the drug store, with my head wrapped in a bandana, to buy several bottles of Lady Clairol’s Summer Blonde. It took forever to get my blonde back! Ah, those crazy years! ( Paul was always my favorite Beatle too.)


    • Yes, crazy years, and I don’t think I’d want them back, do you? The funny thing is that some of my friends think my man looks a lot like Paul M. Only better, of course.


  3. **grin** Ohmygoodness, roughwhiting–I mean, Pammy–I wanted straight hair oh-so-much, too. My friend, Carol, had straight hair. Everyone cool had straight hair. Sounds like you and me had wild & crazy hair. It’s really strange–I haven’t told too many people this–but my daughter was born with the straight hair I always wanted. Go figure. So, do you have kids? (You probably shared this 8 times.) Were any of the kids born with straight hair? Did you bequeath your desire to them?


    • YES YES YES. Like your progeny, my daughter has incredibly beautiful, strawberry blonde, straight hair. Dare I say it… much like Jane Asher’s.
      Oh my…


  4. That was terrific Pam and oh too familiar! All the curly heads longed for straight hair and of course fantasized over our boyfriends, the Beatles (I loved all of them, but yes, Paul was the “cute one.” Your storytelling brings the scenario to life. I can just imagine the whole bathroom hideout! I used an ironing board on my hair back in the day. Several years ago, I used my tax return money on professional straightening. There was lye in the chemicals and the hairdresser not only burned my scalp but my “hair died.” I had to go to another hairdresser and have it all cut off to about an inch short! I’m still struggling with hot rollers, hot irons and then curling gels (to put back the curls after all the heat, cause I don’t look good in straight hair!!!). Well, “the natural” is coming back again (but my natural is scary)! Pam, I love your hair and you’re beautiful! Girls/women and their hair – the things we do!!! Thanks for sharing that hilarious story! I enjoy reading everything you write!!


    • Actually, you were crazy trying to get your natural amazing waves and curls out – that is your signature look and it goes with your natural amazing personality. We women are so silly – trying to change what is already good about us.


  5. Sighs. I love my flat iron. I have to iron my hair or curl it –because if I don’t do anything, it’s this weird, frizzy in-between look that’s just bad. 🙂


    • I admit, I do the same. Only my hair doesn’t come out as straight as yours looks like, from your photo. One of these days, the ‘frizzy-inbetween’ look will be ‘in.’ Won’t that be fun??!


  6. I cried so much as a child because I had curly frizzy hair and wanted straight hair. I didn’t believe my Dad when he told me my hair was pretty and I was beautiful. I straighten it a lot now because it is easier to manage. But my husband loves my frizzy curls – so Dad was right in a way after all…


  7. Pam- I still just absolutely love your writing. I was in each scene in your story, just as excited, anxious, nervous, scared, disappointed, and, well, burning as you were as a little girl in this story. Reading your writing is like BEING in a movie. Thank you fo creating this experience for us.
    And, just for all your curlies out there, my five year old niece who has thick, blonde, straight hair is completely jealous of her friend who has ringlets. I told her that I was pretty sure that her ringlet friend was also jealous of her straight hair. It seems like everyone wants what they don’t have because, in not having it, we don’t see all the stuff that isn’t so great about it- we only see what looks perfect from the outside.


    • So true, so true. Of course, the problem in all of this is that we want to be ‘perfect,’ and the only perfection in life is all of our imperfections. (I just made that up, but it sounds right to me). Here’s to our imperfections, and in learning to be joyful about them.


  8. Pamela,

    I lived in the fog and that made my wavy hair even worse. I used Dippity Doo and scotch tape on my bangs and they still curled! Ah, the things we did when we were young. Now, it’s just hair color and expensive hair cuts.

    Barb C


    • Oh yes! I forgot about the ‘scotch tape on the bangs’ routine. Yes, we haven’t really changed those routines that much, have we? Just spend more money doing it…. :+0


  9. the description of the smell made me LAUGH! 😀

    I had stick straight hair in school – long and straight – which was great for part of the 70s until the “frizzy look” -yeah, there was a frizzy look for a while there – came out – so I’d do teeny tiny braids all over my hair – while it was wet! then have to unbraid them – my hair would be fluffed out quite weirdly after that, but I thought it was so cooooool 😀 until it tangled into a mess when I slept on it – ungh.

    oh the thangs we do – I won’t even talk about the perms I used to get back in the day – aw lawd!


  10. Oh no! That’s terrible (but the pictures in my head are making me smile)! I was born with stick straight thick hair and was so envious of my best friend who had thick, beautiful, wavy blonde hair . . . boy, could she rock the Farrah Fawcett hair craze!


  11. Oh, this made me laugh, I had the same experience, the other way around… we’re talking the eighties (yes, ick), when perms were in and my ultra-straight hair — dead rats’ tails on my head — wouldn’t even take a hairdresser’s perm, Ah, the ammonia I breathed in my futile quest for wavy hair… To get even the tiniest follicular wiggle, I would spend hours baking my head upside down with a super-hot hairdryer, my scalp coated in that thick, gelatinous goop known as ‘mega-hold gel’. This would produce the gonk look which, if I acted quickly, could be backcombed (oh, yes) into “hair with actual body”.
    Body, split ends, weirdly kinked failed-perm sections, and strange tendrils of dried goop which, during the day, would float down and coat my shoulders. I looked like I had some sort of fungal mange.

    When I met my husband, he had thick, black curls — and now our baby has curls! Beautiful, bouncy curls in his lush, wavy hair — BLISS!


  12. Loved this post, Pamela; I can so relate! I used Curl-Free too, once upon a time. Went to school the next day with the worst-looking hair ever–it looked greasy (so sad). My seventh grade classmates were scratching at their skin and saying they were allergic to whatever was in my hair. Two kids down the line, my curl has relaxed just enough all on its own. Now my 15 year-old wants to straighten his hair…


      • Maybe so; didn’t think of that. Did you ever have a ‘reverse perm’ to loosen your curls? I had two and NOTHING relaxed those fusili twirls. The hair is definitely more manageable now 🙂


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