At 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.