While we Baby Boomers aren’t ordinarily in the business of public service announcements, perms are a subject upon which too many of us can speak from experience. We still remember the salon perm plague that swept the nation in the 1980s, the memory of it still strikes a nerve. Ask anybody who lived through it and you will hear no end of horror stories from ’80s perm victims, but few are willing to provide photographic evidence – the memories are still too raw.
The last time I got a perm I remember saying to myself that I would never get another perm in my hair, but memories fade and a person forgets that perms never look as good as you think they will which brings me to my most recent encounter at the beauty salon.
My hair looked acceptable when I left the salon, but as the evening wore on it started to grow, like those sea monkeys we used to order off the back of the cereal box when we were kids. So, I wet it down, conditioned and let it dry on my head, no blow dryer. Before bed I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror expecting to see that “Julia Roberts in Mystic Pizza” look, which was, in my day, the envy of young women everywhere, but instead I looked more akin to a very large standard poodle, even my bangs were kinky. Put a diamond collar on me and a little bow in my hair and you could call me Fifi. Not to be discouraged I went to bed thinking, “It will be okay in the morning. I’ll curl it or flat iron it.”
The image staring back at me this morning in the mirror was one I had seen before. It was Roseanne Roseannadanna and I could just hear her saying, “Well, Jane, it just goes to show you, it’s always something — if it ain’t one thing, it’s another. I know what you’re talkin’ about, because, I, Roseanne Roseannadanna, once had the same thing happen to me and I thought I was gonna die!”
I don’t know what happened. I can’t recall a perm ever looking this bad. My hair was fried and I thought I noticed a bald spot right in the middle of my head above my now frizzed out bangs. I began to frantically snip away at my bangs with the kitchen scissors in a fruitless effort to add girth and disguise the barren spot so I wouldn’t look like an old bald woman. Not to mention this whole process bleached my hair into a very unbecoming mottled shade of brown that reminded me of a stained couch we used to have back in college, a kind of sepia tone with rust stain highlights and undercurrent of burned tree bark.
As if this was not bad enough, I smell like a walking bottle of perm solution that no amount of hair product or perfume can neutralize. Looking like one of those cartoon characters that stuck their finger in a light socket, I seriously considered calling in sick. I just could not go out of the house looking like this, and for those of you who know me, that would have to be really bad. It was that bad.
I love the honesty of kids. My adult co-workers were very supportive saying things like, “It doesn’t look that bad.” Or It will loosen up, just give it a few days.” However, the kids in my classes were more forthright. When they asked, “What did you do to your hair.” And I answered that I’d gotten a really bad perm, they didn’t argue. One replied with, “Well, you’re all set for Halloween. You can go as a witch.”
I was so hopeful as nowadays the “experts” in the perming industry claim that new techniques not only yield more natural-looking results, but are also less damaging to the hair shaft. Don’t believe them. Nothing has changed. I can attest to this fact. So let this serve as your warning. Wherever the winds of hair trends may blow, whatever you do: Don’t get a perm.