A Happy Hair Story

by Dorothy Ross.

(a response to the prompt, When were you happiest with your hair?)

Was I ever happy with my hair? Certainly not when I lived in New York. Manhattan’s humid weather reduced my wavy locks to a nest of coiling curls that could not be woman-handled into anything approximating a current hair style. When I first moved to Gotham, every day was a bad hair day.

Then the ad agency where I worked landed the Clairol account and I could have my hair colored at their midtown laboratory, professionally, as often as I liked—for free. So my dirty-blond hair was soon dyed ash blond, then strawberry blond, and in a brief, disastrous experiment, even Marilyn Monroe platinum.

Because the artificial coloring helped tame the ringlets, I grew my hair long for the first time since leaving school. I set my hair every night, using stale beer as a straightener and winding the sticky strands on big fat pink rollers to restrain and re-train my curly top. If the squishy rollers were not dislodged in my sleep, I could start my day with a smooth, Jackie Kennedy bouffant bob. The finished look required a daily ritual of back-combing for volume and a liberal misting of iron helmet hairspray. Big hair, with not a strand out of place, was a lot of work.

Ross-Hair-1I was happiest with my hair when it grew long enough to be smoothed into a French twist. I finally felt like I was in control. Never the pony tail type, I was certain the upswept style was more sophisticated. I considered taking up smoking, sure that a cigarette in my hand would complete my cosmopolitan persona. But, smoke made me choke, so I never got hooked on tobacco. I settled for lofting a martini in that idle hand. Very elegant, or so I thought at the time.

This picture was taken in 1960, shortly before I left New York City. Without the Clairol stylists to tame my wayward locks, my hair became unmanageable soon after I arrived in San Francisco. Frustrated in my attempts to coax the unruly mop into something resembling a pageboy, I resorted to my naturally curly short cap. But during that interlude when it was long, blond, and straight, I really was happy with my hair.

(c) April 2016 Dorothy Ross 

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About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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