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A Curly Head's Complaint

by Rose Madeline Mula

I have had bad hair days for decades, long before the term was even coined.

I was an adorable toddler (if it's true that cameras don't lie); but my adorableness (okay, so I can coin words, too) was a fact despite rampant ringlets that stuck out crazily all over my head, dipping over mid-forehead, and receding at the temples — the hairline of a middle-aged man, which I have to this day.

Yes, I did say ringlets; and yes, I do have naturally curly hair. "You're so lucky!" say my friends whose sleek locks I would trade my Jaguar for — that is, if I had a Jaguar. They assume that since my hair has a natural curl, it will fall into any style I wish. Wrong! If it did, would I look like this? On purpose?

As others who are similarly cursed know well, naturally curly hair does its own thing. You can wind it around huge rollers for hours, soak it in anti-frizz solution, and spray it with enough industrial strength glop to coax it into different configurations; and it may work — for three minutes and 42 seconds, tops. After that, it goes Boing! and springs right back to its original, unruly state. And if there is just a trace of humidity in the air, you can even forget about the three minutes and 42 seconds.

Unfortunately, it has taken me almost my entire life to realize that. God knows why. Obviously, I was in denial. I battled my tenacious tendrils for years and spent enough on hair-smoothing products to support all the wives and children of a colony of bigamists before I finally "got" it and stopped trying to reverse nature.

I'm not any happier about the way I look, but at last I've learned to accept it and go with it — to a point. I definitely have stopped trying to straighten my hair, but I still haven't completely given up my attempts to shape it to my liking. I do this by mercilessly snipping off any wayward coil that spoils the symmetry I am trying to achieve. The results, as you can imagine, are often quite interesting and have been known to launch many hairdressers into fits of hysteria.

I recall, in particular, a stylist on the Champs Elysees. I was vacationing in beautiful, sophisticated Paris, where I felt definitely unchic. I decided to splurge and treat myself to a Parisian "do." When Monsieur François sat me down to assess what he had to work with, he paled. For a moment, I was afraid he was going to faint. "Who did this to you?!" he demanded, his eyes misting, his voice trembling. Do you think I was going to admit the disaster was self-inflicted? Not on your life. "A hairdresser back home," I lied. His next comments, though in French which was beyond my rudimentary grasp, left no doubt that he was condemning all American hairdressers to a special hell. Poor François had met his match. Two hours and several hundred francs later, I didn't look much better. I left Paris.

Unfortunately, my next trip was to a tropical Paradise — Maui to most people; Frizz City to me. How I envied the lovely Hawaiian girls their satiny long manes that undulated in the sultry breezes as gracefully as did their grass skirts.

Today curls, as well as sleek and smooth tresses, are in. Some women (and a few men) actually have corkscrew permanents. Go figure. Too bad I wasn't born into this era. Just thinking about the time, money and aggravation I could have saved myself — and still been fashionable — is enough to make my hair stand straight on end.

Yeah, right. Wishful thinking.

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.

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