When I was growing up in the 1960s, my mom and I set our hair on plastic rollers. Mom’s hair was short and mine was long and often in girly pigtails, but neither of us wanted frizz. By the 70s blow dryers appeared, and in high school I spent hours taming my waves into a long, smooth river of hair.
I cut my hair short after college and both of us kept our hair in a tidy crop for the next thirty years. Occasionally I’d try for a bit of length, but it was always “too much” hair. While living in Hawaii I took advantage of the humidity and ventured to chin length. Right around that time Mom read the book Curly Girl and invested in DevaCurl products. Curls were making a comeback.
My hair is coarse and wavy but Mom’s finer hair spirals into adorable ringlets. Over the next few years we both attempted growing out our hair. My thick hair is now past my shoulders and easy to maintain. Ringlets would prove more challenging.
“I’m fed up and can’t seem to make it look right,” she said impatiently during my last visit. I made style suggestion after suggestion but none pleased her. Finally I offered to help her get from her home in Santa Cruz to Mill Valley where my talented stylist Jimmy could have a go at it.
I was surprised when she said yes and made the appointment. “I don’t like the way I look,” she said, “and it’s making me depressed. Many of my friends, who like me are in their 80s, seem happy with no-fuss short hair, but not me.”
A touch of foundation, brows, mascara, a rich red lipstick, and we were on our way to At The Top Salon. As we waited I snapped some selfies of us, our curls now released from bondage.
JImmy’s haircut plan was some lift on top, shorter sides and layers down the back. When he was finished Mom didn’t have the bouncy, cascading ringlets she had hoped for, but she looked prettier, lighter and fresher. Sometimes the hair you dream of doesn’t have the necessary texture or work with your features. Feeling attractive is what matters most.
“Kinky Jewish hair,” she said ruefully, and we both cracked up. Yup. Ethnic features, aging faces, willful hair…we had it all. But we were having our moment. Together.