Thursday, March 8, 2012


I texted Lisa from my bed first thing in the morning:

“Lis.  My hair needs some damage.  When can you do it?”

Lisa’s been coiffing my locks for years now.  She’s married to my good friend and producer/engineer Mark Stephenson.  I always enjoy being with her. She knows me and my hair pretty well by now.

We’ve figured out, through years of trial and error, that my hair does best when it’s damaged.  It cooperates better after being hammered with a perm and some bleach then color.  In spite of knowing this, I have in the last year or so let my hair color return to home base and have decided against the perm.  It was fine…until all the previously permed hair grew out and was cut off, bit by bit.  Then I was back to the silky fine hair I was born with, which was perfect when I was growing up and kept it long and flowing.  The two sisters who straddle me in our family have lovely thick bouncy hair; one red, and one brunette. I was the blond headed middle sister who balanced the trio. 

Very early in our lives we found a coordinating set of Barbies under our Christmas tree.  Our hair colors may have matched…but that was about it.

 “Little did I know then, I never would be Barbie”

I find it interesting that my hair responds best to my curling iron when its damaged.  It’s so much more cooperative. But I do have to be patient: let it air dry, then piece by piece heat it up with my big barreled curling iron.  When I’ve applied tension and heat to each piece, then I can brush it all out and it ends up looking more like it has substance than curl. 

My first perm experience was over at Aunt Mary’s house, down the long dusty driveway and back to the little white farm house situated back by the apple trees in Blackfoot Idaho.  Mom called through the screen door and Aunt Mary can bounding out, pulling me into her embrace and burying my face in her ample bosom.  I sat on the step stool high chair and jiggled my leg as she worked, holding my nose against the chemical stink.  Little colored rods wound with little girl hair stacked in rows atop my head.  Aunt Mary gabbed with Mom the whole time.  My thoughts kept shifting between their conversation, the stinging in my throat from the chemicals, and thoughts of running out to the barn when we were done and visiting the dairy cows or climbing up the short craggy old apple trees.  It seemed to take an eternity. And when it was don I looked ridiculous! Like I had stuck my fingers in an electric socket. I don’t remember how long the perm held, but I did feel rather self conscious about it.

I hadn’t known then what I know now: that damaged hair is more submissive  and cooperative than pristine healthy hair.  At least for me.  And to top it off, Lisa told me that I should do my concerts with dirty hair because it held its shape even better under hot spot lights.

Who knew?

I need to remind some of the perfectionist people in my life that sometimes it works better when the goods are slightly damaged.  Not destroyed, just damaged.  We are more easily molded when we see ourselves as imperfect and a bit needy. A little fried in the fire of adversity, so that when the Master applies His heat and pressure, we become more completely the beauties we were designed to be.

1 comment:

  1. ME TOO!! UTTERLY!! I have some secrets about my hair; I'll tell you some time. But my hair is fine, evidently thin - tends, in its natural state, to want to hide in strings of other such. No real flow. It wisps until it knots, which takes a matter of nanoseconds. But rough it up with a perm, and suddenly, I can tie it into a knot at the back - it stands out from my face - it has life. My Gin is trying to talk me into coloring it for just these reasons, but I can't seem to want to do that. Rough cuticle on the soul - I'd never seen that metaphor before, but it works beautifully. And go on with it - communities built by felting. Maybe I'll steal that and write about it. Maybe I just will.