The Hairdo That Fashion Forgot - The Perm

There are a small number of memories from my childhood that I've pushed back into the darkest corners of my brain, only to re-emerge once in a while when I've had a few drinks and feel the need to let them out, almost like a kind of therapy. One such memory is a hairdo I had in the late eighties. I'm sure others of a similar age will know exactly what I'm talking about - it is, of course, the horror that was THE PERM.

Looking back, I'm not sure exactly whose style I was trying to emulate in my quest for a halo of curls. I was a fan of Neighbours at the time, so it may have been Kylie. Unfortunately for me, I ended up looking more like Craig McLachlan.

It all started with me incessantly banging on about wanting a perm. Finally, during the six-week summer holidays, my mam gave in and bought a home perm kit. I can't remember much about the home perming process, other than it stunk, and I'm also at a loss as to why I allowed my mam to attempt to perm my hair, since I was still scarred from the half-page-boy-half-bowl-cut I'd been forcibly given a few years earlier. Anyway, what I can remember is that, after waiting the allotted time and removing those awful plastic rollers, my hair was....err...straight. Poker straight, in fact. Just as it had been before.

You know how there are certain things you wish you could go back in time and tell your younger self? Life lessons, mistakes to avoid, that sort of thing? Well, I wish I could go back, grab my eleven year old self by the shoulders and shout 'FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, JUST LEAVE YOUR HAIR AS IT IS NOW!' because things were about to get a whole lot worse. (And curly.)

My mam had a hairdresser who came to the house. I begged for another go at perming my hair, so my mam arranged an appointment with the hairdresser a couple of week later. This is where my memories become a little more clear. I remember sitting down on the dining chair ready to be permed, looking at my mam's hair, then looking at the hairdresser's, and feeling that perhaps this wasn't going to be the cutting edge experience of fashion hairdressing I was hoping for. Still, as the (stinky) setting lotion was applied, I was thinking positive. When my mam had tried to perm my hair, nothing had happened at all, so there couldn't be much chance of me ending up with tight, afro like curls.  I'd have loose, scrunchy waves like that girl off Grange Hill! I'd finally be fashionable! (Harsh, I know, but I was never ahead of the fashion pack as a kid).

When it was time for the rollers to come out, I held my breath with trepidation. The first sign that I wasn't going to have loose, flowing waves came when I realised my previously half-way-down-my-arm-length hair now appeared to be almost up to my ears, and I hadn't had it cut.

As the last roller came out, I was almost terrified to touch my hair. When I did, it felt like I had a sponge on my head. I ran through to my bedroom to check in the mirror, with the hairdresser calling weakly after me 'Don't brush it!'

Of course, the first thing I did - after almost screaming out loud once I saw my reflection and realised that I did, in fact, more or less have an afro - was brush it. Surely that would loosen the curls? Give me the wavy look I so craved? After attempting to rake a brush through it my head resembled a microphone. I can't remember if I cried. I think, somewhere in my eleven year old brain, I realised a very important lesson had been learnt.

What I wanted

What I got
It took almost two years to grow out that perm. Two years of painful regret. The curls, admittedly, did drop quite a bit in the last couple of weeks of the summer hols, which I was relieved about. I had plenty of other reasons to be bullied at school without a ridiculous comedy hairdo being added to the mix.

All photographic evidence of The Perm has since been destroyed (I hope it has, anyway), but the mental scars still remain. In fact, just the other night I woke up in a cold sweat remembering it.

I'm thinking of setting up a support group for other '80s perm victims. Thoughts?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...