With Don Imus about to finish a five-month vacation paid for by CBS and be back on the air, allegedly at WABC, to peddle his swill once again, Pam has posted about her interview with documentarian Heather Barnes, in which she talks about her own “hair journey.” If you think that “nappy-headed ho’s” is just a joke, listen to Pam’s account of hair products and hot combs and straightening irons, and the issues that black women deal with once they decide to stop trying to turn their hair into something it isn’t.
But if you think that just because you’re not black, hair isn’t an issue, guess again. Do you know any woman who hasn’t at one time or another permed or straightened her hair to make it conform to whatever is the style at the time?
I wear my hair short. I do this because I have inherited my father’s scalp pattern. I used to joke that if I’d been a boy, I’d have been a 4’10” pudgy guy named Seth with a receding hairline in my twenties. Nothing to give one perspective like THAT realization. With my hair short, the top stays thicker, I can just wash, comb, and go, and I don’t have to worry about frizz or that little bit of hair at the back of my neck that spiral curls when nothing else does, or waves that hang in clumps instead of being just long and luxurious.
It wasn’t always thus. Because I grew up in the age of Pattie Boyd and Joni Mitchell, I always wanted long, straight hair. In the 1960’s, some girls achieved this by ironing their hair:
That always seemed drastic to me, so what we did was wet our hair down, roll the top into two giant rollers at the top of our heads, then wrap the rest around our heads and secure it with giant clips — then try to sleep. In the morning, we’d have mostly straight hair, but on a humid day, by the time I got to school, it’d be those wavy clumps again.
In the mid-1980’s, I discovered the perm. I loved having permed hair, because all I had to do was pick it out and go. I had one of those ridiculous poodly cuts that’s short on the side and curly on top. But when I started coloring it after I started going gray, the combination of color and perming was too harsh on my challenged hair, so I stopped perming, much to the relief of Mr. Brilliant, who hated the permed look.
My sister doesn’t believe me about my hair, because worn short, it looks pretty thick. But if you tousle it around, you can see that at some point in the future, I’m going to be one of those old ladies with two hairs left on top, swirling it around to make it look fuller. Maybe I’ll just shave my head then and take up wearing hats. Of course, she inherited our mother’s luxuriant head of hair, although she too used to wrap it around her head in a vain attempt at achieving that Joni Mitchell look. Today she wears it medium length, it’s thick and wavy and she can just pull it back into a ponytail and look great.
I like my hair short, and I don’t care whether it makes me look boyish. Of course I’d rather have long, luxuriant hair, but I’m not about to spend hundreds of dollars on salon hair extensions to do it. Working with the hair that I’ve got is one of the few things about my physiognomy with which I’ve made my peace.
At any rate, if you’ve ever tried to fight your own hair, it’s worth listening to what Pam has to say: