autohairography: chapter six.

Below is a snippet of my hope-to-be-published memoir, Autohairography. If you know of a publisher that’s nice and likes quirky girls, please email me!

[image credit: anna liisa liiver]


The next few years of my childhood locks are a blur to me. I was introduced to a lot of essential influences in the mid-90’s; particularly Milli Vanilli, lace-bottomed leggings, K Swiss shoes and most importantly — the perm.

By this time, I was in fourth grade and my bangs had fully grown out. I wasn’t known as Bang Girl anymore, but instead, was given the nickname ‘Erin Vinegar,’ mostly because of a wretchedly unfortunate last name. When it rained, I was called ‘Mustard’ because of my bright yellow raincoat. Which, for the record, I could totally deal with. Two nicknames in fourth grade of a midwestern elementary grade school and you were doing pretty good.

Until the fateful day that my oldest sister started gymnastics class. My oldest sister, as in most families, was the trendy one. I remember the day she brought home the pink/white dotted sweatshirt that oh-so-subtly covered just ONE shoulder. I remember because she rocketed to goddess status on that day. To have a sister with a shoulder exposed was like having the golden ticket to the chocolate factory. You were officially popular by association, and when your sister would go on field trips to the museum, you would get to sneak in and borrow the off-the-shoulder masterpiece. Which would pretty much raise you to celebrity status in any classroom.

Yet the day my sister began gymnastics class was the day her trendiness bit her in the leotard-donning buns. She met a girl named Michelle that day, and Michelle had the most beautiful curly locks. Curly in the Jesse Spanno way, which was pretty much the best curly there was. And on that day, my oldest sister decided that she would travel down the road most traveled: The Way of the Perm.

I remember that day in bits and pieces. The hideous rubber gloves, the smell that permeated your nostrils like roadkill on a hot day. The whitewashed denim that the L’Oreal gal was rocking and that bad red lipstick she had painted on her thin lips. Oh, that day. The day my relationship with hair would change forever.

My sister loved her perm and was granted instant thickness in just a few hours. The volume! The movement! The curls!

A few weeks later, her hair began to resemble a rat’s nest, but of course, it was too late. My middle sister and I had already followed suit with perms of our own. We had evolved into three very messy-haired girls, one L’Oreal box at a time.

After a few more weeks of picking our hair only to find it more unmanageable than ever, my father put his foot down. The scissors were coming out.

That summer, our cousin was pleased to have three Little Orphan Annies to choose from for the lead role in our family basement production.

I played Sandy. The dog.

  • Ha! Perms were big in my house, too! I have two perfect, blonde, cheerleader/valedictorian/homecoming queen/legendary sisters. I was 4 and 6 years younger than them, but everything they did, I followed suit. I probably had a Perm, Poof Bangs, a Bob, and any combination of those at the same time before I even made it to Junior High.

  • ugh perms! the smell and they made my hair orange. i embrace my straight hair now, which is getting a bit of a wave as i get older and i hate it! loved this chapter – woof!

  • oh no! perms! { cue psycho music } it’s so sad that your hair didn’t take the perming so well… although, with those chemicals, i suppose it’s not surprising :) poor little sandy! i love the off-the-shoulder madness, too! apparently i was too young at that time to really be engulfed in the trends. i kind of wish that i had fierce shoulder envy, haha!

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