July 24, 2016

Partly cloudy

Snapshots: No one’s really conditioned for those stinky at-home perms

By Sandra Fahning

Special to The Gazette

Recently, while talking to my friend Judy Totts, the subject of home perms came up. I was amazed at the instant image that came to mind:

It’s summertime, and I’m a child getting a home perm. My mother has me perched high on a chair upon which she has first placed every mail order catalog known to man.

Did I neglect to tell you that this is all taking place on the front porch of the home I grew up in Upper Sandusky? Kids would ride their bikes by laughing and holding their noses while adult neighbors would saunter past and say hello with a nod to my mother, “Hmm … I see Sandra Lee’s getting her hair curled.”
Even as a kid I wanted to ask them what gave them their first clue? The smell or the curling rods all over my head?

Whatever — the stench was just awful. And, to make matters worse, there was always the fear that the home perm wouldn’t “take,” and we’d have to go through this whole ordeal again.

There was one other fear, and I honestly don’t know which fear was worse — going through it again or having the perm “take” but not the way it was supposed to.

I have elementary school photos — always a perm right before! — where I look like I’m from another planet.

Once you had that happen, you just lived with it along with the odor that took quite a while to diminish.

I remember one time after a bad perm, my aunt told me she had heard mayonnaise was good for conditioning the hair.

I thought, why not? What could be worse?

Well, let me tell you, smelling like a salad gone bad was definitely worse.

Getting the mayo out of my hair wasn’t all that much fun either.
I used to watch, with great astonishment, television commercials that featured absolutely beautiful little girls my age with shiny, appropriately styled locks that had just been “permanently waved” by their mothers.

I’d glance over at my mother in confusion and then with fear because she had THAT look in her eyes again.

I would quickly break eye contact.

I figured it was a losing battle until one wonderful summer the hair style known as the pixie came into fashion.

I was one happy kid when I first saw that short, wispy straight hairstyle, and I begged my mom to take me to the beauty parlor.
She just couldn’t fathom my not wanting wavy, long hair or, for that matter, short, curly hair.

She looked at me with disappointment written all over her face.

She had wanted to try a new brand of home perms that promised — yes promised — soft gentle curls and less, umm, I’ll just say “smell” here.

I held my ground, got my pixie and spent a summer that was joyfully perm free.

I was too young to think beyond summer and into fall when school would begin.

Only one thing worse than a home perm on your front porch where the fumes can escape, and that would be an inside job where, trust me on this, nobody was happy!

Fahning may be reached at accent@ohio.net.