Talking Heads

LUCILLE F. BJANES

November 25, 1992|By LUCILLE F. BJANES

I have never understood why women who have straight hair want to have curly hair, and those with curls want straight. I have known teen-age girls to crouch next to an ironing board and try to iron their curls straight.

When I was a child, I had a dutch-boy haircut. My hair was brown with a little red in it. It was nice, clean, healthy hair, but straight. I had always dreamed of curls. When I was 15 and working, I realized that curls were possible.

My first permanent wave was called a Nestle Borax. The beautician soaked the hair with a solution and wound strands of it around a metal rod, corkscrew style, the way mothers used to wind their daughters' hair on rags on Saturday nights so that they would have long curls on Sundays. The beautician then inserted the rods into tubes connected to electric wires. Then the heat was turned on.

So far it was torture. Then it began to hurt. After the hair was baked and the heat turned off, the operator took a small hammer and tapped each tube to dislodge the rod. After the hair was removed from the rods it was shampooed and set. If all went well, one emerged with a head of curls. After three months and a couple of haircuts, this process would have to be repeated.

Over the next 60 or so years, things gradually improved. The process was no longer tortuous, just time-consuming and chancy. The results might be too curly, or not curly enough. On one occasion my hair resembled steel wool.

At the age of 79, I rebelled. I had the damned stuff cut off and decided that I no longer had to be irresistible so that some person of the opposite sex would be impelled to drag me into the bushes (figuratively speaking, of course). Being dragged into the bushes at this point would have done absolutely nothing to perpetuate the human race, and most likely wouldn't have done a heck of a lot for me either -- but who can tell?

If I had been the architect of the human race, I would have planned things differently. All babies would be born bald, and would grow into bald adults. Flattery might have sounded like this: ''My, you have a lovely-shaped head'' or an ''interesting shape'' or ''color.''

At the change of seasons, with spring in the air, one might go to a head-painting salon. You would look through the catalog and pick out a design and coloring that appealed to you. Pink, pale green and violet might appeal to the dainty, and would be nice for Easter. Someone timid might settle for sweet peas, or lilies of the valley. A more adventurous person might look for a bold design with strong colors. I, myself, would opt for bright colors, maybe even psychedelic. The more affluent would have an artist design an original head painting. There is also the possibility of tattooing, but that would take a very brave soul.

If you couldn't afford the head-painting salon, you might want to go to a decal parlor. Decals, of course, would not last as long, but then you could afford to change them more often. Be careful about being caught in the rain, though; a decal might slide off.

You might meet a friend, and perhaps she'd say ''Oh, I do like your head. Who painted it?'' Or she might not say anything, and then you'd know she didn't like it. Or maybe she was jealous and pretended not to notice it. There are people like that.

If the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom compared notes on what each would be wearing to the wedding, they would need to know about each other's head painting. One would ask: ''What are you going to do with your head?'' Perish forbid they both turned up with the same design! For such a special occasion, it would probably be necessary to spring for an original.

I wonder how the male of the species would decorate his head.

I'm beginning to realize that this sounds like more trouble than permanent waves, with all their problems. If we only had sense enough to be content with our hair as the Original Architect designed it, life would be more simple.

Lucille F. Bjanes writes from Towson.

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