Permed, Pulled, Puffy: A History of Von’s Hair

It was either the car gets washed, or I get a haircut. Not both. The weather forecast called for rain, so haircut it was.

I like going to hair academies, because I make for an interesting test bunny. I have three different textures on my head: bone-straight indigenous thanks to Mom, tight kinky curl thanks to Dad, and a mutation based on recessive genes merging and deciding, eff it, let’s invent a straight-curl-wave-frizz! She’ll love that.

A weird thing happened though, when I moved to Florida. My curls didn’t curl anymore. I’d wash my hair, and it’d stay loose and straight. Something in the water, maybe? I even did the Caribbean dip, letting my head soak in the salt water of the Gulf so it’ll remember to curl. Nothing. The stylist I had for all of 2012 wondered if I was heat styling or relaxing my hair chemically. No and no. Florida, the beach, the subtropics, changed my hair. It left me slightly despondent, I have fun with curls and people can’t stop with the compliments. I took it as a sign from the Universe emphasizing, ‘Less time on the facade, more time on the infrastructure.’ And so we did. Rocked out creatively, mentally, spiritually, and paid little mind to the direction my hair went.

The epitome of egoism, hair styles. Looking back at these photos, I could see the levels of escalation and descension my sense of self took. Let’s step through some of these in detail, shall we?


Mushroom hairstyle, color block silk top, neon background. Yes, indeed it's 1992!
Mushroom hairstyle, color block silk top, neon background. Yes, indeed it’s 1992!

I *owned* the 90’s hairstyle. Stacked mushroom? Flip outs? Pin back high ponytail? All me. My hair was going through the ordeal of being styled and treated by a woman who had no earthly idea how to style Black hair other than put it in rollers. So at about 14, I took over my hair responsibilities. I spent countless hours at my friends’ homes doing hair in order to learn how to correctly style my own. Slumber parties, I’d learn how to braid while the White girls learned to use a hot iron at the right temperature for my texture. And of course, a few of my Black friends introduced me to the terror that is The Hot Comb. But, gotta say, my shit was fresh.

poetic-justice-movie-poster-1993-1020204623Janet Jackson in Poetic Justice did it for me. I needed to rock braids. I already have too much hair to begin with, but I was insistent to get full locks done. My mother’s co-worker did hair at her house, and I spent morning to evening getting waist length hair put in. This is probably why I have a strong neck today; all that Yaki added to my shoulder length hair weighed 200 pounds, easy. Did it stop me from whipping it around like it wasn’t a problem? Not at all. Did it again, but shorter, with flips to the end. A different woman did them, and I remember opening and closing her shop, first and last customer. And I didn’t keep them in more than two weeks. That’s when I started actualizing my commitment issues.


I was the epitome of self-absorbed, as this multicolored Beyonce fail of a 'do suggests.
I was the epitome of self-absorbed, as this multicolored Beyonce fail of a ‘do suggests.

Oh, I was feeling way too good about myself, and my hair had to show it. Decent paying job, lovely condominium, my Honda *and* my Suzuki sitting in the parking lot. And the prettiest boy magnet as a pet, my curly-haired Black cocker spaniel, Bear. They say your daemon reflects your demeanor. Bear was pretty, snobbish, spoiled, and an attention-whore. His mama, no different. That’s when I started hitting the white crack on some overtime, plus bleaching, plus multicolors, plus spending $100s of dollars on high-end products and master designers. I’ll have to reflect further to decide if I achieved a positive return-on-investment from that era, but my immediate sense is, NO.


Ya know, the more I write about it, the more Penn State was a turning point. I turned 30 during graduate school, and the gift I bestowed to myself was getting off the dependence on chemical hair treatments. I went to the shop, and told my Philly-bred stylist to cut it all off. Everyone gasped. She did ask, “Are you having a Waiting To Exhale moment?” I responded with something to the effect of, “This isn’t about a man. This is about me.” What grew from that was thick, kinky, beautiful curls. They were fun, easy to manage, and wow, what a relief to my meager pocket book on a student’s salary. The highlight was showing up at the Euroclub’s 70s themed party and everyone complimenting my Afro wig. Wig? This is MY HAIR. I won the costume contest, just by showing up.

Thanks to Shanyce, we're back to normal!
Thanks to Shanyce, we’re back to normal!

Friday afternoon, Miss Shanyce cleaned up my shaggy straight hair, complimenting the entire time, “You have such pretty hair.” I take good care of it, but it spends more time in wraps and clips than styled out. My operating rule is, if I can pull it all back in a ponytail holder, it’s too long. So when Shanyce cleaned it back up to the chin, I said, “Let’s wash it and see how tight the curls get.” “What curls?” “You’ll see.” Two of the instructors noted how lovely the curls looked in the back, like Shanyce had done a permanent. I just smile and said, “That’s my hair.” They were nice enough to capture pics, and I sent them to Shanyce so she can add to her portfolio. When I can afford a personal stylist, I’m looking for you, sweetie!


3 thoughts on “Permed, Pulled, Puffy: A History of Von’s Hair

  1. Oh am sure by June of next year, it’ll be HUGE! Unless of course, Mother Nature intervenes again. If he needs a reminder, there’s two *great* fros in the gallery! 😉 Love you both!

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