A really bad hair day

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 19, 1999

Features Editor

Published Oct. 18, 1999

Not many old bags get a compliment from a celebrity but this old gal did.

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Baseball Hall of Famer Don Sutton took one look at me and said, "I love your hair!"

We both laughed because my frizzy locks looked just like his.

Phyllis Diller was once asked how she got her frizzled hair to look that way.

"I was in the bathtub and the radio fell in!" quipped the comedian.

Well, I can’t blame a radio for my kinky curls, their roots go back to my childhood and a family conspiracy.

My cousin Net was a "softer side of Sears" little girl and I was more of an Ace Hardware kind of kid.

She had a little flip and a clip in her hair and I had a Buster Brown with bangs. We thought we looked just fine but our grandmother thought it would be nice if we "surprised" our mamas with a permanent wave.

This day, I know our mamas were in cahoots with Mommie and the whole thing was a conspiracy to get us to Miss Rachel’s beauty parlor on West Troy Street.

We were taken in by the possibility of surprising our mothers. What fun that would be!

So, the next day, we rode off into the summer morn with our grandmother at the wheel of her Buick automobile. We were intent of pulling one over on our mothers – a real surprise is what they were in store for, Mommie said.

She dropped us off at the beauty parlor to get "all prettied up" but we got all fascinated by the big electric permanent machine standing in the corner.

"What is it? What does it do? Can we do that?"

The thoughts of getting hooked up to electricity and coming out looking like a movie star was more that we could stand. So, no matter how hard Miss Rachel talked, she couldn’t talk us out of getting an electric perm.

I went first and Net watched in great anticipation as Miss Rachel rolled me and then hooked each curl to the electric machine.

The clamps pulled my eyes so tight I looked like a Chinese. My mouth was pulled around and my ears up high and, when Miss Rachel shot the juice to me, I thought I would die.

It burned over here and over there and up here and down there. She gave me a stick so I could point were it was the hottest. I sweated and squirmed and pointed here and there and everywhere.

Miss Rachel came running and stuffed in cotton everywhere I pointed until my whole head was as one big fluff ball.

Then, I smelled something singe. My hair? My hair! My hair was on fire!

"Put it out! Put it out! Turn me off! Get me outta here!"

Net’s eyes were getting bigger and bigger ’cause her turn was next.

Miss Rachel unhooked me and my head fell to the side, exhausted from the being hooked to a ton of metal.

While I got combed out, Net got roasted. She pointed and squirmed and sweated and hollered and it got funny to me.

At long last, we were finished and Miss Rachel looked frazzled but she said we looked beautiful.

I thought we kind of looked like the bride of Frankenstein or maybe like the whole radio tower fell in the tub with us. Our hair sure was big and frizzy.

"Is this the way you look when you get electrocuted?" I asked.

Miss Rachel didn’t answer, so I supposed it was.

She called our grandmother and we waited for her outside on the little stoop. We knew she’d be bringing our mamas for the big surprise.

Finally, we saw her Buick coming up West Troy. We leaned out over the rail so they could get a good look at their little girls all prettied up.

Aunt Jeanette was driving and Mommie was on the passenger side. They were both straining their necks toward us. My mama was leaning over from the backseat, craning her neck, and they all the most surprised looks on their faces you’ve seen in your life,.

They all were talking at one time – real fast, like hens talking rooster. How beautiful they must think we look!

We ran to the car and opened the door. "Surprise! Surprise!"

And, boy, were they surprised! So surprised they couldn’t say a word. They just sat there with their mouths dropped open.

We hopped in the back seat with mama and grinned all the way home.

We had really surprised our mamas. We really had, and you know, I think we surprised Mommie, too.