The Strange, Sad Tale of a Beauty Shop Washout

So, I finally did it.  I went to the beauty shop to get my hair done.  It was about time, I’d say.  It’d been a full year and a half since I’d visited Jane at the Classic Image Beauty Salon—a year and a half since I’d been anywhere at all with beauty as my objective.  Okay, maybe actual “beauty” has never been my objective—let’s just call it “image enhancement” or…“lipstick on a pig,” if you like.  

Whatever you want to call it, it costs an arm and a leg, which is one reason I hadn’t been in so long.  Plus, you know how it is when you move to a new place—it’s not easy to find someone you can trust to come at you with a big pair of scissors.  I liked Jane.  We had an understanding.  She knew that I liked a little hair feathered around my high forehead, she knew how to perform the equivalent of a comb-over to make up for the hair I was losing, and she didn’t complain when I dragged my raggedy self in every 14 months or so and asked her to perform a miracle.  I mean, if I was a house, you’d probably call me a real fixer-upper.   She also never mentioned that my curly perm made me look like some refugee from the eighties.

So I put off going until my hair in front that I’d been curling back off my face with a curling iron just wouldn’t stay in anymore without about spraying half a can of Aqua Net on it, no doubt causing considerable widening of that hole in the ozone layer.

I’d noticed one of those chain places near where I buy groceries, so I thought I’d give it a try.  I showed up early, trying to beat the crowds.  The little bell rang cheerfully as I walked in.  There was one person there sweeping, and she looked up, frowning.  I could see it in her face.  She was thinking, Dear God, please don’t let this old lady with gray hair halfway down her back be my customer.   I smiled apologetically and a little obsequiously, like, I know I’m a mess and I’m sorry but can you please help me?

I sat down.  She swept slowly and carefully, obviously stalling for time, looking out in the parking lot eagerly every time a car passed, hoping she could foist me off to one of the other stylists.  But it was Monday, and apparently no one was eager to come in early for work.  So finally, she sighed audibly and resigning herself to the arduous task ahead, motioned me into the chair. 

It wasn’t long, though, after we’d chatted a bit and she realized that I didn’t expect miracles that she began to relax.  She was really quite nice.  I, however, was not so relaxed.  In fact, I was gritting my teeth in pain.  She (we’ll call her Rhonda) obviously believed that the only good perm was a tight perm.  With every roller she rolled, she’d give this little yank at the end, just to make sure there was not one iota of slackness in that curl.  It hurt so much that tears sprang involuntarily to my eyes, but I just bit my lip and thought about how sometimes, we must suffer for our beauty.  And, really, all that tautness had the effect of smoothing out my wrinkles.  Why, my face hadn’t looked that tight in years!  My first facelift!

Two excruciating hours later, she was done and it was time for the big reveal.  As she started pulling out more and more of the little rollers, it became apparent to us both that something had gone terribly wrong.  There was no curl…no, not a bit.  Neither one of us said a word.  All I could think was—I do not care, just let the nerve endings in my head recuperate.  And she was probably thinking—If I don’t say anything, maybe she won’t notice. 

But there was just no denying it.  Rhonda took out the last curler and stared bleakly at my reflection in the mirror.  My hair hung lank and limp.  Finally, she spoke. “You,” she said sadly, “are curl resistant.” 

She called over the other stylists and they stood in a circle around me, shaking their heads mournfully, as though observing the scene of an accident.  “I just can’t understand it,” said Rhonda.  “I’ve never had this happen before.”

They all cast sympathetic looks her way and some of them looked accusingly at me, as though if I wanted it badly enough and if only I had lived a good life, my hair would have curled.  “Curl resistant,” they all repeated, like a chorus in some really bad opera.  “She is curl resistant.”

Finally, Rhonda turned to me and said, “Okay, well…you go on home and see what happens overnight, and if it doesn’t curl, you can come back tomorrow and I’ll do it again for free.”

I couldn’t help it—I laughed.  Partly in relief, that I could get the heck out of there and partly at the idea that my hair might magically curl itself overnight, as I slept.  Rhonda was not amused.  There was nothing funny about curl resistance.

So…to make a long story short, my hair indeed did not curl itself overnight, and I did return, reluctantly, the next day.  The ordeal was repeated, and Rhonda and I both held our breath as she began to remove the curlers.  But, alas, curl resistance is a powerful thing.  We both stared dejectedly at my still lank hair.  Rhonda said nothing, but began to blow dry my hair, perhaps thinking the heat would somehow activate the curl.  But I just ended up looking like a cross between Albert Einstein and Bozo the Clown. 

It was pretty clear that nothing could be done—I was a hopeless case.  Rhonda looked depressed.  I felt sorry for her. “You know,” I said, fingering a few tendrils of limp hair. “I think I definitely see some curl this time.” 

Rhonda brightened and looked again at my reflection in the mirror.  “You know, I think you might be right,” she said, fluffing up my deep-fried frizz.  “Yeah, there is definitely some curl there this time!”

So, I thanked her and made my escape.  Both of us knew it—I looked like Buckwheat on a Bad Hair Day.  But, like I said, she was a nice lady.  At least, she didn’t charge me for the second time.

And, at least the frizz gives body to my thinning hair, though as it grows out, I resemble Bozo more and more.  Maybe I should start a new line of work—buy me some clown shoes and a big red nose.  Maybe I shouldn’t fight it—just go with the flow.

After all, there’s no fighting curl resistance.

18 Responses to “The Strange, Sad Tale of a Beauty Shop Washout”

  1. Judy Says:

    Oh, Beth. What a story! I can’t imagine sitting there twice in two days for nothing. My hair is so fine and thin, too. I used to get it permed but finally gave up because mine just gets fuzzy. I now get it cut about two inches long all over my head and layered and curl it with the curling iron. I have to get it cut often but that is the only way it will do anything. I hate going to the beauty shop to get anything done but do go to get it cut. You have more patience than me that is for sure. I would have probably gone home and cut it all off myself. I hope you get up one morning and it is very curly where some miracle like she was talking about happened over night.

  2. marion Says:

    Oh dear! Many years ago, I stopped coloring my hair so I could find out what actually lay beneath those chemicals. Voila! I discovered silvery stuff that no longer needed to be permed or colored. I just needed a hairdresser with some vision and skill.

    Now, every 6 weeks or so, I visit my dear Eric. For awhile, I became his idol, The Devil Wears Prada’s Meryl Streep who has given new cred to silver hair. After a bit, I began curling my hair forward (to cover age spots on my face…grrrr!) and upkeep is amazingly simple.

    Sweetie, a good haircut from someone who knows what he/she is doing is the answer. Find someone whose hairstyle you like, even a stranger on the street or in the grocery store or wherever, and ask them who cuts their hair.

    Please, no more perms!

  3. Clara Melvin Says:

    Oh Beth, I am sorry you ad to go through the hair deal twice and still no results. When did you become curl resistant? Had your perms ever done that before? I think it was the kind of perm she used. There is a perm made especially for fine resistant hair. I would do like Marion said… fine someone who can give you a good hair cut with a becoming style. I am blessed with “good” hair. All I have to do it shampoo it and let it dry by itself and comb it with my fingers. It has just enough curl so I don’t even use the curling iron. I am thankful.

  4. Clara Melvin Says:

    I need to start spell checking….LOL Clara

  5. Margie Miller Says:

    Once upon a time, I saw a women in a gift shop whose hairdo I liked. I had on a sweater she liked. She asked me where I bought it and I told her I would tell her if she would tell me who did her hair. We swapped information and I went to her hairdresser who did my hair for eight years.

    Unfortunately, the hairdresser eventually got her degree and moved to Tulsa. I began to lose hair as we often do as we age. I finally found another hairdresser who could do something with my hair and I go see her every week.In between times, I wash it myself and since it is short, it manages to make do until the next Wednesday.

  6. wesleyjeanne Says:

    This is hilarious. I love how you can laugh at yourself so easily. So sorry about the curl resistance. Especially since, like me, you so rarely get your hair done at all and don’t enjoy the ordeal.

    Great writing, though!

  7. luckypennies Says:

    Hahahaha…this is great. 😀 I’m sorry it happened, but this post is so funny. It gives me anxiety though…I’ve gotta go get my hair cut, and I’m going to one of those cheap-o places, probably Great Clips. See, I was cheap before going to Aveda, but I’m going all-out cheap now.

    Great picture, too, by the way. And I’d like to vouch for you, as somebody who knows you, that you do not have Bozo hair and that you are absolutely lovely. Ain’t no beauty shop can do nothing to make you better.

  8. Bonnie Jacobs Says:

    When my mom took me for my first perm, my hair was so fine that, when the hairdresser took out all the curlers, it did exactly what yours did … fell out straight as a board. When I tried tying my hair in knots … it was the long-haired ’70s … the lank hair untied itself and fell down. (No, I wasn’t going to wear it that way; I was just curious about what it would do.)

    You have a knack with words. I especially liked these two lines:
    My first facelift!
    Buckwheat on a Bad Hair Day.

    I think you should have illustrated this post with a picture of Buckwheat on a bad hair day, so I went a’googling. Guess what I found? The perfect Buckwheat photo in this post:
    The photo was used by another blogger whose experience at the hair salon resulted in “the worst Jheri curl victim ever.” WARNING! Do NOT read it if you are easily offended by “b@d” words.

    If you’d prefer, you can see the same photo of Buckwhere here:

  9. Jeff Says:

    Wonderful writing! I particularly like the paragraph that describes the other stylists surrounding you “mournfully”. That is a very well-crafted word-picture!

  10. Benjamin Says:

    You’d have a long way to fall before you’d look like Buckwheat.

    But it’s curl resistance!
    curl resistance!
    bringing you down…

    You are a very good writer. Keep it up!

  11. colleen Says:

    I can relate to the whole ordeal and the feelings of discomfort even being in a beauty parlor. I used to be addicted to perms and now I’m addicted to good haircuts. I try to hold them off for a couple of months between each one. My sister was a hairdresser at one time and she gave me my first perms. Then I started doing my own. The trick is to get the beauty parlor type of perms from Sally’s or some such outlet.

    I went cold turkey on the perms … too much frizz, time and smell. I keep my hair layered because it helps give it some oomph. My hair is flat and thin and my head is small and I just gave myself more bangs because my hair is thinning on the sides! I have one hairdresser I like and I constantly worry what will I do when she moves on. It looks good for about a week and then I start sticking it up.

    I need a hat!

    At least your hair isn’t bright red.

  12. Cateepoo Says:

    Thanks for wonderful morning reading. I am 40 years old and letting my hair go natural again. I am loving the grays and love role models like you that can go with the flow and laugh a little. Cathy

  13. Pat Says:

    This post illustrates one of the many reasons I love your writing…you can take a bad and painful perm and turn it into a great story.

    The painful part reminded me of those plastic caps with holes that they used for hilites before foils. My hairdresser said I was particularly tender headed.

  14. CountryDew Says:

    I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry while I read your entry. Poor Beth!

  15. Going Crunchy Says:

    Oh Lord Beth, I’m so busting a gut.

    I gave my mom a home hair streaking job, and did my best durn job. I will never forget her loud shriek when she got out of the shower to find I had streaked her brown hair all sorts of silver grey. I evidenly screwed up the mix to some degree. Hrumph.

    But I’m wondering……did your beauty girl screw up her mix? If you have had a successful perm before then did she get the mix wrong? Shan

  16. Donna Says:

    You are a wonderful writer. As bad as the experience was for you, the story had me laughing. I described the details so well, I could actually see it happening, like a movie in my mind. I’m am still laughing as I write. You are a dear soul, to have been so kind to her.

  17. The Curious Case of a Cut and Curl Calamity « Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl Says:

    […] readers may recall that last year I wrote a post on my misadventures at the beauty salon called The Strange, Sad Tale of a Beauty Shop Washout.  Now in case you don’t want to read the whole thing, here’s a little excerpt from that […]

  18. Rebecca Says:

    Oh dear…. how horrifying! You are much kinder than I would have been. I had several bad experiences in Tulsa when I first moved here about 7 years ago. But then I found a gem of a stylist at a salon in the mall. Well, she has moved a couple of times since then, but I would follow her no matter where she goes! Her name is Angie Wilson and she has a new website So if anyone is out there in Tulsa and is new to the area — give her a call.

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