Soon enough, after four years of being exposed to the folksy Midwest, I outgrew my good-ol’ hardcore Montana musical roots, but the truth is that the roots of my hair remained heavy-metal challenged for at least another 15 years. At the time, I called my penchant for getting spiral perms “a tribute to ’80s hair metal glam bands.” Now that I’ve let my hair enter the new millenium, having stopped the perming and bought a hair dryer, I refer to that dark period as the “why the hell did I think looking like that nutter Dee Snider from Twisted Sister was cool?” era.
I might have continued, unabated, frying my hair in slavish devotion to Geddy Lee, Ronnie James Dio, and John Bon Jovi, but one afternoon a small-town beauty parlor gave me a wake-up call I couldn’t ignore. Two clacking beautologists in Spamtown, MN, underscored for me how my Cool Metal Hair was, in fact, just a wad of trash existing in a state of frizzy balloonification (much like Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley nowadays).
Before I entered the Spamtown Salon that day, I was actually feeling a renewed commitment to my Cool Metal Hair–I mean, on that day, I was sure I was tired of the old half-hearted waves and was completely ready for Bic-lighter-during-a-ballad, standing-ovation curls.
Thinking ahead, I parked in the 12-hour lot outside the salon, knowing that I have many hanks of hair and that perming all of them would require a longer time than writing the comprehensive exams for my graduate degree did.
Walking with briskness, I entered the salon. Within 4 minutes, Karen and Chere’, hair stylists (recognizable by their lack of natural eyebrows), were clucking with great consternation at my DAMAGED and POROUS and PROTEIN-LACKING hair, and soon the perm was declared a moot point–“I mean, look! If I grab her hair, it just breaks off! Look here! And here, when I grab it! Snap! Snap!”
Indeed, in good conscience, as licensed operators, they could not perform their craft on my limping tresses. If I would hope to some day have a perm again, they first would have to perform emergency, life-saving measures on my locks, beginning with me drawing up a living will. As I squirmed under the tightly-neck-velcroed plastic gown, they began to whisper to each other. They searched each others’ eyes–deeply and repeatedly.
Then Karen, shop owner, turned decisively to me and declared, “You will need at least a double PPT treatment–under the dryer, mind you–before you leave today. The first PPT treatment will be done in conjunction with a dose of Climatress. Then, as you exit the shop, you will need to purchase at least three of our specialized products, including the protein Tiger spray, to be used liberally just after gentle towel drying every time you wash your hair for the next month. At that point, we may be able to downgrade you to spraying the Tiger three times a week, but know you will need to come in and let us look at your progress first. Once you’ve made it successfully through our protein-restoration program, we can then re-open the issue of the perm. But before beginning any part of your haircare, we must first lop off a minimum of three inches. We also reserve the right, once we have PPT-ed you, to add layers and trim even more of the damage. This is the only way we can relieve you of the flyaway frizzies that now plague your look. Do you agree to our conditions?”
At this point, Chere’ needed to go have a smoke and field a phone call from Tony, “the Mexican guy who was in my wedding and who used to come in for the flat top.”
I weighed my options and realized I had none, for what could I, English instructor, know about the many moods of hair? Following my brief nod and choked acquiescence, the PPT began. It involved heavy slathering followed by a plastic-bag headwrap and half an hour under the dryer (during which I read BAZAAR–the one where Meg Ryan was grabbing her left breast–and ALLURE–the one in which the fact that grey was that year’s black, whereas the year before brown was black, received heavy coverage).
Then we rinsed and repeated, this time leaving my head in the sink for ten minutes, thus allowing for natural drainage. Following the PPT, my head underwent a second round of firm “if we grab it, will her hair break?” tests. I passed with at least a C+. (Looking at my hair, Karen mused, as though I weren’t right there, “You know, she *could* have pretty hair; I mean, the color’s not bad, and there is some shine up by the scalp. Her friend Pamm said this girl had as much hair as she. That’s a good one! This girl doesn’t have one half the amount of that Pamm!”).
To cement the deal, however, I needed to agree to the aforementioned layers and extra trimming. After that, I was to spend another half an hour under the dryer and then five minutes under the hand-held hairdryer (with diffuser). At this point, my hair was still wet, but I was assured that, despite the -20 windchill, since I did have a hood on my jacket, it would be okay if my hair froze and underwent the rigors of a cold front. And, they mused, did I notice how much more of my natural wave was coming through now that they had amputated the gangrene that had been my hair?
At the front counter, the ladies lined up my new array of haircare products, with Tiger front and center, and watched benevolently as I wrote out my check for $64.75. Two-and-a-half hours after entering, four inches of hair shorter, I suited up to face the outdoor hair freeze.
Saving the day for me was the man waiting to have his hair done, who said to me as I zipped up my head in multiple layers, “Do you climb a lot of mountains? Cuz you have incredible calves. They look really strong.”
Yes, sir, thanks, it *is* a new haircut.
But then I turned around and looked at him, and when I realized it was Ozzy Osbourne himself, there for his own PPT/Tiger treatment, my day was redeemed. I had him autograph every bottle in my bag, even though he couldn’t quite remember how to spell his own name or why he was in Austin, Minnesota, in the first place (“MMMbblll, Sharon dropped me here…the gel is off to have sumping nipped or tucked…where’s the dog poo? Jack climbs things now, ya know.”)
Later that night, after Ozzy came over to my humble digs and ate tamales and Moose Tracks ice cream with me out of hand-me-down dishes from my grandmother, we each sprayed each other’s hair with The Tiger and spent an hour in front of Ally McBeal, detangling with our Afro-picks, humming “Crazy Train” and occasionally shouting “SHAAARRROONN!”