One of my earliest memories is that of sitting at story time in nursery school. I was a young 4-year old with hair so long I often found myself sitting on it. To free it, I leaned forward, bowing my head until it came loose, then rolled back to listen to the rest of the story. Men called me Blondie. Women cooed over my golden locks.
We had an old black and silver hair dryer that could either sit on the counter or be held like blow-dryers of today. We used that until it started to emit electrical shocks, then finally updated to an orange plastic model in the seventies. Mom would sit me down in front of it, working the boar’s-bristle brush through the long maze of snarled nests. If her patience wavered, I never knew it. Although years later I learned how much she hated that task.
The Powder Pouf Beauty Salon was a cornerstone of the *Moon Plaza for many years, along with Buzz’s Barber shop, Dave’s Sport Shop, the Marine recruitment office, a dance school, and the Alcohol Anonymous meeting room in Fridley, Minnesota. Every Saturday morning, for several years, I packed coloring books and crayons in a small bag, and scrambled into the back of my mother’s white Chevy with red interior. No seat belt. No video games. I remember the smell of hairspray, the hum of the dryers, and looked forward to the attention from all the ladies in curlers and lipstick. It was a very pink place, as you can imagine.
If business was slow, sometimes Sandi, my mother’s beautician (they weren’t stylists back then), turned a dryer on a low setting and let me feel the tiny jets of air tickle my scalp. The warmth gave me goosebumps. The white noise lulled me into a trance. Sometimes I got a bottle of pop, pulled out of a coin-operated machine, that clinked and clunked as the money fell, the mechanism unlocked, and the bottles rolled into place. It was a magical place where my mom transformed from Saturday morning bed-head into a ravishing washed, curled, teased, and sprayed helmet-clad angel.
Then one day it was my turn. Mom turned up the hype. This was my rite of passage. I would be beautiful.
Upon arrival, my woman-friend, Sandi, sat me in a booster seat and wrapped me in a cape. In her hands she held scissors, a rubber band, and my faith. She bound my hair in a pony tail, and in one snip her scissors removed from my head the very essence of my being. Sandi held the bound hair up like a dead rabbit at the end of a day’s hunt, then curled it into a plastic bag that my mother tucked into her perfume-scented purse.
I was Sampson. Stunned. Powerless. My mother sat in the chair next to me, chatting and smiling with Delilah, seemingly oblivious to my loss. Several snips and one Saf-T-Pop later, I was on my way home in the back of the Chev. Mom chatted about the usual things, none of which were important to me in my grief.
At home, I sat on the kitchen floor playing with dolls, or coloring, or something. I have a lot of memories of playing on the kitchen floor for some reason. Gramma and Grampa came through the back door to say hello. Gramma’s eyes shifted from me to my mother and back again. I felt like a specimen. Mom explained that this was a Pixie Cut. It was very popular in those days. Feeling their stares like hot fire on the top of my head, I looked up at Gramma’s speechless face. Never being one to say anything if she couldn’t say something nice, she finally announced, “Well, she’s so homely she’s cute!”
“Well she is, isn’t she?”
I didn’t know what homely meant back then, but I knew from my mom’s reaction it wasn’t good. I filed that word into a special place in my memory called, “Things I don’t want to ask about, but want to know someday.” And when I looked back at my school photo many, many years later, it all came back to me. Mainly, because I thought to myself, “My God. I’m so homely, I’m cute.” Like a frog or a bug.
The following Christmas I got a play wig. It was a long blonde play wig, and it was as if someone had reattached a lost limb. I wore it all the time, glamorously flipping it back with my hands, or whisking it off my shoulder with a toss of my head. Eventually, when I had more voice in the matter, I grew my hair out. Mom chiding, “As long as I don’t have to brush out the knots, you can do whatever you want with it.” Later I cut it again, and permed it. Later yet I grew it out and now still wear it long.
The one thing I have never done is color it. I have few vanities with this old body of mine, so let me have this one. Oh, there is some grey in there, but it’s harder to see against the blonde. Men still call me Blondie and more often Sunshine. Women still ogle, although I suspect they’re looking for roots. And someday I’ll be too old to pull off this long, straight Thirty-something style. But I’m going to rock it as long as I’m able, and maybe a little after that.
In my golden years
I imagine I’ll it cut short again. Maybe if I’m lucky they’ll say I’m so homely I’m cute.
Peace . . .
*Moon Plaza still stands. Although updated, it is much the same.
Buzz the barber celebrated his 50th year in business in 2015, although he quit racing motorcycles at the age of 67.
I’m sad to say that Sandi the beautician died in 2008 at the age of 60. She was eventually the owner of The Powder Pouf and another location in the northeast suburbs of the Twin Cities.