Unwelcome VisitorAs a young boy, from the ages of 5 and 11, my mother curled my shortish blonde hair with numerous home permanents and used pins, clips and/rollers to set my hair. I was embarrassed, frustrated and angry with getting my hair curled "like a girl", and before age 9, all my permanents required wearing the curler rods all day or all night, before she started rotating 'neutralization', which just made sitting that much longer. Often I didnt know WHEN the permanent would be given, mom sometimes telling me in advance that I "needed" a permanent, which I didnt understand, as a child 'needing' glasses, while setting my hair, the strands didnt 'cling' to the small rollers used and thusly, every two months, I sat in the kitchen, fighting the horrible stinky waving lotion, while applied by cotton from a bowl, dripped down my cheeks, face, neck and soaked the towels and papers strewn on the floor. I would bury my head in a wash rag or towel while the miserable application continued, making me feel like a drowning dog. My tears rolled down my face as my nose ran with the odor.
Sometimes the permanent was given in a 'surprise', meaning as soon as I got home from school, she had everything ready in the kitchen, including the stool, rods, towels and favored TONETTE by Toni, as well as other 'little girl' home permanents.
On this particular day, we had a day off from school, and my plans included playing with a friend and those plans were shattered when my mom caught me and gave me no warning that my hair would be curled that morning..leading to afternoon., the day crushed. I didnt think of my friend and was quite caught by surprise when he knocked on our door, wanting to see me and my mom telling him that they were "doing my hair", evidently thinking it was getting cut. Because of his insistence, they allowed him in to give me the comic books he'd promised and saw me with a towel wrapped around my already wound up rods. "I didnt know you were giving him a PERMANENT!" he shrilled. But he didnt seem to want to leave and mom opened the bottle and poured it into the bowl and my aunt gave her the cotton balls that would soak my curls. "I didnt know he was a girl!" That comment upset everyone and I yelled back that I was a BOY!, to which he replied that he'd never seen a BOY getting a permanent! "Well, now you do." mom replied. He evidently thought that I'd be finished in no time as she began to soak my curlers he decided to go to the other room and soon we heard the tv on.
He came in shortly after she had finished and couldnt mince words saying that I really did stink! He continued waiting for me to be finished and mom finally told him again that I wouldnt be able to play today. I wouldnt be able to go outside. He didnt seem to comprehend the problem. He continued watching as mom put on the what I called the 'curler helmet' which buckled under my chin, a clear heavy plastic 'waving cap', which I would wear for many hours, often sleeping with it overnight. As she released me from the stool, she thought it would be ok to play, in my bedroom. But no horseplay. And as soon as we started climbing the stairs, he pushed me saying he didnt know I was a girl! I lashed back at him and we scuffled as we reached the room, until mom came in and warned me not to mess up the curlers. (it was a threat that I took quite real). He continued to look at me, his eyes crawling over my head at the wound curlers. I felt impotent, vulnerable to use adult terms. I couldnt do anything about it. I could only try to find some point of boyhood and get him to understand that I wasnt a girl.
We even fell to sleep together and as the day continued as we played board games, he wanted to go outside, and play basketball, but I warned him that I wouldnt be able to go out. He pressed my mom for us to go outside, just outside on the driveway, but she didnt go for it. She told him that she still needed to set my hair and he looked at me questioning and very puzzled. He continued to think even though it was getting late, I'd still be able to go outside. However, he seemed quite shocked as I sat getting the curlers out, and being rewound in the small dime size rollers, each one with a roller bobbi pin holding them. He watched with a shock in his eyes. He continued to shake his head and ask dumb questions. Most of the questions I didnt want to answer. The women just continued with the winding. Suddenly, he went to the living room, and we heard the door slam. Mom said he was riding his bike away. I think we all breathed a sigh of relief, and I was quite concerned that he'd be telling friends and although he went to a different school, it wouldnt be long before all the kids found out that mom had been giving me a permanent. The secret that had gone on and would go on for a few years more, was something that even my older brother lied to kids, neighbor friends, in why I couldnt play with the other kids.
Most of the kids may have had some reason to question WHY my hair looked different on Monday after a permanent over the weekend, but they never seemed to think of a BOY getting his hair curled with them. Thankfully perhaps, because she curled my hair continously, it didnt go from straight to curly, but for restructuring and not change. I could never understand WHY I needed a permanent, because after the terrible curling, it looked fairly like it always did.
I slept in the small plastic rollers, buffed by two hairnets and lacked sleep thinking about my friend and what problems he could cause for me. When he didnt come over the next day, and it was at least two weeks before I saw him with friends playing in a park, I didnt know what to say to him, hopefully to keep quiet. He asked me if my mom had given me any more permanents. I dont think he really understood. He asked me quite bluntly "did you Want a permanent?" I quickly told him I did NOT! It wasnt MY idea! "Why didnt you fight her?" "If my mother had tried to give ME a permanent, I would have hit her!" I couldnt say anything more. I felt helpless. As if he didnt think I had been fighting for all these years?