Got Perm, Will Travel – Part 2

Holy hell, this whole hair-perm thing has been one serious rollercoaster the past few days. I went through an entire romance with this ‘do in the span of a few hours – from love to tearful breakup and total reconciliation in one night. And all it took to set me off was a shower. I actually wrote a whole blog post at each stage too, and am having to re-write it a third time now that the whole cycle is over. Here we go:

I got through Day 2 of the no-shampoo edict that was handed down when I got my perm on Thursday; the hair had calmed down a bit and I was thoroughly enjoying it. Then I went ahead and washed it Saturday evening since it was after the 48-hour time limit and I wanted to start playing around with it to see what it could do – major panic! The ends frizzed up and dried as soon as I got out of the shower, and it appeared to have suffered major damage from the perm. It looked really bad, and I was back in that “OMG I’ve ruined my hair” headspace I was in on Thursday.

Fortunately, I’d stopped off at Ulta Saturday afternoon and picked up a product called “Anti-Snap” by Redken that I had to use when I bleached and fried my hair two years ago; I figured I’d be needing some sort of deep conditioner to use regularly on my perm, I just didn’t know I’d be needing it this soon. In fact, the stylist specifically told me not to deep condition the hair right away, but this looked too bad to leave alone, and fortunately with a little Anti-Snap worked into the damaged ends it looked a bit better.

Taken before the breakup

I don’t mind telling you that the five minutes or so I was staring at all those fried frizzy ends was almost as bad as the first few minutes after I saw myself in the mirror Thursday. I went through a depressing period of considering all I was going to have to do to learn how to work with this new ‘do.  I considered the possibility that I would have to find all new products to use; the stylist put something in it that gave the curls nice definition, but the little bit of mousse and curl cream I applied Saturday night definitely did not do the trick. I began to swim through the internet sea of products available to curly hair currently on the market – the number is somewhere around eight billion I believe – and I began to worry I might spend weeks trying to concoct the proper hair cocktail to get the curls back that had apparently washed down the shower drain, while in the meantime I pulled my newly-permed hair back into a ponytail and prayed for a miracle.

Then I considered the ways I’d need to change my normal hair routine, as my usual one was working against me. I’ve always washed my hair at night and left it alone to air-dry, then styled it in the morning. Because of this, my hair generally looks terrible in the evening after I shower; I just let it go and don’t even put much product in it, so it’s a shapeless mess. I am totally used to this, but it was painful Saturday night looking in the mirror and seeing this big puffbull atop my head, waving back at me like a massive dandelion in a breeze bidding goodbye to it’s previous curl definition. I thought I would probably have to completely change my daily routine and start washing and styling my hair in the morning until my perm grew out to avoid being depressed every night.

And then I started thinking I would probably need to add some layers to my hair to balance out the triangle-shape that was going on too…and just about the time I started regretting the whole thing, I realized it would be easier, and not really all that ridiculous, to go ahead and finish the entire styling process to see what I was really dealing with, even though the the only thing I was going to do was go to bed once I was done, and I would have to do it all again in the morning. And of course, with just a little more product spritzed in it and a blow-dryer shot with a diffuser, it looked great. At least in my opinion.

Photo Jul 05, 11 29 33 PM
I was so excited I stuck my tongue out and it looked terrible, and no way I’m sharing that, sorry.

Overall the curl hasn’t relaxed much and is still very tight, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if it tones down a bit more it’ll look more on-trend. Curls in general are making a comeback – or so the magazines say – so in time I can figure out how to work with this and make it more current if I need to do so. Oh and by the way – the stylist did mention that since my hair was dyed back in March, the perm would lighten the color, and that has definitely happened. Not totally thrilled with that, but it was unavoidable. And I really do still think some layers are going to be necessary to make the shape work better with the curl, but that’s not a major deal and can be done without losing much length – I think adding some long layers around the crown area would do it, and I’m supposed to go back to the stylist in 4 to 6 weeks to get the dried ends trimmed off anyway. I’m not going to do that too soon though, so I have time to play around and be certain that it’s what I need to do.

Another one taken before the split-end meltdown – actually, I think you can already see the curls getting a little softer in the photo above

On another note, I am having thoughts about the blog and ways in which I’d like to change it. I’d like to utilize better categories than the ones I have now, since it appears the blog is never going to be solely about art and will always in part discuss things like clothes, hair perms, and other frivolous life-in-generals. I figure I might as well structure the blog that way so it makes more sense instead of labeling everything that isn’t about photography “blog” and letting it all pile up in that category. I’d like to change up the look of it too – it feels so dark to me right now. Lightening it up should be easy; the rest might take awhile, so stay tuned.

You can read another update to the perm adventure here!



Got Perm, Will Travel

I couldn’t think of a better title, sorry. Hey, if you have one let me know and I’ll change it! Moving on.

Well the three or four of you that read here regularly know I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a perm for awhile now. About a year, in fact. I love curly hair, and I like my hair curly when I can get it to actually curl without falling out halfway through the day. Recently I bought this styling tool called a ‘bubble wand’ that can create lovely beach waves in the hair – when it works. As with all things heat-styling, my ability to consistently create the same result from it each time was sketchy at best; sometimes it came out great as in the photo below:


And sometimes it just looked unbrushed and sloppy (for obvious reasons, I do not have photographic evidence of this). When it looked great, I loved it to death – enough to bother with the 15-20 minutes or so it took to style it each morning (and in spite of my concerns over what all that heat-styling was doing to my hair). Well, after two days of attempting to use the bubble wand and having it turn to mush almost immediately and being ticked off at losing twenty minutes of my time only to end up with it in a ponytail at the end  of all that, I decided to go for a consultation to get a perm. I’d been reading and researching and debating about this for some time, so I knew the risks as well as the flat-out truth that I was going to be frying my hair, it would need time to recover, and I was most likely going to hate it the first week or so. I was also prepared for it not to look anything like the photo above, because perms rather do their own thing depending on the hair of the person who’s getting one. I felt ready to take the risk.

I also knew you needed to go to someone who does perms regularly, even if that person is not your regular stylist. I knew my regular stylist did not give perms, and I also knew, based on an article about perms that came out in the newspaper two years ago, that the salon where I get my nails done has a few stylists that do them (the article was on how perms are “coming back,” which I have been reading about for a years or so, ever since I started to get the desire to try one) so while I was out running errands Thursday I called the salon and set up an appointment for a consultation. We met, I showed him the above photo, he told me my  hair would work fine with a perm, and we got down to it. I won’t keep you in suspense any longer:


Yyyyyeah, not exactly like the big waves of the previous picture. But I expected that. Everything I’d read in the past year said I’d have to wait at least a week to get the curls I wanted, and that my hair would look like a frizzball at first while I waited for that to happen. But it was still a huge jolt when I put on my glasses for the first time and saw it (one thing about getting anything done to my hair – I have to take my glasses off so the stylist can work. which means I never know what is happening to my hair until it’s over and I can put my glasses back on). The whole experience at that point became quite odd – I was in shock and just trying to process (no pun intended) what was going on with my hair and stay calm, while also trying to get a read for what other people were thinking about it. And, get this – it was July 3rd, around 5:30 PM at this point, and I was literally the only client in the salon. I guess everyone else was already heading out of town for the holiday instead of getting their hair done. This salon is quite nice and incredibly big (a  huge two-story building) and none of  the other stylists or technicians appeared to have clients, so, there were loads of people standing around while I was trying to remain calm and get out of there, and not one of them looked at or said anything to me while I was at the register.

Now, I’ve spent a lot of time reading people in my years of wig-wearing, going out in some fake hair and trying to get a sense of whether or not others are noticing what’s on my head, so I immediately shifted into that mode, and the lack of reaction felt ominous – this was a hair salon after all, so it’s pretty typical for the receptionists to at least comment on whatever it is you just had done to your hair, especially when it’s something drastic. But then again, I don’t normally get my hair done there, just my nails, so maybe I’m wrong about that. For my part, I was still shaking a little bit, and the only thought that was going through my head was “oh my God, I’ve ruined my hair.” I finally asked the woman checking me out why none of them were looking at me, and if that meant it was as bad as I thought. She just said no, it looked fine, and some ramble about how she used to get perms a long time ago and it always looked like that, but the whole experience was terribly uncomfortable, and the guy who’d permed me had also disappeared, so I feared the worst – that somehow the perm had gone horrible awry and everyone was waiting for me to leave so they could stop holding their breath and pretending like I looked OK and talk about how terrible it turned out. Awkward.


Instead of heading home right away after I checked out, I went down to the Marriott hotel that is a part of the town square center where the salon is and headed straight for their guest bathrooms to get a private gander at it and think. And well, it was pretty bad. Super-frizzy, tight, 80’s-perm curls, no doubt about it. But. Everything I’d read over the year I’d been researching the subject told me to expect this and that it took days if not weeks for the curls to relax (and the stylist said the same), so that kept me from going into complete shock. I’d had no delusions going in that I was doing anything other than damaging my hair with chemicals; I’d just weighed the short-term negatives of that against the ongoing heat damage I’d get from the various methods I used to wear my natural hair either straight or curly (I was either using the bubble wand to get decent  curl from my air-dried hair or blowing it dry straight) and figured in the long run it would come out to be the same, since with the perm I could just air it dry and be done (not to mention the time I could save with the day-to-day styling). So I knew the first few days were going to be tough, but wow – I was still stunned, let me tell you.

And, I had to go home and face my husband. I don’t mind sounding a bit like a Stepford wife here and telling you I was terrified he was going to hate it – and I’m someone who has worn her hair in a manner for most of her marriage that her husband hated. I just knew he was going to take one look at it and we’d be back to that ‘we’ll just agree not to talk about your hair’ arrangement we had for twelve years, and I really did not want to go back there (fortunately I’d told him I was having the process done, so at least he wasn’t going to be totally thrown). I decided to take some time and “test run” my new hair as I often did when trying out a new wig – wander into some shops and pretend to look around while really monitoring other people’s reactions to me instead. What I noticed was that while no one was going out of their way to compliment my hair by  any stretch of the imagination, no one was reacting to my hair negatively either; I was being more or less ignored, which for anyone who wears supplemental hair will tell you is exactly what you want. If it’s not what you want, it is at least perfectly OK and way preferable to people staring at your head and smirking or scrutinizing. In short, while my hair clearly did not look amazing, it also clearly did not look horrifying, so I started to calm down.


By this time it was about 7:15 PM and I figured I had to go home sometime, so I put on my best and brightest happy face, snapped a selfie in the Marriott bathroom, and sent it to my husband with a text that read “I look amazing!”  – which I saying to myself as much as to him, in that Stuart Smalley sort of way. Then I got in the car and headed home. By the time I got close, he’d already responded by saying that he thought it looked cute, but that it would “look even better if it was longer,” which is so typical of him it’s hilarious. I reassured him that no length had been cut and that it was just the curl shortening it up a bit, and that yes I was still growing it out and the frizz would die down in a few days and then it would look better. And by the time I walked through the door I was in the lemonade-out-of-lemons mode I can go into quite quickly when it comes to my hair, wherein I know I can deal with it and make it work as long as it doesn’t fall out – the loads of hair fiascos I’ve had over the course of my life have trained me well. It’s definitely going to help as I get through the 48-hour period here where I cannot wash or do anything to this new adventure I’ve got going on top of my head. Because right now it’s wait and see for sure.


So it’s Friday morning now, and although it still looks like a frizzy puffball, it doesn’t feel nearly as dry as it did yesterday, so that’s a good start. And I don’t have much to do the next two days so I can hide out until it calms down, or at least until I can wash it on Sunday. I will keep you all alerted of my progress, but please, keep the comments gentle. My hair and my ego are a little delicate right now – although I think in the long run I am going to like it. If not, I’ll make it work. I always do. And I am glad I finally took the plunge and gave this a shot, since I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time and at least now can say I’ve done it and get it off the to-do-someday list. If nothing else, it will take interesting pictures!

You can read an update to the perm adventure here.

Growing out short hair, the hard way

I’ve been wanting to post a hair update for the few who read this blog who know how long I’ve been trying to grow my hair out from a super-short cut (talking to you, Lana). I was waiting to get my color touched up before taking update photos, which I did last Tuesday, but I didn’t have time to shoot during the week. I decided to snap a few quick pics while doing test shots for the photoshoot I’m planning, so I’ll go ahead and do the hair update now.

For most of my teenage and adult life, my hair has been very short. In junior high, my mom allowed me to go to a stylist and get whatever cut I wanted for the first time, and I immediately chopped it into a short feathered style a la my idol, Kristy McNichol (she was THE COOLEST chick on the planet if you were a young girl at that time – and not only that, she was actually a very good actress. Completely unknown now, I think, but there are those of us who remember what a badass she was back in the day).


Unfortunately, that whole “feathered” hair thing was not manageable with the sort of fine, wavy hair I possessed, and keeping it all swooshing back away from my face was next to impossible; it just wanted to flop forward now matter how much Final Net I sprayed into it each morning. The  best hair to have back then was thick and fairly straight, and I remember admiring girls who could part their hair from the middle, then whoosh it all back on both side so the ‘wings’ would touch. Then they’d spray the shit out of it and it would stay that way, immobile, all day long. Not this gal. I ended up with the dreaded sausage-roll that only flipped around my face while the rest was a frizzy mess.

Good feathered hair.

My feathered hair. Yeah, that’s me – age 13.

From this I determined that I had “bad hair,” especially when you added to the mix that I grew up in a very conservative area of Texas, where hair that was not blonde was a huge detriment to one’s attractiveness. In ninth grade, I decided since I couldn’t pull off length, and I wasn’t all that much to look at (I never thought I was ugly, just kind of plain, and certainly not the cheerleader-y, all-American ideal guys my age at the time idolized) I decided to cut it all off and go super-short, something only a handful of other girls my age were bold enough to do (I think I recall two other girls at my high school with boy-short hair). I felt this gave me an edge, and made me more interesting and noticeable. I was probably right, as my short hair has always been one of my distinctive qualities.

Me at 18.

Throughout my adult years I’ve had just about every variation of short hairstyle you can imagine, but it has always been boy-short. In fact, to me a chin-length bob was considered long just because the ears were covered. The four photos in this collage probably span the past 15 years, easy:

Remember how I mentioned that before a few years ago, I knew nothing about taking photos? This collage proves that.

However, as I moved into my forties, an interesting thing happened. My short hair became less distinctive, and more, well, expected. In my thirties, short hair on a woman was still considered pretty unique, at least the short hair I wore due to my willingness to experiment, razor and buzz, and color at whim. But many women, if not most, start to chop off their hair in their forties, and I began to feel boring and predictable instead of interesting. To distance myself from the soccer moms, I reverted back to the occasional buzz-cut I’ve been known to wear at various times – but I really didn’t care for it anymore (plus, my husband has always hated my hair that short). So a few months later I decided to grow it out for real, and it was at that time I got into wearing wigs so I could keep the mess covered while I did so. I felt it was the only way I’d have the patience to do it, and I could experiment with different lengths and styles while it grew.

The thing is, I’d become so convinced that I didn’t look good in long hair; a belief I developed way back in junior high school, that I’d not ever seriously considered wearing it any longer than the aforementioned chin-length bob. But when I started wearing wigs, I realized I could pull off a much longer style. I became more determined to grow my hair out long, for the first time in my adult life.

That was about three years ago, I’d say, and I definitely hit some snags along the way. I managed to make it seven months without a single cut thanks to wigs, but right before my birthday two summers ago I decided to go get a trim. The problem was, I was between hairstylists and looking for a new one, so I not only had to go get my hair cut into some sort of style without losing too much of it, but I also had to find someone who could do a decent job. Unfortunately, I didn’t hit the hairball right out of the park with my initial stylist choices, and eventually ended up growing out, and then cutting off, most of my length twice in the span of two years. One time the cut was so bad I just chopped it all off and started over, the other time I did my best to let the mess grow and resigned myself to looking like hell for 5  or 6 months while I grew out a horrible cut that made an already crappy mess look even crappier.

On the left was the “custom cut” I received from a pricey salon in the city; it looked cool for about a week, then transformed into a ridiculous mess. Maybe you can’t tell, but there were no two sections of hair that were the same length – it was described by a stylist who tried to fix it months later as “having been chewed on by wolves.” On the right is a faux-hawk I got during another exasperated moment of giving up on growing out.

So here I am, three years later, and I have finally got some semblance of the chin-length bob that I am determined to grow to my shoulders. I found a great stylist last year who’s been good about trimming it just enough to keep it in some sort of style but still allow it to grow. Not that we didn’t make a few mistakes along the way though – leave it to me to constantly throw a wrench into the hair growth plans. Last November I decided I wanted to do some radical color again, which I hadn’t done since starting down the hair growth path, and let’s just say I went really radical:


This looked cool as hell, for about 24 hours. Then the red dye melted into the bleach, turning it pink. I had to wear a hat to work for two days, then make an emergency trip back to my stylist, who managed to transform the pink bleach into a, shall we say, unique copper color. For the next four months, I looked like the Heat Miser.

Not even kidding.

Needless to say, frying my hair with bleach while trying to grow it out at the same time was not the wisest decision, and my stylist has since learned to talk me down off the wild woman ledge when I step too close to it (such as my recent desire to get a perm; he made me wait until the next appointment “so it can grow a little” before getting it, and I’d of course changed my mind by then. I later realized he’d never intended to perm it in the first place. Good boy). I eventually was able to dye over it, but we did have to wait awhile, and I actually had to be seen in public for about four months with copper and burgundy hair. And yet, like the chewed-on-by-wolves “custom cut” and the faux-hawk, I survived, and I am still determined to grow this mess to my shoulders. But for now, here’s where it is – a nice normal cut, and a nice normal color (I think we are finally at the point where the dye is going to stay this time and not fade out where all that bleach was like it’s been doing for the past year):

I have a lot of hair, but it’s very fine, which means it’s always going to look flat. Oh well. At least it’s not orange.

Close to my natural color, but warmer and a touch lighter. Also minus the gray that’s sprinkled throughout mine.