Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Nerd’s Lament: The Folly of Follicular Fulfillment or What The Hell Am I Supposed to Do With This Stuff On My Head?

There are times when I’m convinced I missed Girl Orientation Day back when I was a baby. Like maybe when I was born all the other female infants in the hospital were taken to a special room where they received training on how to dress themselves, match accessories and comport themselves with female dignity while I was somewhere down the hall trying to use my little baby hands to pluck a free Twinkie out of the vending machine and ended up missing the whole thing.

I feel this way in particular when it comes time to get my hair cut.

Nearly every other woman I know has lovely hair, the kind that falls into place just so and swings in a silky and elegant manner with a simple coquettish toss of the head. Me? I can’t help but think small animals are crawling onto my head in the middle of the night, committing murder and leaving their hirsute victims for me to shampoo and condition each morning. It is the only viable explanation for what has been happening to the top of my head for the last 30 years or so.

Weeks before a scheduled hair appointment, I begin to fret. Should I try a new style or just accept – much the way a circus freak accepts their own delicate tail – that no matter what I do, it’s not going to get better?

Once I did try something new. I let a new stylist curl my naturally straight hair. I ended up looking like an old brunette Little Orphan Annie. And I even had those creepy wide open eyes of hers because that’s what I look like when I’m horrified. I tipped the stylist excessively – because who doesn’t reward one’s perpetrator in a situation like that? -- and fled the scene. Oddly enough, a bald rich man and an adorable mutt followed me out....

There is usually one golden moment in the whole hair cutting process. It’s those first few hours after a good new haircut, after the stylist has just spent 30 minutes coating your hair with magical ointments and creams and delicately blow dried each and every layer of your hair with a precision and grace normally associated with the creation of a Faberge egg. Everything looks wonderful in those first few minutes. I look good. I am one of those women with the silky flowing hair and I feel glamorous, like a small-chested movie star.

It’s the next day when it all goes to hell. After the first shampoo, in my clumsy ham-fisted mitts, my follicles return to old form. Whereas the stylist could actually see the back of my head, I have no idea what the hell’s going on back there. There could be Lilliputians building condos. I have no clue. And because I don’t have three hands or a $1,000 blow dryer or three years of professional schooling or the ability to distinguish layers of hair let alone pay individual attention to them, I become resigned once more to the fact that I will never, ever, ever be able to make my hair look the way it did in those first few post-haircut hours.

I’ll never know how other women do it. I stand outside beauty salons trying to study the moves. What do they have that I don’t? And can I buy it in a tube? And why did my baby self have to have that Twinkie? Selfish baby self.

Does anyone else have this problem – the haircut problem, not the Twinkie-eating baby problem – or am I alone in my hair despair?


wendy said...

i have the same problem! i tell my stylist to please, do something that i can manage. she knows i'm horrible with the styling products. no matter how simple she makes it (one product! scrunch your hair in your hands and it's done!) my hair always looks flat and boring. i have come to the conclusion that i simply fail at hair.

Laura said...

There seems to be a blog-about-your-hair virus going around. I am the same way. I think I mistakenly got in the crazy hair line while you were fetching your twinkie...

Anonymous said...

No you are definitely not alone. No one can make their hair look as good as the hairdresser can! I've learned that it's a service I have to pay for so if I have an important event I'll just pay for a blow out. There's a reason there's a whole profession devoted to this!!!

Shannon said...

God, yes... I've taken to saying, when the sweet stylist lady asks what I'd like to do with my hair today, I yell, "SOMETHING THAT DOESN'T REQUIRE ALL OF THIS *swings arms around my head wildly* TO LOOK GOOD, DAMMIT!"

Of course, that haircut doesn't exist, but I continue to hold onto vain hope...

Jen said...

As icky as it sounds, try not washing your hair everyday. I'm not a stylist and frequently have the "monkey's nesting on my head" look, but since I started to wash it every other day I find it less frizzy. Of course, I never achieve the "just walked out of the salon" look, EVAR.

Florinda said...

Trust me, you've got company. I'm a couple of days into a new haircut and haven't figured out exactly how to make it work yet - by the time I do, it will probably be two weeks before the next cut.

My boss asked me this morning, "What did you to to your hair?" I knew what he was getting at, but advised him NEVER to ask a woman that question.

Meredith said...

I agree with what Jen said. I have extremely thick hair, and it really does help if I wash it every other day. The natural head oils have time to make my hair much smoother, and I find it tends to look better the second day. I also use about twice as much conditioner as shampoo.

I'm also a lost cause when it comes to styling my hair, but I'm quite fond of
stuff. It makes my hair very smooth if I put it in wet and then blow it out with a round brush, and that's as close as I can get to a "just-coiffed" look.

Jeanne said...

Uh, my answer is that I cut all my hair off. Luckily I have lots of references to throw out for super-short haired ladies (Jean Seberg in "Breathless", Mia Farrow in "Rosemary's Baby", Twiggy, Edie Sedgwick, Sienna-Miller-as-Edie-Sedgwick, Natalie Portman growing out her V for Vendetta buzz, yadda yadda ya) and, now that I've grown out of my awkward puberty stage (here's hoping, anyway!), there's less chance of me being mistaken for a boy than there used to be.

As soon as my hair starts to get long enough so as to start misbehaving, I go in and get it chopped short again. Take THAT, hair!

dr.gambit said...

"Everything looks wonderful in those first few minutes. I look good. I am one of those women with the silky flowing hair and I feel glamorous, like a small-chested movie star."

as far as i am concerned, that was the quote of the year....

given that i am the (wanna-be) nerd boy on this excessively female place, i will say that your hair has always and will always continue to look lovely.

you can see why i shave my head now...

Jessica said...

As has already been stated, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I get so frustrated with my hair that every so often, I consider how much work would be involved in just dreadlocking it and not having to deal with this "styling" crud. I've given up going to the salon, I have a friend who can convincingly cut hair for free, and all I do with it is keep it long enough that I can pull it back and keep it out of my face.

I, too, marvel at the women who make their hair look like an ad for Pantene. I've asked a few how they do it, and they always have some overly simple answer that just CAN'T be all that's involved. I choose to believe they are just mocking me for not knowing their secrets.

Mickie Poe said...

Ladeez, I have the answer! I used to leave the salon cherishing my new do, fretting about the day I'd have to wash it and go back to "yuck." But these days, my hair is so awesome, I don't even use a hairbrush anymore. Seriously. I barely even touch my hair and yes, the days when I get the best compliments from people are the days I didn't even wash it! The answer to your hair problems is this: stop going to your current stylist. Go to a straight man working in a gay salon and ask for The Mandy Moore. You'll thank your lucky stars.


amanda said...

Well, at least you don't have curly hair! Most days, my hair looks like a mess Diana Ross would covet -- frizzy, lopsided, and BIG. Like a nest that small woodland creatures and birds that spit live in. Plus, if hair is dry, I can't comb through it, since brushes only make the hair angry. True story: I was brushing out my hair before my haircut (my stylist refuses, that's how bad it is), and a styling assistant walked by, stopped, stared, and murmured "Whoah .... that's something".

If I'm running short on time, I pull my hair back into a ponytail or loose bun. But if I actually have the energy to wrestle my hair into submission, it literally takes two of us at least an hour to convince my hair to calm down and curl nicely.
So, I firmly believe that the women with the good hair either have magnificent genes, or very expensive tools and lots of early mornings.

Liz said...

Thank you, everyone, for these great comments. I am so glad to know that I'm not alone. Amanda, I loved what you said about women with great hair having good genes, lots of expensive tools and lots of early mornings. I'm pretty sure I would have to get up about 45 minutes earlier than normal to even achieve a semblence of good hair -- and I think I'm too lazy to do that.

Mickie, I'm totally going to try your solution because I know for a fact that your hair does indeed look awesome all the time.

And Meredith, thanks for the Aveda suggestion. I'm going to check it out.

If I suddenly get awesome, award-winning hair, I will let everyone know. Or I might just run across the field at half time during the Super Bowl -- that's how happy I'd be!!

Trey said...

You are absolutely not alone. My troubles would be the reason why I resorted to perming my hair through most of the 80's. (ok, this gave me semi-big 80's hair, but I was sorta in fashion at the time).

These days I just refuse. I do not style. I haven't used a blow dryer since '91. I got my stylist to give me a cut that seems a tad messy, since that's what my hair is going to look like anyway no matter what I do, and I pretend it's all how I planned it.

jenn said...

Oh Liz, I feel this, so hard. Once my hair gets past a certain length, it starts getting really disgusting, which is a real shame. I'm the most low-maintenance person ever, and have that kind of hair that's wavy and frizzy on a bad day, and pretty curly but still rather lifeless on a good day, so I feel the pain. I've been putting off a haircut for a few months now and know I need to take the plunge soon, but it's so painful to even think of doing it. So instead, I'll just grumble about it.

jenn said...

Oh boy, so I was just on MSN and guess what I found?>1=10823

I thought of you immediately (re: #1)

Liz said...

Jen, that's hilarious. I love it. And it's so completely true.

Trey said...

Jen, great list! I'm now going to go and spread that to some folks who need to read it. :-)

MandyU said...

I've never visited your site before. I came from Not Martha and now I've got The Park Bench bookmarked.

Anyway, my solution is to wear a scarf on my head. Not any religious scarf, more of a peasant look. If I pull my hair into a really messy pony tail and throw a scarf on to look like a makes me feel European. I've never heard anyone laughing at me, so I think it works anyway. Embrace the messy!

Liz said...

Mandy U, I like that idea. I think I'll have to give it a try, especially if I let it grow a bit longer and can do a nice summer-y scarf when it gets warmer out.

Welcome to the site! It's nice to have so many Not Martha folks find us here!

LadyGypsy said...

I laughed until the tears flowed...found you from NotMartha, and like Mandyu, you're now bookmarked.

As for my hair...I came of age in the '80s, and I could do big hair well. I do "subtle style" much less well.

Here you can see my latest disaster...the Not-Samantha-Who style.

chronicler said...

Oh please let me join the club! I got mine done the other day and after two hours of tugging and pulling and questioning it came down to this: "I am really stressed today and I'm really hungry. Would you mind if I didn't blow your hair out So I could go get something to eat?"

Yeah. That's what happens to me. I thought for sure you'd come over and joined me for a day or two with your description of lack of girl skillz.

Just call me one of the nerds.

Liz said...

LadyGypsy, thanks so much for your comment. And for the record, I think your hair looks quite nice! :-)

And Chronicler, that's a great story. You are welcome in the club. Somehow I think we should all have some sort of secret handshake, maybe resembling sad scissors or something.

Kate said...

It's all about a good cut! It's worth paying more for a cut that is wash and wear and looks great as it grows out. For anybody in Seattle, I just found a stylist I really like-Bash at Vain downtown. He cut my hair exactly the way I wanted it to be even though I know I did a bad job of communicating what I wanted. He didn't put any product in it and used his fingers instead of a round brush when he blew it out. All things I can do easily at home. It looks like a million bucks weeks later./unintentional commercial.

It says I have to have a nickname said...

Hi there, I just got here from I must have been a twinkie-stealing baby, too, because I know just what you're talking about.

I haven't read the tons of other comments, so maybe this is already in there, but I have naturally *almost* straight hair. There's one half-wavy chunk right down the back that always sticks out funny and has been the bane of my hair life for as long as I've been aware of the back of my head. However, I have managed, somehow, against all odds, to give myself decent hair when I want to.

This is how I do it: (when I want it to look nice. Usually I just let it look like hell.)

1) When choosing shampoo and conditioner, choose a shampoo that matches your scalp and a conditioner that matches your hair. I have really thick, dry hair, so I use moisturizing conditioner, but my scalp can get oily sometimes, so I just use normal shampoo (I like Dove, personally).

2) When I get out of the shower, I towel-dry it a bit, then use some Garnier Fructis conditioning glaze on the ends and the parts that frame my face. It's NOT a gel (gel makes me sticky and hate the world)...I guess it would be best described as hair lube. This is the magical ingredient that makes your hair look professionally styled. I suppose any brand would be just as good, but make sure it says something shine serum or glaze. That's the key.

3) Then, I blow-dry it. When blow-drying, I'll clip up half of it on my head (like I said, my hair is really thick) and do the under-side first, with a brush. Then, I'll un-clip and blow-dry the rest.

That's what works for me. Good luck!

Joanna said...

I toddled over from Not Martha and I have to agree with Jeanne, I chopped all of mine off!

I have super fine super straight hair, which turns into a frizzy rats nest if I let it grow any longer than brushing my shoulders.
(Go figure that I had waist length hair until the age of 12, and quite long even until 15. It was a hellish hair decade)

I now try to keep it about chin length or shorter, and I have had pretty good hair days ever since! It never achieves that first day glam, but at least I can just wash it and run without looking too disheveled. I get really funky cuts with fun colours, so that all the style is built in.

This may not work for you as well as for me, since I will let a hairdresser do absolutely anything to my hair (I've had a mohawk and every colour of the rainbow, chopped half an inch short, anything)

jojo said...

If you can swing it, spend $150 on a really good straightening iron. The expensive ones really are leaps and bounds better than the $30 ones you can get at the drugstore. It has changed my life. It's a pain to do, but it lasts for days and makes your hair virtually frizz-proof.

Anonymous said...

I had this horrible bird's nest growing out of my head until I picked up the book "Curly Girl." Here's what I learned:

1. Curly hair is actually really pretty.

2. Lots of girls who think they have bushy straight hair really have fried curly hair.

3. Hair hates shampoo.

4. Hair loves Conditioner.

5. Hair is not a big fan of hairbrushes, blow dryers or curling irons.

6. Hair doesn't appreciate being touched while it's drying. Once it's dry, it really wants to be left alone.

7. In parts of head where hair does not have volume, hair does like to be propped up bobby pins while it dries.

8. Hair doesn't like blunt cuts. It really wants to be cut while dry.

9. Hair doesn't get along with humidity and rain. Sorry.

10. When hair is happy and healthy, it will look pretty. Drink plenty of water, eat things that are green, learn a new language, paint, dance, and your hair will be proud to grow on your head.