Which Twin has the Toni?

Me with natural curls, my sister with bows.

Upon seeing a faded photo of her heretofore unknown about half-sister, Mary Karr writes in her memoir, The Liars’ Club, “She had a tight little Afro, and this was long before Angela Davis made that hairdo mean something. In fact, it was the age of the Toni Home Permanent, a kind of chemical skull-burn enacted on girl children all through the late fifties and early sixties. In our area, the perm solution was so strong that they rigged matchboxes over your ears with rubber bands and cotton wool to keep the drippings from blistering your ears slap off.”

I laughed out loud when I read this slight exaggeration about Toni Home Permanents, but they did stink to high heaven. Actually, they were enacted on little girls from the late forties. I had naturally curly hair. My sister, two years older, did not. Mama cut off my curls after this photo was taken (natural Shirley Temple curls), then proceeded to give us both perms, mine generally turning my hair the texture of a Brillo pad.

Mom gave me the last perm my freshman year of high school. I still remember my embarrassment. No more. I started cutting my own hair. Curly hair doesn’t show haircut mistakes like straight hair does, at least I didn’t see any.

Not too many years later, long straight hair became the fashion so I started ironing my then long wavy hair to my dad’s and step mother’s dismay. “Your beautiful curls,” they would lament.

Ah, memories… Have any childhood “hair-ror” stories you’d care to share?


1 Comment

Filed under Memoir musings

One response to “Which Twin has the Toni?

  1. When I was about 12 there was a product on the market called Sun In (don’t know if they make it anymore). You would put it in your hair and then go out in the sun. It would lightening your hair. I had brown hair and it turned it red, and redder each time I used it. I used it a lot, for about a week.

    I remember my mother asking me “what the hell are you using on your hair”. I told her I was using a strawberry shampoo, which was technically true (along with the Sun In, I had a new shampoo). Well I evaded telling her the truth for as long as I could. When I finally confessed she wasn’t as angry as I thought she would be, in fact she let me keep using it. Then two days later I woke up and my hair was ORANGE, and not one of those nice oranges you can add to your hair today. Nope, this was “without a doubt I made a mistake orange” My father suggested taking me to the beauty parlor, but my mother said no that this is what I wanted. After about a week it faded (good thing it was summer and I didn’t have to go to school).

    It taught me 2 very important lessons:
    1st – read instructions CAREFULLY.
    2nd – don’t f*&k with my mother. This is one clever woman when making a point. She let me do it with full knowledge that I was going to regret it and then I truly believe she enjoyed watching me suffer.

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