My Kingdom for a Curl
“Which twin has the
Toni?” One of the most famous fifties ads for home permanents showed identical twins each given the
“royal treatment”—one, a professional hair salon wave, the other a Toni home permanent. The ad challenged the reader to
guess which twin had been given the Toni. Growing up in the Sixties with parents who had naturally wavy hair,
and a sister whose head sported a mass of soft curls—I’d have given my kingdom for a curl! The Toni home
permanent kit became a vial/viable solution to transform my poker straight strands into Shirley Temple
ringlets. If you saw my first grade class photo with my hair gathered into a side cauliflower of a pony tail,
you’d understand why I wanted to curl up and dye.
My mother experimentally administered my first
Toni when I was seven. It was a raving success!
Getting a home perm became a yearly ritual before school started in September until I was twelve. There were two
parts to becoming permed—rolling small sections of hair over a rod and wrapping the coiled hair inside the rod with end paper; applying a
chemical solution along each wrapped rod to seal the deal. The solution stunk to high heaven of ammonia, but I learned
at an early age how sacrifices must be made in order to achieve goals—even shallow ones.
Not yet a means to an end, whenever I washed
my hair, it would have to “get set” using Spoolies or the trendiest rollers to soften the effects of the perm
into natural looking curls. Otherwise, my hair
would have felt like barbed wire and looked like I’d plugged myself into an electrical socket. By the time I
boarded the bus for school, my locks were coiffed into lovely banana curls which the boys liked to tug on to see
if they’d spring back—they did.
By the time the late Sixties rolled around, I
was no longer twirling my hair around rollers.
This time I witnessed my sister’s futile attempts to straighten her curls into submissiveness. She went to bed
with her hair in a pony tail secured by metal clips along its length. Desperate, she had her hair professionally
straightened which only succeeded to make the ends look like rat tails. Humidity proved to be the biggest curse in curtailing her
Many years have passed since my sister and I waved good-bye to adolescence and our attempts to either cultivate
a new persona or stifle our own for the sake of trendy beauty. Comfortable and confident in our own skin, we
adhere to the creed “everything is beautiful in its own way.”
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