Relaxers: My First Perm Disaster
Goodbye Pretty Hair
Do you remember your first relaxer? I do. I was 9 years old. But up until then, I had happy, nappy hair. During the summer months, me and my sister ran around our neighborhood with big, fat, juicy nappy plaits in our hair. I think I got my first press at age five. After that though, both me and my sister only got our hair pressed during the school year. After school was out, we’d be nappy until the Sunday night before school started. My mom would alternate me and my sister. One week I got my hair washed and pressed, then the next week is was my sister’s turn. Actually, I’m really not sure when or how my mom fit herself into that schedule.
Then in the summer of 1969, my mom decided to do the Brady Bunch thing with her boyfriend. So he and his kids (two girls and one boy) and our family (two boys and two girls) all moved in together. So in addition to washing and pressing her own hair, mine and my sister’s hair, two additional heads were now in the mix. We ended up living next door to this lady that had a bunch of kids ranging from me and my sisters’ ages to all grown up. One of the older girls was a beautician. Their two youngest sisters were our playmates, and they both had perms. They had pretty hair. But really, I don’t think I thought too much of it in terms of my hair being like theirs one way or the other.
The above picture is me modeling my Easter outfit in probably 1967 or 1968. I had freshly pressed hair. I’m guessing that my hair was a good 10-12 inches long at that time. I didn’t have the longest hair in the house, but I had and still have the thickest. Everytime I see this picture, I drool at how long at thick my hair was back then.
But apparently, there were other plans. Their beautician sister talked my mom into putting perm in my hair. Although my mom knew nothing about taking care of relaxed hair, she just had too much hair to keep up on a regular basis. So although, against her better judgement, she allowed the relaxer. I think she was envisioning the school year trying to keep five heads of hair washed, pressed and combed on a regular basis. So, I got my first and only child hood perm.
Well, the Brady Bunch arrangement didn’t work out. And by Christmas of 1969 all my hair was dry, brittle and broken off. I remember my mom pressing my new growth and gradually cutting the relaxed hair out. Shortly after that, I started taking care of my own hair. Although I never had another relaxer, my hair never grew back to its pre-perm length.