I’m having an “I Hate My Hair Day.”  These days come with some regularity, almost always at the precise time when I have something important to do or someplace important to be. They come more often in humidity, when the bend in my hair, which might be considered a wave if it were perkier, does weird things.

On “I Hate My Hair Days,” I feel cranky. It’s embarrassing to admit that at this advanced stage of my life, hair still matters. I wish I could say I have far more important things on my mind – global warming, pandemics, wars, natural disasters – but let’s face it, hair is immediate. And yes, it can ruin your day, especially if you’re female.

My husband doesn’t relate to bad hair days. He has magnificent hair. It’s morphed into a snowy white crown, curly in all the right places. It’s luxuriant, and he’s taken to wearing it longer these days.

Am I jealous that he gets out of the shower, towel-dries his mane, combs it and that’s it?

No “product,” no blow-drying and just an occasional day when it strays a bit from its usual perfection? You bet I am.

It all takes me back to the Breck Girl of long-ago shampoo ads. She was the loveliest creature, with perfect porcelain skin, sparkling blue eyes and a halo of the most luxuriant, perfect pale blonde hair imaginable.

The girl in the shampoo ad finally disappeared, but she must have sold a lot of Breck because every woman I knew wanted to look just like her. Very few of us would succeed in that yearning.

Hair is a daily force to be reckoned with, a reminder that control is elusive at best – possibly a metaphor for life itself.

It’s stubborn, like some kids and grandkids I know. And much of the time, you don’t get what you want.

In our family, my sister got the curls – perfect, bouncy ringlets. And of course she hated them. My limp hair (“fine hair,” my mother would gently correct me, but I knew the truth) was more Ruthie’s yearning. I wanted her ringlets.

And even though curls have gone in and out of vogue, they’re hot right now, and these days, my sister celebrates her curls and wouldn’t change a thing.

Like most women, I have hair horror stories.

Once, in high school, I allowed a friend who was – ahem – “good with hair” – to cut mine.

Judy assured me that she knew what she was doing as she attacked what had been my chin-length hair, and transformed it into a modified crew cut.

I wept when I saw it, refused to go to school for the next several days and spent months of misery waiting for a miracle. There were even hair dreams during that ghastly period about waking up one morning and finding myself with long, shimmering tresses, just like that beauty in the shampoo ad.

No such luck.

Judy and I barely spoke again, and I’ve tended to semi-long hair ever since that cut.

But I’ve still spent endless hours fretting over further damage, inflicted by more practiced hands than Judy’s, and at far greater expense. Judy’s carnage, at least, was free.

In foolish moments, I’ve altered my hair to match the trends that come and go like trains at Grand Central Station. Once, I attempted  jumbled masses – a true disaster. Another time, I watched a gentleman with a fake French name massacre me with a spiky little cap of hair that took 18 months to grow out.

I would truly love to make peace with my hair once and for all, and stop the skirmishes. And at least, at this later stage of life, I have these hard-won insights:

The immutable fact that I will never learn how to hold a hairbrush and a blow dryer simultaneously does not make me a terrible person.

The Breck Girl  probably had a few bad hair days herself.

And it’s an inescapable law of the universe that on the best hair day of your life, you have an appointment for a haircut.

April 2012
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