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Straight Hair and Popularity: Conclusion

July 14, 2013

Check out Part I (here.)



Moments before I’d thought I was fine the way I was, but now I felt like I was dying of thirst and David was handing me a glass of water.


“How can you make me popular?”


“Your hair.”


“My hair. I’m unpopular because of my hair?”


“Haven’t you noticed that all the cool people have straight hair?”


“No. Like who?”


“How ‘bout I give you four—The Beatles.”


Well, he had me there. Even I knew the Beatles were cool. “You can make me cool like the Beatles?”


“Let’s not set the bar too high. I can make you more popular than you are. We’ve got to start with your hair. Curly hair is out—the mark of a loser. Straight hair is what it’s all about. I’m going to give you straight hair.”


I didn’t comment on the fact that David’s hair was curlier than mine. I was just pleased and excited that he wanted to spend time with me. I should have been suspicious.


“We’ll do it tonight, when Dad’s at work and Mom’s asleep. Let’s keep this our secret, okay? I’ll straighten your hair first, and then we’ll do mine.”


“Sure, sounds great.” In my sudden eagerness to be popular, I didn’t question why our parents shouldn’t know about this.


That night David waited for our mother to head off to bed. When she finally settled down and fell asleep, I met David in the bathroom. He produced a bag with bottles of evil-smelling potions, a professional hair-straightening kit he’d bought at Drug King. I didn’t question his expertise with such things. He mixed the contents of the bottles into a paste and troweled the stuff onto my head. He warned me there might be a slight burning sensation—a small price to pay to become popular.


It burned more than a little. My head felt like it was on fire. I started howling louder and louder until, in an effort to shut me up, David jammed a towel in my mouth.




When the burning ebbed and I stopped moaning, David took the towel from my mouth and stretched one of our mother’s nylon stockings over my head. According to David, I needed to keep this stocking on my head all night so my hair would dry and remain straight. We never got around to treating his hair.


I dozed in my bed all night with that stocking over my hair, visions of popularity dancing in my head. I dreamt I was captain of the football team, even though I didn’t know how to play football. Then I dreamt I was being chased by pretty cheerleaders like the Hollingshead twins and I wasn’t even scared about being caught.  


I had a hard time getting out of bed the next morning because the straightener had oozed from the nylon stocking, gluing my head to my pillow and sheets. David came to my room early and helped peel me from the bedding. Removing the nylon stocking from my head proved more difficult. He pulled and tugged, again jamming a towel in my mouth to muffle my screams. Gradually, it came off. David tried to hide the stocking but I could see large amounts of my hair sticking to it. Assuring me this was to be expected, he helped shampoo my head. I must admit that what was left of my hair was straight.


Our mother was not amused when she spotted me. “What’s on your head? A hairnet? Remove it immediately!”


“I’m not wearing a hairnet,” I said.


She stepped forward for a closer inspection. “What in blazes...? Just what did you do to your hair?”


“David and I straightened it, so I’d be popular.”


David, while attempting to escape through the front door, was ordered back inside.


“Who told you it was alright to do this to your brother?” she snarled.


David pointed at me. “He did!” Knowing a confrontation was inevitable, David steeled himself for battle. “It’s his head, and he said I could straighten his hair if I wanted to.”


“Did you actually convince him to do this by telling him he’d be popular?”


“What if I did?” David shot back.


“You lied to your brother because you wanted to use him as a guinea pig? You didn’t have the courage to put that crap on your own head to see what it would do?”


David shrugged. He saw her favorite wooden spoon in her hand and knew what was coming.


This was back when the prevailing theory of child rearing suggested that if you spared the rod (or spoon) you’d spoil the child. Mom started hitting him with the spoon. Since it was beginning to dawn on me what David had done, I didn’t mind seeing him get clobbered.


Then Mom’s favorite spoon broke. She stood there with her mouth wide open as she stared at the decapitated handle in her hand. David must have thought her expression comical because he started laughing, enraging her. She started smacking him about the neck and shoulders with her bare hands. She couldn’t reach any higher.


David stopped laughing as he absorbed the blows. She was wild with rage. When he’d had enough, David reached down and gently lifted our mother by the waist. As she continued to smack him, he walked over to the kitchen and unceremoniously plopped her in the sink where dishes were soaking. The dishwater overflowed and poured onto the floor as David pointed a finger at her and said in a voice hard as concrete, “Don’t ever hit me again. Understand?  Never again!” He didn’t wait for a response but turned on his heels and walked out the front door.


We weren’t hit often, and up until this point I felt whatever punishment I got I deserved. Yet this was the first time I’d seen anyone, including Dad, stand up to our mother. She had always seemed larger than life but seeing her cooling off in the sink made me realize she was actually tiny. My mother never again resorted to hitting either of us, but a war of wills was declared in our house.


David, who never did straighten his own hair, went on to become immensely popular in high school despite his curls. My hair stayed straight for a few months, but it remained pressed to my head as if I were wearing a hairnet. I wasn’t getting any closer to being popular. 



Yeah, you were a guinea pig. I agree your mom went a little overboard whacking your brother with her hands. (My spankings were always on the bottom with a bare hand, guaranteed to embarass more than hurt.) Glad your hair straightening experiment didn't result in a permanent Yul Brynner "do". S
By: Scott Park on July 14, 2013
boy- your brother was really awful. I really don't blame your Mom for going beyond the wooden spoon. Shame on him. My Dad used to threaten "the belt" but it never went beyond that. Being a parent is a challenging job- and your Mom was doing the best she could. I don't know what I would have done- probably grounded David and not let him play football for starters.
By: Kathe W. on July 14, 2013
Oh, Stephen, you seem so intelligent now it's hard to believe you got such a shaky start in the logic dept. Yep, the minute your curly haired bother was offering up his help you should of seen an ulterior motive. I appreciate that your mother was livid over you being made a guinea pig for your brother's shenanigans. I am rather surprised that David stood up to her like that. As a mother I don't know how I would of handled that. (although I also, wouldn't of tried hitting on my son as he, too was bigger than me)
By: Cheryl P. on July 14, 2013
You're lucky you didn't turn out bald--the Yul Brynner look wasn't popular back then!! I remember what a strange feeling it was when I was yelling at my son for something & for the first time I realized I was looking UP at him to do it!!
By: fishducky on July 14, 2013
hahahah guys with curle hairs are way cool
By: izdiher on July 14, 2013
Wow, now that's what I call a hair raising tale. You're brother and my big brother sound like they were cut from the same bolt of cloth. Mine told me to laugh when Mom was spanking me and it would make her stop......uh no.....and when I told her it was him. She waited til he was asleep in his bed to "get him good". Mom's back then didn't mess around. Great telling of a growing up story. Oma Linda
By: Oma Linda on July 14, 2013
awww. bless you.
By: TexWisGirl on July 14, 2013
I was waiting for this conclusion... it´s simply great! Your story reminds me the stories of my two brothers... indeed your big brother and my elder brother look alike... he was also popular and used my youngest brother as a ginea pig many times with similar results.
By: Zena on July 14, 2013
That was a hare-brained idea.... Really, though, I'm amazed you had hair left. That was a pretty dirty big brother trick. I pulled some mean big sister tricks, so I am a good judge.
By: Shelly on July 14, 2013
I tried that once with my mom & got the "Wait till your Father gets home" Like I said ONCE! The whole time I read this I read it in Daniel Stern's voice.
By: David Walston on July 14, 2013
Yes...lucky your hair did not all fall out!
By: Pixel Peeper on July 14, 2013
It's so heart-warming to hear such tales of family-life; it reminded me of Little House on the Prairie!
By: Bryan Jones on July 14, 2013
My older brothers were not always nice to me, but they were never mean. Your brother was a bad ass!
By: Cranky on July 14, 2013
Great story. I guess if your brother was willing to risk ruining your hair, I shouldn't have been surprised when he stood up to your mother in that way...but I was! And war was declared...which may help explain what she's like now???
By: on July 14, 2013
Somehow i knew your brother had it in for you. As for your mom, well, that could open chapters.
By: mimi on July 14, 2013
Yep, I think your brother put your mother over the edge. Yep, that's what happened. Great story. Have a fabulous day. :)
By: Comedy Plus on July 14, 2013
I think your brother got off easy.
By: Daniel LaFrance on July 14, 2013
David: the brother from hell!
By: Catalyst/Bruce on July 14, 2013
Heh heh. I liked the Little House on the Prairie comment above! Too bad about your hair. Now let's get to that brother of yours. Having never been an insolent teenage boy, and being a mother of two, I must side with your mom, and offer my condolences on her wooden spoon.
By: Val on July 14, 2013
Brother drives mother over the edge and brother is finally too big to paddle anymore. Goodness! Family drama at its best...or worst. LOL! ;)
By: Rita McGregor on July 14, 2013
Siblings can get themselves into some unintended problems. They don't seem to be able to see things to the conclusion. Interesting how one brother can talk the other into an adventure.
By: Red on July 14, 2013
I wish someone could have put my mom in the sink. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on July 14, 2013
All these fads," hair today, gone tomorrow"! :)
By: John on July 15, 2013
Now I'm glad my brother never tried to experiment on me like that. I remember reading a book where a black girl was trying to get her hair straightened and it sounded about as horrific as this.
By: PT Dilloway on July 15, 2013
As always, you weave a fine tale. Your brother may have gone on to be more popular but I suspect that Mrs. Chatterbox would agree that you're much more fun to live with.
By: Hilary Quint on July 17, 2013

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