Thursday, July 20, 2006

Turd Curls and Toni

One of the blog posts that got eaten involved my inner child influencing the stupidity of my adult life. I said that I would show you a picture of my 6-year old self with doe eyes and turd curls.

Now. If you’re from the Southern United States, you know what a turd curl is and need no explanation. But for those of you from other American provinces, a turd curl is hair that is wound around a finger by a doting mother or older sister so that when it is released, it resembles a fringe of large, vertical sausages. Or a hair version of solidified human chime (that’s ki-em with a long ‘I’). Nelly, the child bitch character of Little House On The Prairie immortalized this ‘do.

This hairstyle was a holdover of the 1860s Southern Belle look that reached into the 1950s. Blessedly, it lost its hold when we came to our senses and substituted that ridiculous vogue for more sensible teasing and hair spray and the helmet shaped big hair of the groovy 1960s.

To hold a turd curl for any length of time on a six-year-old sitting for a picture, you need naturally curly hair, bear grease, or some serious chemical intervention. This is where my turd curls met Toni. I hate Toni.

Every year my mother would snatch me away from my summer wanderings as a wild child hellion turned loose on the Earth to give me a Toni perm. She would drag my protesting stick of a body into the kitchen and subject me to a rough shampooing along with a lecture on the flora and fauna she found in my hair. I was known for bringing home wildlife like moths, spiders and fern spores attached to my hair or scalp like crazy feathers. I always have stuck my nose in some dicey places.

After the shampoo, I would be draped in a towel. Mama would wear an old pharmacy smock from work to protect her clothes and drag out the Toni. The towel afforded me no such protection. From the box would spill pink curling papers in their neat, banded stack, two bottles of the dreaded perm chemicals, pink rollers that look like old fashioned, push lawnmower blades, and a fold up set of that bitch Betsy McCall and all her cute little paper doll dresses. I swore my mama sat up nights making that awful bottled stuff on the same counter where she dispensed pills and compounded prescription tinctures.

First, she would section my head off into 8 parts and secure the hair with big bobby pins or clips. Then, each of those sections were subdivided into skinny little lines of hair, captured between curling papers and rolled up onto the little pink rollers with excruciating tightness. The hair right on the top of my head above my face was always rolled forward. No child who has their hair pulled tautly into a rubber band for a ponytail facelift or rolled up on pink Toni perm curlers knows any joy.

Next, the bottle of perm solution was sniped open and roughly and thoroughly daubed on each and every pink roller with a cotton ball. I held the towel up to try to get away from the scalp burning and eye watering ammonia with my mother yelling at me to be still. No such luck.

After the fifty hours it took for the perm solution to do it’s job and the necessary unrolling and re-rolling of a test curl to see if it had a wave like the one in the picture on the directions, I was then subjected to having my curlers rinsed in the sink with water too hot to be putting on a child’s head that has just been ministered to with napalm. Here the towel also did a piss poor job of keeping the solution from finding a direct line to my eyes, nose and mouth. Being totally saturated with the embalming fluid by this point, it did little more than transfer more of it back to the organs I was trying to wipe it from.

If you have a Toni perm, you must use the Toni neutralizer. The naming of this stuff should give us a clue that you are trying to quell something that is ostensibly a big problem - like taking a life or destroying an invading army. Why else would you need to neutralize it?

So. The neutralizer goes on with daubs just as furious as the first because my mother is tired of my whining and squirming by now. I look over at damn old Betsy McCall and her smooth locks and want to tear her smiling face right off. I bet she never was subjected to a Toni perm that she came out of the box with.

Another interminable fifty hours goes by and I’m subjected to a second rinsing. This time the pink curlers come out with their pink papers and pile up in the sink. I am roughly towel dried and put on a dry shirt to skitter out the door on skinny legs before mama can think up something else mean to subject me to.

The results of my perm is a Kizzy tight frizz that cannot be combed into submission with no amount of water or cursing. But it held those damnable turd curls. I have bangs from the roll ups towards my face that will never have congress with my forehead. I look like Haley Mills in the Parent Trap. How could she let so much of her face hang out like that? How could my mother do the same to me? Didn’t she like me?

I would trounce off to school the following week, sullen and generally hang-dog. We Southerners call this a case of the black-ass because if you have it for too long, someone’s gonna beat your ass black and blue to cheer you out of it.

I would fuss with my hair for months until time and hair growth slowly relaxed the Toni curl. Then, blessed summer would be here and I could forget hair. Until mama snatched me up from my wanderings to subject me to another Toni perm.

Here’s my get well card to all of you women who have endured having your locks subjected to relaxing, Marcel waves, chemical processors, curling irons, ironing your hair, pressing your hair, spending the night with your head wrapped around orange juice cans in a hairnet, who have endured Toni perms. And turd curls.

Dina Kerik


Gramercy Galleria said...


Interesting and funny story.

The interesting thing is that humans always seem to want to adorn themselves with some concept of beauty or cool or even "holy" that is usually far-removed from their natural self. The funny thing is that we almost always seem to look back on images of how "it" was done "then" with scorn, pity, or rage. (And isn't it strange you had your Toni and I with my naturally curly hair had to endure wicked brushings and clips to keep it from looking like a puff ball.)

But you know what, that child's eyes (your eyes) are so beautiful that it doesn't much matter what was done (or not done) to her hair.

Pat said...

Now my dear Dina, You were (and no doubt are) one great little gal! And those curls. And eyes. A funny story. Reminds me of one I tell (that my mom says is NOT true but I swear by it). Perhaps I'll share the pic one day.....Pat

queenlint1 said...

Robin and Pat,

Coming from you beauties, I'll take this as good enough!! And Pat, ante up with the story and the picture already!!