As a young girl growing up in what was then a laid back city south of Manila, I went through a series of the most unfashionably horrendous hair styles one could possibly have in her lifetime. Although my city was not lacking in what my mother would call beauty parlors, (now we call them salon and spa) most of the time, she would rather that she did the haircut. It spared her the trouble of going to the parlor. It also spared her a few pesos, as a matter of course. Money did not grow on trees for us.
The problem was, my Mama was a grade school teacher. She was, therefore, not a beauty expert nor a stylist. Because she got married late, she was already matronly even when I was a young girl. And because she was not a ‘professional, that meant, the shears she would be using to cut my hair, was the same pair that she used to cut paper, the wayward twig of an indoor plant, the stalk of wilted leaves in her garden, the cardboard she would use for her Art classes, the fabric she would sew for the mini-me dresses she loved to make for me and my younger sister.
That was also the reason why, when, sporadically, and especially during the summer, she would wield the shears on air to signal the rites of passage that were the detestable hair cuts, I would give her the literal ‘run around’ the house or the opposite of ‘cut to the chase’ which meant she would chase to cut. I would hide behind doors, under the hardwood dining table, but, of course, she always found a way to coax, to cajole, to browbeat me to get out of the hideous hiding places, prop me up on a bar stool, wrap a towel around my neck and start to snip.
Snip. snip. snip.
Occasionally she would wet a fine toothed comb and run it over a lock of hair to style into bangs. The problem was, the shears, as you could imagine were not sharp so I would end up with uneven bangs. The worse part was, because she had pulled the lock of hair with the comb while it was wet and in an effort to even my bangs, she would snip a little here, snip a little there. So when my hair was dry, my bangs would be in the middle of my forehead.
(Photo Credit: molempire.com)
I became bigger and hinted that I deserved more respect, I should be brought to the parlor. And I was. First we went to one named Sudden Beauty. You see, the nice thing about beauty parlors back then was that they would cover their walls with Caucasian models with various hairstyles and hair color. At the time, Twiggy was the most famous model with her pixie hair cut. I would see her posters on the glass walls of almost all parlors. So I had a pixie hair do too. I was, at last, in vogue. And then my Mama found out about this other beauty parlor called Sudden Queen, she started bringing me there too. I didn’t know why the shifting loyalty but maybe she was taken in by the promise of the parlor’s name. I suspected my Mama wanted an atom of royalty to whittle down on her little princess and become a queen someday.
When I was older and started doing well in school and would be called on stage to receive my medal during recognition day, she would no longer settle for just any other parlor. She had to have exclusive ‘home service’ and called on the most famous hair stylist in our parochial universe named Taling. I remembered her to be a loquacious woman, noodling on my hair while babbling about her neighbors and ours. She had permed hair, red colored hair which did not flatter her dark skin. But she was a professional, the way her fingers would flick over a rubber on the roller that she used to make a twirl or wrapped a strand of hair with those diaphanous small sheets of paper.
The trouble with Taling was, unlike the ladies in Sudden Beauty and Sudden Queen who made suggestions, she would impose on me how she wanted things done on my hair. So, once, at eight years old I ended up with a perm just like hers and on another occasion, during my piano recital, she made me wear a red wig as red as her hair. And my mother made me wear a shiny yellow dress. I was so embarrassed I thought I belonged in a corn field and not the concert hall.
I had a feeling that Taling was an alien that took on the life form of a human being and wanted all the little girls in the all of our parochial universe to look like her. May she rest in peace.
Because the outcome of my Mama’s forays with the professionals got mixed reviews (I remember my grade school classmates laughing and sneering behind my back, oh well, they’re kids and then some at the time I have long forgiven them), she went back to cutting my hair. I didn’t resist as much as before but I demanded that I be allowed to hold a mirror as she did her malevolent deed of cutting my hair again.
I didn’t know if it was good or bad because the last time I allowed her to give me a hair cut was such a disaster it accounted as one among my few childhood traumas.
It was a particularly scorching summer so Mama insisted that I must have shorter hair than usual. But because of the perming, the chemicals, the heat, the genes and the detergent that the maid used (she used our shampoo for herself), the, good heavens, CFC propelled spray net, my hair became brittle. So what my mother intended to be a bob cut turned out to be a disaster. My hair stood on end like spikes as though it’s been slathered with a tub of extra strong hold gel. I looked like a sea urchin.
I cried interminably. My consolation was, it was a summer and classes would not be back until June.
I hugged my Mama so tight as though she was the most powerful woman in the planet that she could undo the catastrophe she bestowed on me. But she was not. She was instead, a sweet, loving Mama.
She dried my tears with her handkerchief and with the gentlest of voice reassured me ‘Your hair will grow back again soon. Just give it a little time’.
From Mama I learned that while there might have been things that couldn’t be undone, time heals.
It always does.