She was going on about something with the level of sustained excitement parents find easy to ignore.
I was folding laundry. And then I was emptying the dishwasher. My daughter's voice was in a constant state of uplift. It had a sing-song quality that put me at ease. She was happy. I continued to half-listen as I freed a clog in the stick vacuum's frozen beater-bar. The thing I pulled out looked like ...
Well … I'll let you imagine the complicated forms bits of detritus we shed from our scalps or track in on our shoes take on as they collect over time. Suffice it to say what I only partially sucked up in the Dustbuster may or may not have resembled a small rodent of a decidedly muskrat-coloring.
But that is not the point.
My daughter had gotten a small part in the school play and was twittering about all the things that go into to making the actual performance so wondrous. Most important of which was that Yours Truly would be doing her hair before each and every performance.
“They want us to look like we're from the 1930s.”
Honestly, I hadn't been paying attention. But something told me to stop wrestling the dust bunny in the Dustbuster and tune in.
“Wait? What? Back up a bit. What did you say about your hair?”
“We have to make it curl and do fancy things like people did in the olden days.”
The way she looked at me as I gripped the vacuum filter, clawing giant dust balls into the trash, it was as if she had all the faith in the world that I could actually do this thing call 'a hairdo.'
Who does she think I am? I mean, I am the person whose Twitter feed describes her thusly: “Still getting up in the morning, but have given up combing my hair.”
That is not a euphemism. That line is the unvarnished truth. If I rake my fingers through the conditioning process in the shower, I count it as combed.
I get my hair cut once every three years, and the extent of my styling skill is to sweep up my stringy locks into a ponytail, hoping to catch all the wispy-bits at the back of my neck (I often fail).
The more I think about it, the more I'm sure that this thing called haircare might not be in my DNA. Growing up, I recall the errant pink-foam hair rollers I'd find around the house. I'd assumed they were my mother's even though her hair was close-cropped – like a man's – for as long as I could remember. Certainly before close-cropped hair on a woman was ever fashionable.
I'm still standing in a cloud of dust over the garbage can when my daughter hands me a picture of Ginger Rogers in the precisely-lit grandeur of her Hollywood heyday.
“They want me to make your hair look like that?”
The coiffure to my eye was an incomprehensible mountain range. It kept its shape – foothills above the shoulders, sloping peaks at the crown – despite appearing as smooth and buttery as silk. It flowed in rivulets nature had no part in making.
I didn't know where to start.
“They said that hot curlers would work.”
This hot curler thing – turns out – is a fishing-tackle-type box you plug into a wall, which then heats up a couple of dozen foam-lined spools that one is then supposed to wind around individual strands of hair.
Don't laugh at me.
Thankfully, the box came with simple instructions.
Let heat for 10 minutes
Make sure lid is open while heating (to keep stored hair clips from melting)
Leave in hair for 10 – 15 minutes
I tried it on my own hair first.
It did seem foolproof. Not even waiting the full ten minutes, the hair that released from the flocked spools bounced into a loose coil.
Excitement abounds as we realized hair styling success was within our reach.
After a 10-minute reheat, it was my daughter's turn. But her younger, thicker, more lustrous hair was ambivalent. Some tresses doubled over at awkward angles; others refused to bend at all to the curlers' whims.
“What do we do now?” she asked in a panic.
I had no answer. “Maybe the Dustbuster … the hair that comes out of that always curls. …”
I know. ... She looked at me with that same horror, too.
I know. I'll Google “How to use bobby pins” maybe there's still hope.