The Battle For Hair Control

My mom loved to put me in pigtails when I was little. I hated them. I hated the part-line in the middle that divided my head down from the top of my bangs to the nape of my neck. I hated their curly ends that stuck out from above my ears and made me look like the little girl that I was. Pigtails were so Cindy Brady, and I just wanted to be Marsha.

On picture day in first grade, I got into a fight with Mom about it. She wanted to inflict her baby-pigtail-torture onto the sides of my six-year-old head, forever cementing them to the memories of my classmates. I refused. I told her I was done with pigtails. Grown out of them.

Mom got her way. She was just too big for me and I had no control over the situation. I went to school and got my picture taken with a tail sprouting from each side of me. That day, after school, as I was playing in my front yard with those silly-looking tails flapping around the sides of my head, my best friend’s mother, Vera, pulled up into her driveway in her station wagon. Vera lived next door. She got out of her car and called out, “I like your pig tails, Noell!”

I’m sure my mouth dropped and I doubt I thanked Vera for her compliment because what I felt at that moment was not gratitude. It was rage. I ran into my house and hunted my hair’s dictator, “Mom!”

“What?” she asked, all innocent. As. If.

“You told Vera to tell me she liked my pigtails,” I said.


“You told her to say that so I would keep wearing them!” I have a natural streak of skepticism that shines once in a while and I wasn’t the type to fall so easily for ploys like this.

My mom laughed. She tried not to. But she laughed.

“I did not. I didn’t tell her to say that.” She failed in her attempts to get serious, but the coincidence, along with my six-year-old insistence of taking charge of my own hair, was apparently entertaining to her.

She didn’t realize that this was more than just my hair we were talking about. The hair frames the face, and that means the hair shapes the face. The way a person looks…it all comes down to the hair.

Eventually, I was able to convince my mom to give me more hair control. She let me wear my hair down more often, usually with a barrette on the side. But what I really wanted was a roach clip. Roach clips with earthy strands that dangled with beads and feathers — just right for a gypsy personality like mine — were hot at that time where I lived in L.A. during the late seventies. But it might have been that they’re used to hold your marijuana that kept my parents from letting me wear one.
Later I moved on to the single pony tail that shoots from just one side of the head where you brush all your hair over to the side in a freaky pseudo-sexy early eighties kind of way. Mom didn’t really like that look for me either, so I didn’t get to wear it as often as I wished.
If I could have fulfilled my hair fantasies, though, I would have had full curly hair like Olivia Newton John’s at the end of Grease. Except as a brunette. Instead I just had plain and boring flat stringy hair.
I have fine hair, and fine hair likes to rule its own world and do its own thing. So in that case, my hair and I are the same. I endured a lot of bad hair throughout my life. It was off and on, really, but mostly off. It took me until I was twenty-five years old before I found a hair stylist that could give me hair that I like more often than not.

But my greatest hair triumph came when I was around thirty years old. I discovered a hair style that always looks good, no matter how demanding and stubborn my fine hair decides to be. If it’s not working out, no worries. I can guarantee myself a good hair day if I put it up in pigtails.

Yeah, I said it. Pigtails. Mom was right.

But only sort of right. It’s the technique that makes it work. I still hate the lined part-down-the-middle-of-the-head look. At least on me. I part the front of my hair to the side, then back-brush it at the top of the back to give it some fullness.. And I only center-part it at the very nape of my neck. It’s much more flattering to both my face and the back of my head to have just an inch of a center-parted hair line.
I don’t allow for those curly little piggy-looking tail ends, either. Instead, I wear my tails low, under and just behind my ears. And when they’re long enough I back-brush those tails to give them a ratty sort of splayed-out look that says “I don’t care.” Even though I really do. But like I said, earlier, it’s all about how the hair frames the face and it’s the long wisps that fall down in front of my ears toward my neck that are essential to top it off.

So I guess we both got our way. Mom got me wearing the hairstyle she always liked best on me. And I finally got control of my hair.

Pigtails rule.

2 thoughts on “The Battle For Hair Control”

  1. LOVE this story Noell because I was thinking how much I love your pigtails. They look so ‘right’ on you. I really wish I could wear them but alas I don’t think they work on me. The whole story was entertaining!! Thanks for the laugh today.

Comments are closed.