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 friendâ€™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, â€œI like your pig tails, Noell!â€
Iâ€™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 hairâ€™s dictator, â€œMom!â€
â€œWhat?â€ she asked, all innocent. As. If.
â€œYou told Vera to tell me she liked my pigtails,â€ I said.
â€œYou told her to say that so I would keep wearing them!â€ I have a natural streak of skepticism that shines once in a while and I wasnâ€™t the type to fall so easily for ploys like this.
My mom laughed. She tried not to. But she laughed.
â€œI did not. I didnâ€™t tell her to say that.â€ 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 didnâ€™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 looksâ€¦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 didnâ€™t really like that look for me either, so I didnâ€™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 Johnâ€™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 itâ€™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. Itâ€™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. Itâ€™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 donâ€™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 theyâ€™re long enough I back-brush those tails to give them a ratty sort of splayed-out look that says â€œI donâ€™t care.â€ Even though I really do. But like I said, earlier, itâ€™s all about how the hair frames the face and itâ€™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.