This is actually part one of mini-series on hair, but I’m writing this installment partly out of desperation to turn off “Almost Cut My Hair,” which has been playing in my head for days now.
Love the song – have since 1970, when I got my Deja Vu album (or “got it on vinyl” as the hipsters say today) – but enough’s enough. What started the continuous loop was actually cutting my hair, as in doing it myself, the other day.
I’ve always cut my own bangs, and frequently, since my hair grows quickly. And I’ve trimmed the sides and layers over the years. But this was more serious chopping-in of layers, which I’ve been doing again this summer. I say again because it’s the resumption of something I started doing in high school.
If you knew me then, you may remember the long gypsy shag that preceded the barbershop Sebring shag of senior year. The gypsy cut was of my own doing.
The first time I cut my hair, though, was an act of desperation and disastrous in more ways than one. I did it to protect Nana, my ditzy-ish paternal grandmother who made some interesting choices in grandparenthood.
This particular time, Nana gave me a candle to play with. I was probably 10, because my bangs were finally long enough to get seriously singed from said candle.
(We’ll come back to the battle of the bangs another day.)
That meant Cathy was 6 or 7, depending on what time of year it was. I think our cousins, Melinda and Pam, were up from Fort Worth, which meant four little girls playing with fire, something highly disallowed by the younger Cartwrights.
So when I leaned into the candle to see the others’ fortunes (I think that was what we were playing. Either that or trying to call up a ghost. We were imaginative girls.), I had no concept of what that could do to my long bangs, styled after Cher and Patty Boyd Harrison.
They sizzled, stank and stiffened into little frizzy zigzags. I knew Mother would be livid with Nana for giving us matches, so, to protect my grandmother (OK, and myself), I cut off the burned portion. Quite crookedly, as in a diagonal slash across my forehead.
Then bald-face lied about it when Mother asked me if I’d cut my bangs. “Nope, no, I didn’t. Why do you ask?” That’s what got me in the most trouble.
When Mother told me she could not only see but smell the evidence, I gave up and told the truth. I’m not sure how she dealt with Nana. I really can’t remember how she dealt with me. I think having short bangs again, after she’d evened them up, was punishment enough, along with being caught in a big lie.
Nana is the grandmother who would take me, when I was a tiny cottontop, to get my hair cut and fried, er, permed, when I’d come stay with my other grandmother, Verna Jewel, in Russellville. Mama and Papa were Grandparents A, the custodials. Nana and Daddy Lou were Grandparents B, the unpredictables.
But that didn’t stop Nana from doing whatever she wanted at times, which meant, for me, a cut, perm and professional photo. We have quite a few from my early years in which I’m sporting an array of cotton balls on my head.
I think I’ll stop here for installment one, which is actually part two, since I’ve already written about the great Sun-In caper.
But I’ll end with showing you a couple cute family hair photos, little Syl sporting a cross between her mom’s baby ’do, as in almost no hair, and her Uncle Ben’s baby ’do, as in sticking straight up like a rooster’s crown. Genetics, baby.
Then there’s my dreamboat cohort in grandparentdom, Pop, Baba, my hubby, John, back in 1972, after his trip through the Middle East and a stay in India – and before he cut his hair. Pretty groovy, huh?