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“A life of despair begins with bad hair.”

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, the days of Marlo Thomas and Marcia Brady, the only kind of hair worth having was straight. To be hip and to be groovy you simply had to have stick straight hair. Unfortunately, for women who had curly hair, like me, this meant only one thing: despair!

I tried everything back in those days to eradicate my frizzy tresses. Dippity-do. 3 inch curlers. Bubble hair dryers. Chemical straightening treatments. But despite all the hours spent brushing, combing, pulling, stretching, heating, and slapping on goo, I still looked like a poorly pruned patch of parsnip with eyeballs.

In the early 80’s women everywhere, myself included, went through a Farrah Fawcett wannabe stage.  Each morning I spent well over an hour to produce a rough facsimile of Farrah. To maintain that look I found it necessary to avoid rainy weather, fog and mist, a trip to the beach, a southern state, any locale with a humid climate, a frosty night, or a dewy morning. In other words, if I stayed home and inside I could give Farrah a run for her money! Or at least that was what I told myself.

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Then came the freeing 90’s. The character of Elaine from the Jerry Seinfeld Show made curly hair acceptable, even desirable. Out went my electric rollers, in came mousse and the natural, no fuss, curly look. This worked well for me for a while because I was going through a “let’s live on a farm and be like the characters from Little House on the Prairie” phase of my life. (Although why a woman who hates the outdoors and couldn’t grow a carrot, cucumber or rutabaga if her life depended on it, wanted to live on a farm is beyond me!)

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But despite this new fad, and my seemingly joyful embracing of my curls, there continued to lurk within the recesses of my psyche a dissatisfied, pouting child who longed to look like Marcia Brady. Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!

But I kept my secret discontent to myself.

And then I met Laura.

Laura was the popular type. She was pretty, outgoing, a total sweetheart, and above all…fashionable. Ponchos were a big thing back then and Laura was the poncho queen!

As Laura and I became friends, I could tell by a few of her gentle comments that she was itching to get at my hair! She had this new invention (new to me at least) called a flat iron that she used on her own wavy locks and wanted to try it on mine. I fought her for quite a while, but finally, I caved and let Laura have a go at my kinks.

The result was phenomenal! As I looked at myself in a mirror, I suddenly realized that I had the hair I’d dreamed of all my life! It wasn’t puffy. It wasn’t frizzy. It flowed in the breeze. And it no longer looked like that unpruned patch of parsley! My heart stood still! So I went home to show my family.

The minute I opened the door my 4 children, who were still quite young, instantly froze, staring at me as if encountering a rabid dog. Suddenly, my daughter ran from the room crying and screaming, “That’s not my mommy!” I went after her, trying to console her, but every time she pulled her hands from her face and looked at me, another gush of sobs and screams issued forth.

Back to my curls I went. “It takes too much time to straighten my hair,” I reasoned. “And my husband and kids like my curls.” But the lure of straight hair had taken hold of me. Each time I passed a flat iron at Wal Mart that wicked city woman, femme fatale voice in my head whispered, “Straight hair can be yours! Buy me! Yield! Come to the dark side of slick, glossy, windblown locks!”

For a long time I was strong. I resisted. But as my kids grew older, and my farm phase faded (thankfully,) and when my daughter suddenly developed an interest in looking good herself and could appreciate the lure of straightness, I gave in!

I became the proud owner of a flat iron! And I used it brazenly!

And now, gone are my miserable days of curliness! Departed for all eternity (or until I am too old and demented to be trusted with a burning hot object) is my hatred for my follicular frizzies.

I am free! My hair is no longer the bane of my existence. Despair has departed, replaced by the contentment that only those who have experienced the trauma of curly hair can understand. Life is happy! Meaningful! Colorful and Vibrant!

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(Eat your heart out Marcia!)

And so, since I owe so much to my flattening friend, I thought I would write an ode of appreciation to my dearest pal.

By Marty Pena

There were few who could grasp
And still fewer could share,
The shame and the sorrow
Of my coiled, kinky hair.

I shunned all reflections.
And my mirror eschewed.
Put on a babushka
When I had to be viewed.

I coveted, I craved
The tresses that were straight.
And wondered what I’d done
To deserve such a fate.

But then, to my wonder,
You appeared on the scene!
With remedy certain
To fix hair so obscene!

Oh what glory, what joy!
My life was worth living!
It felt just like Christmas!
Or maybe Thanksgiving!

For now I could share in
Those locks once elusive,
And no longer be living
A life so reclusive.

And so, fondest friend
And my liberator,
Many thanks from my heart
Dear emancipator.

Though I’ve written this ode
It just cannot express
All the grief that is gone
From my styling process.

For my woes you dispersed
And my curls you have tamed,
I no longer despair.
I can live unashamed.

I love you dear flat iron!!!!


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P.S.  A million thanks to my friend Laura who changed my life forever!

P.S.S. Follow me and I’ll love you…even more than my flat iron! Well, maybe not quite that much. 🙂