Blonde Ambition

If you are going to get to know me at all, then I really must explain to you my hair in 1989.

First, you need to understand just how much we as girls in the ’80s needed to look like  sitcom stars. We’re talking pre-Internet, even pre-Hairstyle magazines that sometimes still have “The Rachel” on the cover. All we had was television and Teen Beat. For me, my actress hair of choice was Brooke Theiss, Wendy Lubbock from “Just the Ten of Us.” I saw this goal as achievable. However, in order to attain it, I had to get more serious about achieving both the perfect white-blonde, and the perfect curl in my pin-straight hair.

Step one, obviously, was to use Touch of Sun (like Sun-In, only “better”). Every single morning, I was like someone on “The O.C.,” waking up at approximately 4am. For them, it’s to bond with parents and go to the diner for several hours and also possibly get into a fistfight. For me, it was to shower, spray Touch of Sun all over my head, and then blow dry my hair. Over and over.

All the effort was paying off. My hair was finally getting white blonde — excellent! I was well on my way to the perfect “Wendy,” when I got sidetracked unexpectedly by the reigning queen of television girls: Alyssa Milano.

Alyssa Milano was, of course, the best one out there, because not only was she so pretty, but every boy in the world loved her, including Smurf. Hi, Smurf! And see, in the past, I never even ATTEMPTED to emulate Alyssa Milano, because she had that thick, wavy, long, Italian hair that I’d spent my life deeply envying, knowing it would never be mine.

But all of a sudden! Alyssa Milano had a new hairdo! It was layered, with thick bangs. And much like Alexis Bledel today, Alyssa Milano defied all natural odds to become even more beautiful!

And the brilliant thing was, I already had bangs. So obviously, all I had to do was cut my hair to look like Alyssa’s! Forget Brooke Theiss! I wanted the best!

Obviously, the next scene found me in my room in front of my…slanted…mirror, with a pair of dull scissors.


Ignoring all laws of nature, and physics, and, I’m even guessing, geometry, I set out to transfom my just-below-shoulder-length, super-fine, super-straight, (not naturally white) blonde, Irish-girl hair into…Alyssa Milano’s hair. Which, BTW, was almost down to her waist.

“WHAT HAVE I DONE? SWEET JESUS, WHAT HAVE I DONE?” I might have sung if I had been transported to a future with “Les Miserables,” but if I HAD had access to a time machine, a great many of my problems would have been solved, such as the fact that I now sported an, albeit whitish blonde, upside-down staircase on my head where my hair used to be!


I made the most of it, and thanks to the popularity of alligator and banana clips, as well as the laser light show of bangs that I sported, I could basically cover up the damage and wait for time to work its sweet, sweet magic.

Crisis mostly averted. All was well. The end.

Only here is where Stripe JUMPS INTO THE POOL to unleash hell on earth! Because just when you think life is safe again…I buy a home perm!

I must have started watching “Just the Ten of Us” again. Or seen one too many Ogilvie® commercials DURING “Just the Ten of Us,” because while I can explain to you the misguided logic behind both the Touch of Sun and the scissors, I absolutely cannot explain why I decided to give myself a home perm the night before I had to go to sleepaway camp for the first time ever.

And yet.

There was something about the combination, in the ’80s, of plastic rods, rolling papers, and the smell of sulphur. For a girl like me, who dreamed her whole life of having curly hair, these things symbolized power. Control. The ability to take control over my hair destiny.

Well, this perm went as all my other perms and bodywaves that had gone before it — unimpressive, limp, but slightly wavy! TRIUMPH!


Like I’ve said, I have super fine, soft hair. When the air gets humid, my hair doesn’t frizz, it rolls over and dies. So I was completely unprepared for the sensation of my hair…growing outwardly…as my mother drove me to Shannon’s house, where I was sleeping over so we could leave for camp in the morning.

Shannon greeted me with a look that can only be described as quizzical. “Did you do something different to your hair?” she nervously asked.

“Oh, I gave myself a perm,” I said as nonchalantly as I could, trying with all of my cheerleading spirit to squelch the sense of panic I was feeling as my hair expanded around me like Violet when she turns into a blueberry.


Okay, now you see, Shannon was (hee!) the nicest person in the WORLD. And to this day, she remains the most diplomatic of friends, the best at getting along with everyone. So for SHANNON to not throw me an “It looks nice” bone was a BAD SIGN.

I rushed to the mirror in Shannon’s hallway.

“Oh my God!” I cried.

Shannon continued to look confused, and at this point I realized that the look I mistook as confusion was actually one of worry and concern.

My hair…MY HAIR!

You know how in television when people suffer loss, how sometimes they go through really stupid and self-destructive behavior, but it doesn’t affect them until that ONE moment, where it all of a sudden HITS them and they just break down and sob? Like Rory, when she breaks up with Dean. Like Willow, when she decides to stop being evil and start being real.

Like me, when I stood in front of the mirror, and saw a yellow, upside-down staircase of straw, uber-poofy “hair.”

Ohhhhhhh. Nooooooo.

Apparently, putting nasty perm chemicals on top of BLEACH doesn’t exactly lend itself to a positive end result. And worst of all…

…I HAD TO GO TO CAMP TOMORROW! And I truly believe that this is what spawned my present-day social anxiety. I mean, as it was, by 8th grade, I weighed 130 pounds and was carting around a DD chest. I wasn’t fat at ALL, but I thought I was, considering that I lived in a Lilliputian land, like what IS it with Christian girls? Every girl at my school and from camp was like five foot one and weighed 90 pounds. So as it WAS, I had deep-seated (seeded? SOMEONE TELL ME!) body issues.

And you can say, well stop being shallow for half a second and just have fun, but: please see the opening paragraphs. Junior high was not a time for self-possession and objectivity. That was what college was for, only then you felt bad for not being self-possessed, so you ate ice cream and wore ugly sweatshirts.

But as a 13-year-old girl on your way to camp with people you’ve never met before, you don’t care about your energetic spirit, or your ability to make people laugh. You care about the fact that some BITCH (who was actually a sweetheart) named Lauren has the perfect white-blonde hair, even perfecter than Wendy’s!

And hers is natural.

And meanwhile, yours has gone from the “Wendy” to the “Ray Bolger.”

And 14 years later, with absolutely no irony, you purchase another home perm. But fear of the past gives you pause.

And you leave it in your cabinet, but move it with you from apartment to apartment.

And you wonder: Elliott from “Scrubs” maintains that all women are still 13-year-old girls inside. So the question is, will that inner 13-year-old once again have her way with the setting lotion?

Only time will tell.


This entry was posted in Body Image, Celebrities, Childhood, Entertainment, Friends, The '80s, Vacations, Women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Blonde Ambition

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  6. Anonymous says:

    wonderful writes!!!! keep up the good work

  7. stacy says:

    Wonderfully, entertaining and suspenseful!

  8. Had one of those perms once … in 8th grade (which makes you about 13) … notice I said once! lol

  9. Anonymous says:

    hi judi…..i envy you…you had the courage to do what you wanted to do with your hair and 13 at that……i never had the thrill of doing anything with my hair until i was married but that another story…my mama and lola ( im here in the philippines) put so much pressure???? backwardness maybe…on me that i wore my hair over my knee…yah that long until i got married …friends in college calls me pocahontas cuz i wear it braided or else it will get in the way….i had my first perm/haircut when i had my second child..and it was to get even with my husband for fooling around..he so loves my long hair…why i didnt i do anything before when i was youn ill never know..its my hair..its my head..maybe its only now that i feel free to do things my way..and i am having the time of my life but are really something..waitressing????
    i was made to watch our general merchandise till i left home to study in the city .not much of a life when i was younger but you went out and had all sorts of …experiences…love you…will catch up with rest of your ………have a nice day…….i should thank johnny for bringing you in my life…

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  12. green smoke says:

    It’s going to be end of mine day, but before ending I am reading this wonderful piece of writing to increase my experience.

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