Most Likely to Frizz: My Worst Fashion Mistake

This week the women of GenFab™* are doing a blog hop on the topic: Fashion Disasters.

I finished high school during dark days. The Cold War was still hot, Michael Jackson was less Thriller and more Bad, and the newest name in politics was Sonny Bono. Magnum P.I. ended and Bruce Willis had hair. Guns N’ Roses ruled, and hair was high, wide, and crispy. It was The Eighties, y’all.

Long spiral perms were popular at my school. My best friend had the most gorgeous corkscrew curls and I was so envious. I wanted rock star hair with my bangs teased high and sprayed with Aqua Net until they resembled a flammable cresting wave.

By Junior year I’d been sporting my poor-man’s-Molly-Ringwald bob for a year or so. Since my own Jake Ryan never showed up in homeroom, I figured a change was in order.

Ladies, let me tell you a few things I’ve learned about hair—never get a haircut from the same lady who does your grandmother’s hair, never make a drastic change before a big event like Senior pictures, and—most importantly—never shampoo a new perm and use a brush on it.

Here’s what your Senior Picture looks like when you get a perm right before photos are taken and you have no clue about proper perm maintenance. I think the term is “White Girl Afro”?

My shampoo must have been “Gee, Your Hair Looks Ridiculous”.

bad-perm-senior-pictureWhich part is hair and which part is backdrop? IT IS ALL HAIR.

I propose this for worst Senior Picture ever. Not only was this the first year female students didn’t wear the traditional velvet drape and strand of pearls, the photographer was obviously terrible and more than a little creepy.

I think my awkward, crooked smile communicates the fact that the photographer just asked me to say “fuzzy pickle”.

Fuzzy is right. And stop saying pickle.

My high school was small and I was a nerd, so there are lots of pictures of my hair horror. Usually a person would be proud she was voted Most Likely to Succeed. Nope.


At least I got to wear my pearls.

*Generation Fabulous is a dynamic group of female midlife bloggers who are setting this world on fire. The women of GenFab are the voices of midlife today.

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  1. SPIRAL PERMS! Oh yes! I remember my hairdresser having to stand on a box to roll mine because my hair was so long and I wouldn’t let her cut it before she permed!

    Laughed long and hard at the “Which part is hair and which part is backdrop? IT IS ALL HAIR.” comment.

    Hey, at least your yearbook was in color! Mine is B&W!

  2. Oh I love your big curly hair! LOL, I remember when Bruce Willis had hair too, before he became such a bad-ass.

    • admin says:

      I loved Moonlighting. At least during the “will they or won’t they” days. After that, it really lost its magic.

  3. They were going to make a video called, “Perms Gone Wild” but they couldn’t get FCC approval because it was considered too upsetting for viewers.

    On the other hand, you do look entirely adorable in your yearbook “Most Likely to Succeed” picture.

    • admin says:

      I don’t know whose Papaw owned that Cadillac, but it was old even then.

  4. Awww, I think you looked adorable, frizzy hair and all! But I totally hear you on the brush thing – remember the three day rule about washing your hair after a perm?

  5. Anne, I have a perm story too but mine really did look awful — you looked great! Love the photographer asking you to say “fuzzy pickle!” Too funny.

    • admin says:

      Imagine a creepy, redneck uncle with a mullet and a Cosby sweater saying that to you. It was like that. :shudder:

  6. One perm in my life…hair burnt off at the root. Never again. Long live straight hair!

  7. I had this same perm. I came home crying because I realized i looked like Richard Simmons.

  8. Didn’t do the perm thing until 1983-only because the hairdresser was insistent–still looking for THAT photo

  9. Are we related?

  10. LOL! Love your comment about “crispy” hair… perms kill hair follicles. They should be outlawed! -LLC

  11. Your post is a good reminder that fashion should always be treated with suspicion. Style is one thing, but fashion is just invented to make us look ridiculous to our children one day.

  12. Oh I remember the big-haired 80s. As a native member of the curly-hair tribe, my own hair needed no help to look big and frizzed-out years before big and frizzed-out was cool. But I have to say that I think you look adorable. And I love your writing–great cultural references!

  13. Reading through the above comments brought on a horrible flashback to the summer of 1970… I’ll spare you the details, but it involves freshly-permed hair (mine), a sudden rainstorm, and an elevator full of junior high kids at band camp. You’d think that would’ve cured me — but it didn’t. Ever the optimist, I suspect I thought, “This perm will be better….”

  14. Amazing how “hair” seems to tell the stories of our stages of life! (The years of exploration, years when we’re more free sexually, years when it’s all about being practical! And fortunately… beyond the practical can come more years of exploration and feeling freer sexually!)


    Meanwhile, let’s hear it for those 80s girls in curls!

  15. I never got a perm myself but my mother used to give home perms to my grandmother. I can still smell that horrible chemical odor that went along with it. Anyway, even though I love straight hair, I think you look adorable with your frizz!

  16. I remember getting a “bargain” perm in college and the top of my hair broke off. I had a crew-cut/mullet right before homecoming. Enjoyed and will share!

  17. That is a LOT of hair! Thanks for the laugh!

  18. I think your picture on most likely to succeed is adorable. I have your then hair now 24/7 my entire life, but products are better now and I never needed a perm. Thank-you on the perms though my husband is a hairstylist and the 80’s were very profitable for him!

  19. I got a perm in Miami, back in the 80’s the already humid air left me looking like a clone of Elsa Lancaster, from the “Bride of Frankenstein.” The memories came flooding back after this read!

  20. Just goes to show that we’re our own worst critics. I think you look really cute. And perky. And curly. I’m a generation before you, so we weren’t doing spiral perms, we were laying our heads on the ironing board and having a go with the iron. All of which is to say, the grass is always greener. And and by the way, if you were Jewish, this would be called a Jew-fro. They come naturally to a lot of us!

  21. admin says:

    Senior photos were in color, but the rest was black and white. I don’t even know if high schools print yearbooks anymore! There’s just something about having a book of pictures and having your friends write in it.

  22. admin says:

    I swear the lady who did my hair never told me that!
    When I saw Legally Blonde where perm care was a plot point, I was like, “Now you tell me!”

  23. I think this is my first visit to your blog and I’ve laughed and laughed at this post. Found you at Pam’s Over 50 Feeling 40 blog.
    Oh gosh, my hair looked about like this and it was “natural”…in the 70’s. Had always hated my super curly hair and then I saw Barbara Streisand with her curly hair ( I was a sophomore in h.s. I think) in A Star Is Born (a movie I love to this day) and immediately washed my hair, turned my head upside down, blow dried and let my hair just curl, curl, curl! I felt so liberated from trying to tame that mess. And I was actually more “in style” than ever before in my life! I felt prrrret-t-y cooool. haha

  24. I have a perm story, too – I never needed one because my curly hair grew exponentially each day. I hated it, especially during the Cheryl Tiegs/Lauren Hutton days of straight, California girl-looking hair. So I had my hair straightened during my senior year of high school. The chemicals of the straightener smelled like rotten eggs. My hair fell out in clumps and looked lifeless. My mother was furious with me (I didn’t tell her I was going to get it done) and glared at me each day. What a heady time. (Ew, bad pun!)

  25. We had the same hair, but mine was without a perm! Great photos.

  26. I laugh when you said you should never get your hair done by the same person who does your grandmother’s hair. I made that mistake once, with a perm as well. When I came home, my kids cried and said they wanted their old mommy back LOL. It was bad. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture. The 80’s made us all suffer, though I think you look pretty darn hot on top of that car, frizzy hair or no frizzy hair!

    • admin says:

      I left out the funniest part–the hairdresser’s name was a lady named “Elvis”. She was much older than Presley, so she was a little resentful.
      The memory of her shaky hands coming toward my face to cut my bangs…

  27. Even with a bad perm you’re still adorable! They were So RIGHT to vote you most likely to succeed. And, indeed you have. Love you!

  28. Funny and so ironic to read this. I lived in Miami Beach, hot and humid and was desperate for stick straight hair. The night before I took my graduation pictures, for the first time in my life, I ironed my hair. On an ironing board.

  29. Interesting take on fashion.


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