If you’ve known me very long, you are probably aware that my minor in college was History with an emphasis on the American West. To narrow it down even further, most of my studies centered around women in the west.
I blame this entirely on my grade school obsession with Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
Short history lesson – there were far fewer “Dr. Quinns” in the west and waaa-haaay more prostitutes. You had about three different career choices out west if you were female and weren’t married — laundry woman, cook, or prostitute. (A town usually only needed one teacher so you couldn’t count on that one. Especially since men could typically still be found filling that position.) Thanks to my years at the University of Oklahoma I have one shelf in my study devoted to books covering this subject. We’re going to have to move them up a few shelves before we have kids who are tall enough to reach. Yow. I mean, it was my mom’s copy of Anne of Green Gables that got me all interested in that. I do not think I want my child taking a shining to Upstairs Girls: Prostitution in the American West. Whenever we start baby-proofing, I’ll be sure to move that.
I’m getting off track here, but what I want you to know is that I’ve always loved the west. Love loved it. From the stories of men and women who braved the unknown to start new lives, the sad tales of native people that were removed from their homes forever–sometimes even killed, the facts we know now, the fiction our grandparents grew up on–all of it.
One aspect of it I have always taken a fancy to and that’s the fashion. How women wore some of those garments back then in the heat of the day I will never be able to imagine, but it didn’t stop them from looking pretty. Going back to Dr. Quinn, her hair was always styled in a way that I dreamed of having mine fixed. She had gloriously long tresses and every Saturday night while my mom put pink sponge rollers in my hair for church the next morning, I sat hoping that someday my hair would be as beautiful as Dr. Quinn’s. And then the next morning in Sunday School I would discuss the latest happenings in 1860s Colorado Springs with my best buddy, Delisa.
Unfortunately, just before that time I had gotten a cute little bob. Because my pal Delisa had the same cute haircut and when you are 5-years-old and your older best bud has a cute haircut that’s what you ask for when you go in for your “I’m starting kindergarten in a week” ‘do.
And for the next 13 years my hair grew in a triangle shape. It was clear by the time I reached junior high that I would never have Dr. Quinn hair.
Fast forward a few years down the road and I have finally let my hair grow out as long as it’s ever been and it begins letting go of the dreaded triangle. It’s curlier now, but for the most part it falls in a direction that appears natural. And it’s about time.
I had a few weddings to be in at this point in my life. First it was Heather’s which, as far as far as the nuptials and my hair are concerned, were both a success. I took in two photos of two separate women for the front and the back of my hair, the stylist told me I did a good job of matching them up, and I ended up with an up do that I was proud of.
That stylist was a stranger. Someone who had never done my hair before. She did a great job on it and I was very happy with the way it looked and how it held up all evening long.
Six months later was Delisa’s wedding. It took place in the town where I grew up going to church and the stylist I use regularly (a cousin-in-law) works in that town. Fun! Only she was busy doing the bride’s hair and didn’t have room for me that day. So off I went on a mad search for a stylist. I spent every fifteen minute break at work one day calling around and trying to find a place that had an opening. There were 3 or 4 big weddings in town that day and in a town of 45,048 that means a lot of the hair salons are busy.
Finally, I found someone. I felt like doing a little happy dance, but practiced a little restraint because at that time I was working at a front desk and I think we all know what else was going on up front at the time. (Someday I’ll get brave enough to write about it. With code names. And in Pig Latin.)
I showed up to this new-to-me hair salon the morning of Delisa’s wedding, carrying a photo of a woman with long, loose curls, lightly pinned in a half-up, half-down look. I cannot stress long and loose enough. You don’t go big and bold as a bridesmaid and I certainly did not intend to start the trend.
I sat in the chair and watched, waiting for my hair to start to resemble the style in the photo. Instead there was tugging and teasing and pulling and spraying until the crown of my head was one Bumpit™ away from a certified monstrosity.
When she finished, I sat shell-shocked, not wanting to believe she was done and that this was it, while at the same time I wanted to run as far as I could away from that chair. I paid her and walked out. Never in my life had I been so unsatisfied with the way my hair looked. And one of my dearest friends was getting married in less than 4 hours.
I sat in my car and looked in the rear view mirror, staring at the bulbous creation atop my already not small skull (thanks, Dad). I touched it and my fingers seemed to bounce back like it was spring-loaded.
This would not do.
I raced back to the church where the reception was being held, different from the one where the ceremony was, to show my mom.
“It’s okay,” she said.
“Oh my word.” It’s okay is NOT okay.
Through the bathroom door I went. I stood there looking at it and then went to patting it down. There had to be some way to make it come down. I started pulling out bobby pins, releasing the top layer and putting the stragglers back into place. Slowly, I looked less and less like Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. It came time for me to head to the church and get ready for photos and while I was still extremely unhappy with my hair, it was Delisa’s wedding and I had to get there.
These photos don’t do the original product justice. And I left out the frontal shots because, well, the ‘do still looked bad from that angle (in my opinion).
Luckily, the thing about being a bridesmaid in a wedding means the attention is not on you. Once everything got started, my hair disaster was forgotten and I was nothing but thrilled to be watching a dear friend marry the man she loves. It was a beautiful ceremony and one that I was very blessed and honored to be a part of.
It wasn’t until after the reception was over and I was in the same bathroom I started out in, taking down my hair (all 100+ bobby pins) and getting ready to go home, that it dawned on me.
“It looked like Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.” I said aloud, to no one in particular.
At least, as close as I ever want to be.
(Delisa – Thanks for not kicking me out of your wedding when I showed up with the weird hair. Happy 3rd anniversary! Love, Goofy)