I grew up in a family that failed miserably at mirroring the perfect 1960’s family. While my mother dutifully slaved over the ironing board or scurried from room to room carrying dust cloth and polish or brushed a damp hair out of her face over a pot of steaming vegetables, I was busy fighting the constrictions of being a girl child of that time.
I wanted to climb rocks and trees, not wear dresses and white gloves. I wanted to race my brothers through the yard to the alley in the back, not walk briskly to the corner grocery store with my mother. I wanted to explore the “Old Brown Building” that was off limits to us kids because it was considered dilapidated and dangerous, not explore the best method for getting tarnish off the family silver. And I wanted to help my neighbor dig in his vegetable garden, not sweep the dust off the front porch.
It’s not that I wanted to be a boy. No, they were far to smelly and stupid. I just didn’t want to willingly follow the dictates of society about what I, as a mere girl, was expected to do. I became especially rebellious if someone was silly enough to tell me “girls don’t do that” or “girls can’t be this”.
I spent a great deal of time finding ways to do exactly the sort of things that “girls don’t do.” Like when I convinced my friend, Leslie, that it was a good thing to get out the hose and clean the outside of her house while wearing our Sunday dresses. After all, we were cleaning the way girls were supposed to do. Like when my baby brother’s plastic ball conveniently rolled under the door of the Old Brown Building. It was a good thing that I braved the danger to retrieve it, right? There was also the time I ventured into Mrs. Nagle’s flower garden and picked all her tulips. Girls and flowers go together, right? So I did my own kind of gardening, which from my perspective should have gained me praise rather than the punishment I received. Unfortunately for me, Mrs. Nagle was still teaching at my elementary school when I entered first grade.
I became certain that girls were punished by society just for being girls. I remember begging and crying not to be tortured at bedtime. My mother was determined in her resolution that I would be the picture of femininity and daintiness the next day. So off to bed I would go with huge plastic rollers fastened to my head, tossing and turning all night from discomfort, and waking in the morning to more torture as we attempted to extricate a thousand bobby pins from the tangled mass.
I was feeling especially grown up and equally brilliant when I devised a plan to end the curler torment, at the age of 10. I enlisted the aid of my 16 year old aunt. There was a new product on the market which claimed it straightened hair. It worked. It worked really well. It worked so well it was immediately taken off the market because of the permanent damage it caused.
I definitely had straight hair. So straight that those huge plastic rollers no longer produced even a wave. I mistakenly thought I was off the hook…no more rollers in my hair at night. I underestimated my mother’s determination to turn me into a real girl. I fell victim to the dreaded home perm and the need to control the frizz by sleeping on even more tiny rollers made of plastic and sponges.
About the time I was fighting the home permanent phase, something happened. While I still didn’t want to suffer the agony of curly hair, I discovered there might be a few things about being a girl that were okay. Like wearing nylons and make-up.
I remember the day I jokingly put on a pair of my mother’s nylons. That was right about the same time that Twiggy was setting the trend for wearing pantyhose. I discovered I liked the way they looked and the fact that I didn’t have to keep tugging my knee-hi’s up every few steps taken. My interest in girly things was piqued. I recall the day I swiped a shade of eye shadow across my eyelid, followed by mascara. I was hooked. To my way of thinking, pantyhose would allow me to run and jump without fear of my underpants showing, and the make-up would satisfy everyone that I was being the girl society imposed upon me.
I arrived at school feeling triumphant and even more brilliant than when I straightened my hair. I waltzed through the school halls oblivious to the teachers’ stares. Then one of the society driven dragons pulled me aside to inform me that nice girls don’t wear those things to school.
You’ve got to be kidding! Being a girl isn’t enough? I gotta be nice, too? Will the demands never end?
- Just Wait Until Your Father Gets Home! (Hubpages.com)
- Things I Could Have Done In The Amount Of Time It Takes To Straighten My Hair (thoughtcatalog.com)
- Ponytail Rollerset (curlyinc.wordpress.com)
- How To Get Hot Runway Hair (bellasugar.com)
- Girls with Curls (womensrabbinicnetwork.wordpress.com)