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I’m going under the knife.

Well, okay it’s probably scissors.  Not that scissors are any less scary.

I made an appointment today to get my hair cut on Wednesday.  So yes, I am currently shaking in my boots, as you do.

Or, at least, as I do.

I am a hairdressing chicken.

A coiffure coward.

A feminine frills fraidy-cat.

Dress it up with any amount of annoying alliteration, the reality is that no matter what you call it, I am just plain afraid of the hair salon.

My grandma Verna (who, at age 88, is still much fancier than I will ever, ever be) regularly visits her hair stylist for pampering and a perm. She comes from an era–a lovely, vintage era, in my mind–where women didn’t do their own hair.  They had a weekly appointment at a salon and the rest of the time, they wrapped their heads in toilet paper between visits, to sleep.

My kingdom for a victory roll and some toilet paper!

Me and my hair have a long and sketchy history.  I’m still traumatized from childhood when I remember sleeping in curlers, a lot.

pink foam rollers from the 70s

photo credit:


Boy oh boy, did my mother like my hair curled all up for birthday parties, school pictures and the like.  There are lots of similar pictures of me as a child:  be-kerchiefed and ready to magically turn into Christine the curly-haired, overnight.

Me as a child with curly hair

To be fair, she did it to herself too.

Me and my mom, circa 1973

The problem was, my mom often ran out of the softer pink foam curlers by the end of her ministrations, so although my whole head was lumpy, it was my forehead that had to endure the evil, prickly, silvery-black curlers while I slept.

black, wire curlers

photo credit: Pinterest

Poke, poke, scratch, scratch.

Right then, I knew that suffering for beauty was not going to be my thing.

Oh, I know there are people who laugh at my fear.  In fact, there are people who actually look forward to going to an establishment with chairs that pump up and down and the sweet smell of chemicals in the air, just so they can get:

  • the lovely hair washing in the tilt-your-head-back sink thingy
  • the lovely hand massage while you’re in the tilt-your-head-back sink thingy
  • the lovely shiatsu head massage while you’re in the tilt-your-head-back sink thingy
  • the lovely aromatherapy while you’re in the tilt-your-head-back sink thingy
  • the would-you-like-a-lovely-magazine-with-pictures-of-hunky-hollywood-types-in-it while you’re in the tilt-your-head-back thingy

and so on and so forth.

I am totally deprived at the hair salon due to my inability to bond with the tilt-your-head-back sink thingy.  It gave me horrific vertigo a few years ago and I’ve been advised to avoid the lovely tilt-your-head-back sink thingy ever since.

To my dismay, I now have to skip the whole sink thingy extravaganza and head straight for the CHAIR OF DOOM.

hairdresser chair

photo credit:

And, I don’t even get a discount.

When I was growing up, I had to remove my glasses for a hair cut so the entire procedure would be a complete mystery until, ta-da! I was revealed looking like Einstein had stuck his finger in an electric socket or Paul McCartney had put a bowl on his head and cut around it.

Or worse:  my mother.

(No one really wants to look like one’s mother, no matter how beautiful she is.)

Nowadays, I wear contact lenses so, at least I can see what’s happening, while it’s happening.

Oh, the terror!

As soon as my posterior hits the pleather, my barely-disguised inner wallflower/social misfit rears its ugly head (a head which somehow seems to be wearing thick glasses, braces and a face full of acne).  Before I can recover my straightened teeth and contact lenses zen, one of the popular crowd (aka the hair stylist) approaches and I immediately become tongue-tied or prone to using multi-syllabic words that reveal me as “a brain” and a member of the super un-cool.

It’s like grade 6 through high school (and some present-day interactions with my student staff) all over again.

I’m afraid to ask for what I want from the obvious icon of fashion and plentiful high school dates who hovers near me with the scissors and I can’t adequately convey my ineptitude with styling products and all the flattening/straightening/curling/burning appliances.  My refusal to dye my hair only further marks me as one who “lets herself go” or is a middle-aged, makeover-in-waiting.  And, although I often toy with the idea of adding an electric blue streak to my locks, within seconds of landing in the CHAIR OF DOOM, I find myself cowering under my synthetic smock.   I bleat out one pitiful request and count down the minutes until I can pay an exorbitant sum for a trim (and no pampering from the tilt-your-head-back sink thingy), not to mention a tip, as if I can buy my way into the cool people crowd.

Even when I finally work up the nerve to peer at myself in the rear-view mirror in the car, I am not comforted.  If the haircut is lovely, I know there’s no toilet paper bedtime regime to preserve it.  If it’s horrible, I wouldn’t know where to start to make even pink curlers and pokey black curlers transform me overnight.

But then, I remember something that soothes all my wayward cowlicks.

The one pitiful request I had managed to bleat out while in the CHAIR OF DOOM was:

“please make it a style that works with hats”.

So, bring it on Wednesday, I’m ready.

me in a black hat

Me, captured on a particularly good hair/hat day.


Copyright Christine Fader, 2014.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet         You might also like my book.




As you may recall, I’m a car girl from way back  (behold the photographic evidence).

This is me on my creative coaster, circa 1972

This is me, on my creative coaster, circa 1971.

I can hold my own in a conversation about cylinders and horsepower, but the world of beauty has always been somewhat intimidating and mysterious to me.  I have therefore decided that if I ever win a big lottery, I’m going to hire “a person”.

Right after I buy a couple of really great, vintage cars, of course.

Anyway, to stay on point:  I’m going to hire a person to wrangle my multitudes of not-really-straight-not-really-curly-not-really-short-not-really-long hair into some semblance of effortless-looking order.   A person to cover my blotches and splotches (hello acne, I’m 44, what is up with you?!) and bring out the blue of my eyes.  A person to find me flattering clothing with some unique flair.

Okay, forget “a person”.  Realistically, I’d like the whole team from What Not To Wear.

I wander down the aisles at the drugstore (this should already tell you how much I’m willing to invest in beauty) but I have no idea what the bottles mean.  There are European pro-vitamin formulas and Swiss plant extracts and lots of things that sound tasty but I’m not sure why I’d want to put them on my face, instead of in my mouth.

All that research and science and money spent harnessing Swiss plant extracts.  What about harnessing the power of Swiss chocolate?  I’d buy Swiss chocolate extract face cream in a heartbeat.  Who cares about wrinkles and age spots when you can smell Toblerone all day with zero calories ingested?

But without Toblerone moisturizer to entice me, all the night jams and day jellies and de-toxifying goos baffle me.  Ditto the make up.

I blame our education system.

All that time spent worrying about parabolas in grade 12 math when I could have been learning something useful, like how to make my cheekbones look like Angelina Jolie’s.

Yes, not enough time reading Seventeen has landed me firmly in the land of beige eye shadow and with a “beauty routine” that involves…washing my face.  Beauty, I’m just not that into you.  Perhaps you could tell by the way I abandon you at parties and never return your calls.

But, I admire beauty in others very much, especially vintage-inspired style like Ginnifer Goodwin often displays.  (Obviously, Ginnifer returns beauty’s calls).

Wow, I just re-read that last sentence and now, I can’t stop giggling.    “Beauty calls” sounds a lot like “booty calls” when you say it quickly.

Anyway, when you think of vintage beauty, images of Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn might float gracefully through your brain.

In my brain, there’s my headless Grandma.

That’s because my Grandma Verna used to take off her head to go to bed.  Well, actually, it was her hair.   Or, to be more specific, her wig.  She put her wig on a white styro-foam head that sat on her dresser, so I always thought of it as removing her head.

When we visited from Calgary, I slept in the alcove at the top of the stairs in my grandparent’s Victorian house.   I lay awake, picturing my grandmother’s head (the styrofoam one) in the other room, glowing white in the darkness.  I thought it mysterious and slightly scary, this world of beauty.

Then, to make matters even more bewildering, Grandma Verna would wrap her regular hair in toilet paper and lie down on (and this is important for reasons I have forgotten) a satin pillowcase.

I can just imagine what Practical Man would say if I came to bed with my head wrapped in toilet paper.

Beauty on the other side of the family was equally intriguing.   My Grandma Helen was known for her do-it-yourself pluckiness.  She would have been a hit on Rachel Ray’s Double Duty segment because she was always re-purposing everyday household items for multiple uses.  She also loved gadgets.

I’m pretty sure this is why Grandma Helen felt drawn to the multi-purpose nature of her beauty device:  the Filter Queen hairdryer.

In case you’re not familiar, Filter Queen is a vacuum cleaner manufacturer.

Yep, she had a hair dryer that was an attachment for her vacuum cleaner.  It was the 50s equivalent of something snazzy that people snicker at but secretly want, like a car that parallel parks itself.   I bet that Dyson guy could have really taken this idea and run with it.  He would have made vacuum cleaner hair dryers that didn’t “lose suction” and that “just worked prop’ly”.  Grandma Helen’s vacuum cleaner hair dryer was an experience though.  And, as a bonus, it kind of smelled like burning plastic when you put it on.


This is NOT Grandma Helen but it IS what her vacuum cleaner hairdryer looked like! (photo credit:

Amazingly, if I came to bed in a Filter Queen hairdryer, Practical Man probably wouldn’t bat an eye.  He’s vintage, remember?  Plus, he used to sell them back in the day.

In fairness to Grandma Helen, by the time we grandkids came along, she wasn’t actually using it.  It was more of an emergency back-up at the cottage and a way to spend a rainy afternoon laughing hysterically as we inflated it on someone’s head.

Yessiree, vintage beauty in my family is a strange and mysterious thing. But who am I to talk?

I’d be wandering around wearing Toblerone face cream, if I could find it.