hair care


When you’re growing up, you get the simplified version of a lot of things. Whether it’s a baby taking a bath in the sink, having a Hot Wheels Mustang instead of a Ford, or watching rated-R movies from over the back of the couch so your parents “didn’t know.” Either way, things are dumbed down for the youngest and smallest versions of ourselves.

Growing up, me and my hand-me-down sweatshirts were no stranger to this phenomenon and where this manifested itself most apparently was in hair care. Allow me to set the stage. There are three key elements to this:

1) Every morning before school, I would walk into the kitchen and have my cereal. What I mean by this is – I would blindly try to get cereal into my mouth while I remained fixated on whatever puzzle, maze, or trivia was featured on the back of the cereal box. You would think that, eating the same cereal most days, I would get sick of looking at the same puzzle or solving the same mazes. However, I just got more confident in myself because by Friday – I couldn’t lose! Sometimes it took all week but after four days of practice, I was certain how to get the honey bee through the garden to reach the Cheerio and I knew immediately that “LCEOSIUDI” was a scramble for “DELICIOUS.” Try your best General Mills, but I would not be fooled.

2) Being a ten-year old boy who put more weight on the intellectual battle between himself and the cardboard box than he did on actually eating the cereal, it’s safe to imagine that I couldn’t care less what my hair looked like. Thus when I came into the kitchen, my hair typically looked like an exotic Japanese shrubbery.

3) My mother, somehow finding personal embarrassment in my hair presentation, did not share my indifference. I’ve mentioned before that my parents raised two children before me and, like any child with siblings can tell you, the style and approach of raising children changes drastically across the chronology of sibling-dom. By the time it came to raising me, my parents were at a tender state between “It’s like riding a bike” and “I’m tired of bikes. Get me something easier!” I can’t say that I blame them.

A simple example of this chronology:

In 1985 – my sister got our parents to learn Chutes and Ladders

In 1987 – my brother got our parents to master Chutes and Ladders

In 1990 – I got our parents to want to burn down Milton Bradley (luckily they got bought out by Hasbro and my ‘rents didn’t keep up)

So these three ingredients came together and started the tradition of my mother taking it upon herself to do my hair every morning. Now, I was a ten-year-old boy so “doing my hair” consisted of spraying it with water and combing it down. Frankly, unless she could make my hair look like the kid from Dragonball Z, I didn’t much care. I was fine with my standard look whose only compliment was that no one ever said anything about it.

The beauty and the curse of this arrangement was that I didn’t have to look at my mother or my hair whilst it was tended to. Meaning, she could very easily die my hair pink over a bowl of Fruit Loops or – what turned out to be much worse – fall victim to morning grogginess…

This multitude, perhaps even cavalcade, of events and circumstances lead to one fateful morning in third grade that I will not soon forget.

I stumbled down the stairs, into the kitchen with hair that would make Trump’s rats nest jealous and would be classified under most city codes as a Phase 2 Fire Hazard. I made the second difficult decision of my day – Honey Nut Cheerios or Cinnamon Toast Crunch (the first being which t-shirt to wear – Cleveland Browns or Detroit Red Wings).

I sat down across the kitchen table from my favorite cartoon chef, Wendell, as he was face to face with a slew of cinnamon-y squares whose swirls had been misplaced! He was a total wreck and it was up to me to help him out or watch, as his cereal would lose its flavor forever. I began my quest, dissecting word scrambles and trudging through candy-coated mazes of cinnamon and sugar when my mother began her portion of the routine.

Regardless of the fact that it happened every morning, the aggressive spritz! sound directly behind my ear and the cold water assaulting my scalp was always a bit of a shock. Not to mention the antagonizing hair tug that the $0.40 comb undoubtedly delivered. How was I supposed to concentrate on saving the career and livelihood of my dear friend Wendell with such unnecessary distractions? How could we worry about hair aesthetics at a time like this?! But, like any true warrior, I braved onward with the water splashing across my head like a soft rain. Which I ultimately thought was appropriate because in the movies the weather is never nice when they go into battle.

I quickly made my way through the early stages of the mission (it was a Tuesday, so Monday had given me a leg up) when I noticed something was amiss. This was a routine that was so carefully calculated between my mother and I that every detail was always the same. I’m pretty sure that if I sat down at a different chair to eat my cereal, she would start combing the hair of an invisible child seated in my usual spot. So on this fateful morning, when my nostrils flared up, I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t quite place it. But there was a new smell this morning. A smell that didn’t belong.

I broke eye contact with the cereal box and said, simply, “Mom?” This broke the cycle and we both stopped. This was the first shred of color in Pleasantville, the first dance from Footloose. There was trouble in River City and we both could smell it.

Since it’s difficult for one to see the top of their own head (try as they might) it was largely up to my mother to diagnose the problem, as I was 90% sure the new smell was not related to my cereal expedition. It was only a moment before I heard her gasp.

I quickly turned around to see her standing there, water bottle in her right hand and the comb in her left with a blank look of shock on her face. She looked as if Sweeney Todd had a change of heart mid-haircut. I couldn’t find the source of the problem but watched as her face tried to decide whether she was amused or horrified (a problem I face when watching fat kids fall off diving boards). It was only when I examined the water bottle more closely did the scent in the room match the present visual evidence.

The water in the bottle was much bluer than usual. Seeing as how, despite cartoon depictions, most water is actually – ya know – clear. This water had an almost glowing blue hue. My mother turned the label of the water bottle to face me and where I expected to see Sharpie marker crossing out the brand name and etching “WATER” over it, there was nothing. Just the untarnished label laughing at me with all of it’s glory.


You should know, that while pretty standard Midwesterners, my parents were a bit ahead of the green movement. If in no other way than we used old spray cleaning bottles for water bottles or anything else that may need to be sprayed.

I had my hair relegated from tangled mess to messy window. My mother had finally decided that this was funny and started to laugh – “Hahaha, I’m cleaning my child with household cleaner” and, so as to fit in, I laughed along – “Hahaha, I can’t decide if I think this is funny or not.” Because in the back of my mind, I knew, that while we laughed about water bottle mishaps, poor Wendell was in a serious cereal crisis that was threatening everything he held dear.

Our time was up, I had to go off to school. While I had some crazy thoughts as a kid, I was never insane enough to ask my mom to let me stay home so I could solve the problems on the back of the cereal box.

In walking to school, the smell of glass cleaner wouldn’t leave me alone. I couldn’t help but look up into the sky and wonder if, thanks to my Windex toupee, birds would get confused and crash into my head much like a patio door.

While no birds crashed into me and the smell only lasted until I got to school, I couldn’t help but think that I was, at that moment, starting a new trend in hair fashion. The boy who didn’t care about his hair was the only one in school that was rocking the streak free shine. And only him and his mother new the secret.

Suck it Pantene. You and Loreal ain’t got nothin.


-       dc


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