Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific was a shampoo in the 1970’s. There was a girl on the commercial with wavy blonde 1970’s hair and she would swing her 70’s hair around and some guy who also had 1970’s hair would instantly fall in love with her and say with big luvy dovey 70’s eyes “Gee, your hair smells terrific!” and they would live happily ever after. My grandpa loved this shampoo (or maybe just the girls in the commercial?) So, that is what I used at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I was a little kid so lucky for me it didn’t attract men with poofey 70’s hair….unless you count the guy in the blue Cadillac who parked on the corner one day and asked me and my friend to help him with directions on his map and when we approached the car his compass was pointing north if you get my drift. Ew.
I had reddish, curly hair as a kid. My mother was a big fan of the spit curl. You know where you take a piece of hair, usually in front of the ear, spit on it to make it wet and then wind it around your finger and secure it with a bobby pin. I usually wound up looking like a Hasidic Jew straight from Williamsburg, but hey, it was the 70’s, there were many of us little girls looking like Jewish boys because our moms had discovered the beauty of the spit curl. I wasn’t alone.
I was “so lucky”,according to my grandma, because I had such beautiful curly hair and she had to perm her hair to get the curls to make the old lady hair style. Isn’t it funny how the older women get, the shorter their hair gets until they have a white woman fro? My own mother is headed the way of the white woman fro. She hasn’t permed, but she is going shorter and shorter every trip to the hair dresser. I wonder why that is? And when I see older ladies with long hair I just assume they are some hippie throwbacks who don’t wear bras or gurtles or knee highs under their slacks and won’t conform to the standardized old lady hair. And I simultaneously envy and admire them. I dream of being one of them when I get old….but more than likely I will have the old lady helmet of curly perm and be happy with the retirement of flat irons and pony tails and big barrel rollers.
I started dying my hair when I was in 7th grade. Red. I wanted my hair to be fire engine red. My mother bought me semi permanent dye that African American ladies used. It was meant to be shockingly brilliant red. And it would have been if my hair were the texture of an African American woman. But I was a little German Scottish girl with curly hair.It came our red, and then washed out and rubbed off on my pillows, for which I got in trouble. Getting red all over everything! We tried henna which brought out my natural red highlights. I liked that but I wanted something less natural looking. I had no idea where this desire for red hair came from. It was like an internal force that was making me go red. My mother was a natural brunette who hadn’t started dying her hair yet and my grandma was always dying her hair jet black (made her look 20 years younger than she was). So why the need to be red? I didn’t know….
I finally found out about Manic Panic which was not available outside of NYC. But some of the super rad college kids we were hanging out with at the time had a supply. Oh if only I could get my hands on some of that red….then I would feel complete. In the meantime I settled for purple reds that my friends and I would get at the local beauty supply place downtown. One friend found a nice navy blue to use for polka dots over her stripped blonde hair. My other friend was generally always a jet blue-black gal and then there was me….the red head. Until the day I decided to go blonde.
Blondes have more fun right? Maybe, if they have never been a red head. So, we bought stripping agent (it’s a hair process, you perv, not like a stripper on a pole) and proceeded to strip my red hair. It came out a lovely shade of French’s mustard yellow. I looked like an idiot. Dark eyebrows with sunshine yellow hair. Shoulder length, frizzy (as I burned the hell our of my curls) bright yellow hair. Madonna I was not. This was all done in my friend’s basement over her utility sink, no glamor for me. What to do besides hold my yellow head high and laugh along with the ketchup and mustard comments. And dye it back to red.
Then I decided that I would look great with black hair. Metallic black hair. But I was so pale I looked like I had some sort of disease that was sucking the color out of all of those I came in contact with. I was depressed, everyone around me was depressed. My hair was so black it was like life had become grey. I needed to go back to red and in a hurry!! So, I went to a real hair dresser this time, first time in my life for getting (or getting rid of) color. I knew this was going to be a job for a professional. I sat down in her chair with total apprehension. I didn’t trust hair dressers. The last experience I had with a hair dresser I went in wanting a shag and walked out with a mullet. But this black to red transition needed to happen quickly as I just landed my first job as a dance teacher and I didn’t want my black hole of hair to ruin my students enthusiasm.
They stripped my hair. They all agreed that would be the fastest way back to red. Strip it and then wait a day then dye it red. Ok, I nervously agree. They load up my head with bleach. It started to burn immediately but I dealt with the pain. After all, pain is beauty. I was a dancer, I knew I had to sacrifice for beauty. Until…my head was on FIRE! They immediately rinsed me out and apologized,as they slowly spun me around to show me what they were apologizing for. I had about an inch of white hair at the roots, then it was orange, orange as the fruit, then it was baby poop brown then at the ends it was still metallic black. There was alot of discussion and finger-pointing and blame flying around. Me? I just left. They begged me to come back the following week and they would fix it for me. I couldn’t even imagine what fixing my candy corn hair would look like. No thank you.
I went and bought some red dye, but didn’t use it for a week as was recommended by the hair professionals. They were very concerned that the roots were so damaged from the bleach that any more chemicals could make them snap off. Ok. I taught my students that first week with a bandana tied on. To be totally honest, it wasn’t the end of the world. I was never that vein to begin with. It was just annoying because at that point in my life I wanted to be looked upon as mature and responsible. Not like a freak with multi colored hair. Oh well. I learned a very important lesson. Never have any expectations and if you are lucky (like me…remember my grandma told me I was) then hair grows back.
About 7 years after this fiasco, I finally found a hair dresser who was a colorist. She did a great job cutting my hair. She really is an artist. And she had the greatest hair colors…everytime I came in she had a new color on her hair. White with turquoise stripes, hot pink, red with platinum underneath. Always spectacular. After 5 years of quizzing her about hair color, I finally allowed her to dye my hair. And I was so happy!! My hair was exactly the shade of red I had always dreamed it would be. This girl was a genius!!! She won my loyalty that day. That was 10 years ago and she still has the funkiest hair colors around and she still gets me to the red I want every single time.
Everyone always compliments me on how nice my hair smells. I assume it is because I used to use Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific and the smells just lasted. I never wear perfume but I am always complimented on how nice I smell. It’s my hair. Now, here is the strange part of the story. When I was 23 I sent away for my Non Identifying information to the NYS adoption registry. This is a registry that stores all information that the birth parents would release at the time of adoption so that if the adoptee ever came looking, this registry would have some basic info for them. My info came to me by mail and the first thing I read was that my birth mother had red hair…….
So, is hair color really genetic or is it a choice? In my case, I have to say it was a genetic desire which drove me to a choice. It was more than just wanting to look like Lucille Ball or Frenchie or Molly Ringwald. I knew, somewhere deep within that I had to be a red head. I believe everyone should be a red head at some point in their life. It is more than just a shade of hair color. It is definitly an attitude. I had the attitude without the color for many years and I always knew something was off. Once I found my outter red head to match my inner red head, I became myself.
I dyed my oldest daughter’s hair blonde last night. When she was little she would say “when I grow up I want to have gold hair” I have NO idea where she gets that from. I mean blonde? Really? But who am I to stand in the way of her inner blonde? I dyed my hair red through every pregnancy and said a prayer to have a red headed child. I got two brunettes and a blonde. Well, now I have two blondes and a brunette. Someday they will see the light and we will all live happily ever after as red heads….Hey! A mother can dream can’t she?
So, yeah, that is kinda weird that my birth mother is a red head, and that I always knew I was a red head too. Not the weirdest thing that has happened in my life, but kinda cool. Long live Gingers whether by birth or by bottle!!!!