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Suburban Island

New Perm Blues
Thursday, Feb. 13, 2003, 8:14 p.m.

Question: Is it possible to find something that smells more pungent that steamed shrimp zapped in the microwave?

What I Learned: Thereís no per-fume in the average per-manent.

Iím curly. Very curly. In fact, right now Shirley Temple doesnít have anything on me. I have been perming it up for many years now and there is a perm progression that I follow. It looks a bit like those crazy bell curves they used to draw on the board to explain why you got a lousy grade even though it looks like you got a good one. I am at the bottom of the new perm bell at this moment in time. Here is where the curls meet the road and bounce all over the place for a week or two. I have already traumatized my family with my curliness. Thatís kind of fun because we can all laugh about the uber-curls I have just spent a fortune procuring. Out in the real world, I take a different tack.

First off, I go for the pulled back look. I yank it back into a ponytail, bun, or even the pinnacle of the sophisti-hair Ė the elegant and understated french twist. Every day I let the perm peek through a little bit more until finally, I just turn up one day with all those nice curly curls everywhere. New perm - me? Itís kind of like opening up one of those cans of peanuts that is really stuffed with springy things that pop out and startle the poor, unsuspecting individual unfortunate to have developed a craving for salted peanuts. Alright- yeah, it's a new perm. Now leave me and my recently purchased curls in peace.

I donít know if the camouflage technique really makes any difference as far as building up a resistance to new perm shock for those around me, or just helps me push through to the sweet spot at the top of the curve where I can wash, scrunch, and go Ė no hairdryer required Ė and look delightfully curly without a drop of work. Unfortunately there is another side to that curve and as sure as day turns to night, that perm starts to look unfortunate. There are many attempts to resuscitate the perm with perm shampoos, hair gels, and the trim, which is supposed to magically perk up that tired perm. Alas, eventually I do hit the scruffy bottom of the perm cycle Ė just all permed out.

That brings me back here. 2 Ĺ hours of tiny curlers, tissue paper wrappers, noxious fumes, and the inevitable curl-a-rama outcome.

I knew there was a reason why they still make bobby pins. Tomorrow, its just me, the curls, and a fistful of bobby pins for as long as it takes.

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