Category Archives: retro

My Constantly Changing Hair

I have always envied those folks who have had the same haircut their whole lives.  They found something they liked, it worked for them, and they stuck with it.  Commitment!  Regardless of trends, or fashion, or even common sense, they stick with that style no matter what.  I tend to think those folks are fairly predictable in their clothing choices as well, but that’s another blog post.

That’s not really how my relationship with my hair works at all.  I have sported pretty much every hair style under the sun; I have had red hair, brown hair, blonde hair, long hair, short hair, straight hair, curly hair – I’ve had it all.

When I was a little kid, I had a shag haircut…for real.  In my kindergarten picture, the very first school picture a kid gets, a HUGE rite of passage, I am wearing a toothless smile, a pink, zip up pantsuit, and a blonde shag.  My mother, a normally puritan and conservative matriarch, gave me a haircut made popular by Jane Fonda’s performance in “Klute”  – you know, the movie where she plays a prostitute?  I had the hair of a whore at 5 years old.

My two older sisters were allowed to grow their hair out.  They had lovely, long tresses.  My eldest sister Mary had honey colored hair (always reminded me of Sleeping Beauty’s hair in the Disney classic) and my other sister Sarah had rich, chestnut colored hair.  While Mary usually wore her hair down (classic) Sarah would often wear braids, or carefully construct a bun that would flawlessly make it through the day.  As a young child, I envied my sisters’ long hair.  I used to wear towels and steal my mother’s wigs and pretend, for hours in front of the mirror, that I had long hair.  I begged her to let me grow it out, but it fell on deaf ears.

Apparently, according to my mother, I didn’t have the disposition it took to have long hair.  I made a fuss about most things in my youth, and combing, washing and taking care of hair would have been at the top of the list.  (Let me be clear, I can now say, as an adult and a mother, that I was a horrible child.  If I had to raise myself, I would be dead by now; certainly the child/Liz would drive the adult/Liz to some desperate act either against her adult-self or her child-self.  And yes, I understand how a therapist would get off reading that sentence, but hey, I’m a Gemini.)

The summer after the shag, my mother gave me a “pixie” made famous by Mia Farrow’s performance in “Rosemary’s Baby.”  (I am assuming that is not at all a subconscious reflection of my behavior as a child.)   That was also the summer I spent every day in the pool and never bothered with showering.  Why should I hop in the shower when I spent the whole day in water?  (Duh…)  Well, around July 28th, it became clear why perhaps rinsing chlorine out of my blonde hair might have been time well spent.  My hair started taking on a neon greenish hue, which was really fun for my older sisters and brother, because that was the color of my swimsuit that summer as well.  It was subtle at first, but around August 15th, it was pretty obvious.  I started blending in with the local flora.  People pointed at the grocery store and my sibling’s taunts increased.  Lesson learned.  Rinse off when you get out of the pool, Blondie!

Finally, when I was in high school, I had a modicum of control over my life and looks, and I grew my hair out.  I finally had long hair!  I wore it all different kinds of ways.  I would get up early to braid, or curl, or tease…it was fun.  It usually only lasted until 3rd period, but still, I looked great at 8:00!  As I got older, my hair got a little bit darker with each year.  I wasn’t a fan.  I preferred to be a sassy blonde, so in high school, I started adding highlights.  That was my first foray into color.  It was fun.  I also tried perming my hair.  That was not fun, but for some unknown and stupid reason, I continued to get them.  (This is when older, wiser Liz wishes she could have a heart to heart with younger, stupid Liz and tell her to avoid fashion trends.)

In college I had different hair styles.  Freshmen year I had a bob, because I joined a sorority, because, well, OK, it seemed like the thing to do.  Most of the gals in the sorority had a bob, so when in Rome.  (Clearly, I was more of a follower at this point in my life.)  I was surrounded by blondes with bobs.  (New band name, I call it!)  Sophomore year was another bad perm, and junior and senior, (heavy sigh) I sported a mullet.  Yup, like a bad Joan Jet wanabe.  Not only did I have a mullet my junior year, but my senior year, I permed that bad mullet.  That’s right, a permed mullet.  Looking back on it, I’m not sure what was worse, the hair or the Aqua-net hairspray addiction that went with it.  Gotta love the 80’s!

The rest of my adult life, my hair has been everything, although I do believe the last perm I ever got was in 1992. (Good riddance to bad rubbish.)   I also started recognizing a pattern with my hair.  Usually, after a tragedy, I made a drastic change to my appearance.  Some people get tattoos when there is a death of a loved one, I made an appointment at the salon.  There is something about cutting off many inches of hair, hair that took years to grow, that can be freeing when one is in pain.  Then, as one heals and mourns, there is something about growing it back again.  Seeing slow change over months, seeing and feeling familiar locks against the neck or shoulders can give comfort, knowing time has passed and we soldier on.

At the end of the day, what matters is how our hair makes us feel.  It’s OK to let go of new trends or styles or colors, and it’s OK to jump on board too.  You own it, you get to wear it how you want.  I know this sounds ridiculously simplistic and Pre-K, but honestly, it has taken me about 48 years to figure that shit out.  My hair is like me – constantly changing, growing, morphing, and as I go through life it’s kind of fun to look back at the different styles I rocked and some that I did not. I have recently decided that I am going to grow my hair out again, but who knows?  Maybe I’ll get bored along the way and do some damage before it reaches my shoulders.

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Filed under fashion, Feminism, Hair, Humor, retro

Pong

One snowy Christmas eve, my father came home with a bounce in his step, a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. Along with this energetic demeanor, he also had a bag, a big bag with a big box in it. “What’s this? What’s in the bag?“ We could tell this was going to be something big, because he was all “presentational” about it, and after a deep breath, he told us.  Over the strains of The Julie Andrews Firestone Christmas album playing in the background, he told us; this wasn’t just a simple present.  This was a “family” present.  That had to mean something big, right? Something great, and something amazing.  With great restraint and absence of inflection, he said it was “Pong.”   Pong, the very first home video game on the market. “Pong”- even the name was fun. We had only heard of it, whispered of its glory on the playground, but here he was, my father, with an actual Pong game in his big, strong hands. For us!  For Christmas!  We couldn’t believe it. He was so proud and we were in awe. He was a god at that moment, a prince among men.  He must love us very much to bring home such a trophy, such a grand display of fun and affection. It was quite a moment for our family.

He slowly pulled the box out as if it were a time bomb. He then opened the box. “Ahhhhh” followed by “Wow” “Far Out” and finally “Rad.” Even my cynical brother had his interest piqued. There it was, the Pong. It was white and shiny and futuristic looking and somehow, oddly enough, had that new car smell. There was a moment of silence, and then my brother blurted “Well, hell, set it up!”

Those 10 minutes spent hooking it up to the TV seemed like a century. We were giddy with anticipation. “Hurry up, Dad!“ ”Hurray for Dad!” “Hurray for Pong!” we cheered. I thought about how jealous my friends would be when I told them we had Pong.  And then, after what seemed like an eternity of wires and swearing and static and more swearing, the screen changed from snow to black and our television was transformed into a game! It was magical! There we were, in our family room and we were playing an arcade game, in the family room, an arcade game! And oh, how we played. It was a delight; it was fun and fabulous and amazing and everything we had hoped for. We cheered and laughed and my father was a hero; everyone knew it. This was Frank Woodworth’s moment; he was in his glory, for exactly eight minutes. My brother dared to be the first to say what we were all thinking, “That’s it? That’s all there is?” With those few words, my father’s shoulders fell. It was over. The golden glory was gone.

For those of you who don‘t know what Pong is, to call it “basic” is a bit like saying an overhead projector is cutting edge technology. Like saying guys who work at NASA like science.  It is the MOST simple of video games. Although the box “claimed” to have 3 different games in 1 console, those games were in fact: tennis, badminton and ping-pong. I think you know where I’m going with this. In essence, one player rolled a dial (yes, a dial) that controlled a white “bar” on the screen that moved up and down. Not across or over or under, just up and down, and a square “ball” would bounce back and forth; the mission was to hit the ball with your bar. If you did so, it would make a sound, much like the game’s name. It you missed, a new ball would miraculously appear so you could repeat this exercise ad nauseum. The ball moved at a snail’s pace, all this on a black background.

The graphics were, well…not. It was the most basic, primitive game possible. A ball (for lack of a better word) went back and forth. That was it. It was the tennis without any of the fun of tennis. If Edison would have invented Pong, he would have considered it a failure and kept on trying until he ended up with Ms. Pac Man. It even bored the dog.

But that was my Dad; he would buy the first new thing that came out on the market, and suffer through all of the improved versions that came afterwards, stubbornly committed to the first version he bought. He didn’t really take the “wait and see” approach to much in life. Who else do you know that actually bought an Opel hatchback? He once bought one of those “porta-phones” that was the size of a golf cart and it had an antenna so large it should have been able to receive calls from the moon, but oddly, it only had a 20 feet radius from its “docking station” in the kitchen. We would try to use it by the pool and would have to tilt our heads toward the kitchen as if we were constantly in a state of confusion. When newer, smaller phones came out, he would look down his nose at them. “We have a port-a-phone…who needs another one?”

“Yeah, but dad, this one works in the car.”

“We don’t need to talk in the car. Americans are smarter than that. It’s unsafe….that’ll never catch on.“ That was my dad. A trend setter.

Sadly, my father’s Pong stayed under the television, right next to the Beta recorder (see?) collecting dust. He didn’t give up though. He was undaunted. Years later, when my father would energetically ask “Who wants to play some Pong?” I respond with “I have homework” which was code for painting my nails, popping zits, or writing emotional, crappy poems in my journal.

After the Pong bust, the cooler more versatile games starting coming out, like the “Atari” home system. Ohhhh, Atari.  You know, where you could actually, you know, change the game? It was like an 8 track player (which of course, my father also owned) for games where you could pull different games in and out; it was the precursor for the Holy Grail of games, the Nintendo.  I would beg my dad for an Atari system and he would say emphatically “No, play Pong! You have a perfectly good Pong game over there. You kids don’t appreciate what you have…” which was absolutely true.

My dad was taken from us when he was way too young, but he’s still with me.  I can still hear his voice, coming out of my mouth, when I tell my daughter, “No, you don’t need a smart phone you have a great walkie-talkie. Angry Birds, Schmangry Birds. Go get a deck of cards.”

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Filed under Family, Humor, Parenting, retro, Technology

Wigs

When I was a little girl the in late 60‘s early 70‘s, it seemed that everyone’s mother had a wig or two in her closet. Not that they would stay in the closet, because these women would actually wear their wigs in public. Of course, these women would also wear false eyelashes to dinner, but today that doesn’t seem as far-fetched, thanks to the Kardashians. My mother and her friends wore fake hair on their heads as if it were normal, because it was.

Not only did these women have wigs, they had these magical items called falls. They would clip them into a bland ponytail, and their heads would instantly transform from doughty housewife to Grace Kelly in mere seconds. My mother had two wigs and one fall and they were A-MA-ZING. She wore them often. She would wear a wig to the grocery store, she would wear a wig to church, and most certainly she would wear a wig to the supper club.

I remember one particular day, she was cleaning out the basement and frankly, she looked like hell. (My mother was a stunner, but 4 hours in our basement could do that to any woman.) Jackie O. would have looked like Bella Abzug, or perhaps more timely, Demi Moore would have looked like Lisa Lamponelli. It was then that she unfortunately realized it was her turn to be a “helper mom” for my Brownie troupe and she needed to be at Wilson Elementary in exactly eight minutes. She ran upstairs, threw on a wig, accompanied with a snappy little headscarf, red lipstick, an A-line skirt with a matching Bill Blass blouse, and she was ready to go. Her transformation was amazing. In five minutes she had gone from “the help” to Elizabeth Taylor. She also somehow managed to bake Toll House cookies in those few spare minutes.  She was, and is, remarkable. (Of course it didn’t hurt that she sped off in a Fiat convertible; it helps with the remarkable part, but that’s another story.)

I remember spending hours upon hours playing with my mother’s wigs. As a kid, I had very short, almost white-blonde hair. (Fun fact – the only time I didn’t have blonde hair was during the summer. We had a pool which, for all practical purposes, became my 2nd home; due to the chlorine that I never bothered to rinse out, my hair took on a greenish hue.)

As stated, my hair was short. Very short. My mother called it “pixie” and showed me pictures of Twiggy. I called it “boy” and thought I looked like Bobby Brady, only with yellowish green hair. My sister Sarah had my mother’s hair. It was long and dark and pretty. My oldest sister Mary also had long hair, but hers was a golden color. I was not allowed long hair. It might have had something to do with the honey incident, but that wasn’t necessarily my fault.

So, my mom had beautiful, long, chestnut hair. Her wigs matched that. I would often try on these wigs, sometimes backwards (to add bangs) and pretended I was Cleopatra. I would drape her necklaces over my head and prance around her bedroom, barking orders to Yankee, our bulldog. “Get me my Kool-aide, fool!” Inevitably, I would get caught by my older siblings who would humiliate and chastise me; I would gingerly put the wig back in its rightful place.

I’m not sure if you have figured this out yet, but I was a bit of an odd kid. (In that picture, I am holding my favorite Frosty the Snowman candle, that I would often sleep with.)  That’s OK, as I turned into a perfectly normal odd adult. I was the kid who saved up her allowance to purchase a rhinestone tiara from the costume jewelry store. I was the kid who wrote a fan letter to Barry Manilow’s dogs. My imaginary friend was Merv Griffin. I had green hair and didn’t care. Aside from all these quirky traits, I was also a tad obsessed with Dolly Parton. This was around the time of “Here You Come Again” and “9 to 5” and I thought she was the bee’s knees. One fateful New Year’s Eve while my parents were out, I decided I was going to make a Dolly Parton wig.

Logically, I cut off the foot of one of my mother’s pantyhose and pulled it over my head. (I had seen enough Carol Burnett sketches to know what goes under a wig.) My problem was those curls. What could I possibly use to create those amazing curls that Dolly sported? In a flash I was inspired. I snuck downstairs, avoiding the babysitter at all costs. (This is something very important when one is 8 years old and making her own wig.) I grabbed the Elmer’s glue and headed to the bathroom where I also grabbed a bag of cotton balls. Yup. That’s exactly what I did; I glued cotton balls to my head. All for beauty, right?

Looking back on it, it is fair to say that I looked a bit like a preschool art project that resembled a cloud suffering from mange. It was a goopy mess and after a few minutes, my arms were getting tired; it was slow going. At that pace, it was going to take all night. “OK, I’ll just slip this off and finish it tomorrow” I thought. Or maybe not. Turns out, this glue stuff really worked! (Did I mention my mother wouldn’t let me grow my hair out?)

So, after a few stalwart attempts of trying to get this thing off my head, I knew I had to eat the shit sandwich that came with finding the babysitter. Eat it, I did.

After about 15 minutes of belly laughs, she composed herself. Thank God she had the insight to shove my head under water.

“But wait! You’re gonna ruin my wig!”

“You want your mom to see you like this?”

“OK. But make sure the water isn’t too cold.”

I am a 45-year-old woman, and I am loath to tell you how many wigs I own. Sure, I can rationalize ‘till the drunks come home. “I’m in a play; I need it for this play I’m in” or “I’m writing a new sketch, and I play a woman in that sketch who needs to have amazing hair.” I have way too many wigs and way too many excuses to get more wigs. Some of my friends collect expensive shoes, or Hermes scarves, but I have wigs They quietly lurk in my closet. Wigs that few know about and fewer see. That’s how sad it is. I am a closet wig wearer.

There are two types of wigs out there. Shitty wigs, and nice wigs. Shitty wigs are what you or your children wear for Halloween. These are wigs that look pretty good for exactly 4 minutes, and then they immediately turn into a snarly, polyester nest.

 (This is not a nice wig.)

They’re usually at or under $20.00 and you get what you pay for. You never really look different, you just look like you, only in a shitty wig.

Nice wigs are very, very different. They look like real hair, no, amazing hair. They’re perfect. They’re waiting for you to try them on. They long for the days when ladies wore them to go grocery shopping, because maybe they hadn’t washed their hair that day and by washing hair, I mean go to the beauty parlor. These wigs are wonderful. They have a sense of style and etiquette. They don’t smoke and walk at the same time, and if they leave the bar to sit down for dinner, they let the waiter carry their drink. That’s how great these wigs are. Old school class. These wigs are your friends.

There is Jacqueline the brunette, Christy the blonde and Raquel the redhead. They love being on your head and they love making you feel pretty. These wigs are not under $20.00. These wigs start at $200.00. My friend Heather and I vowed a year ago to start wearing them (she has a wig fetish as well) and we swore up and down on our vodka that we would “totally wear our wigs, no matter what!” but I still have yet to see her sporting one in the dairy aisle.

 (This also is not a great wig.)

I currently own many shitty wigs, and two nice wigs. I had three, but I loaned one out, and it never came back. (Yes, these wigs are that powerful. They can ruin friendships.) I own a brunette curly wig, reminiscent of Adrian Barbeau in her Maude days. The other is a longer, brown wig with highlights. It is shoulder length with bangs. (I wrote a sketch where I played Michelle Bachman; I had to have it.) Do I ever wear these wigs out? No. Do I wish I did? Yes. Do I write sketches and plays just so I can buy more? Yes. Do I put them on from time to time around the house? Yes. Am I wearing one now?

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