For Dooce, who must have had a reaction similar to my own upon seeing herself with REALLY BIG HAIR, circa 1988, and who actually posted a photo as evidence for all to see (which I will not be doing).
And for my friend Anna, whose bangs are now a quite normal height.
I was in my hometown last week for the first time in several years visiting one of the three people from my middle/high school era with whom I still maintain contact. One of those three individuals co-owns an art studio that is walking distance from the house my family lived in for several years, and if you’ve ever been to the booming metropolis of Southmont, NC you know that an art studio in the same block as Speedy Lohr’s BBQ is a big deal. I stopped in to check it out and was delighted to find the other co-owner, Donna, whom I also know (Southmont is not a big place), in the studio working. Donna was my 6th and 7th grade social studies teacher, and I was friends with her daughter Anna in high school. Much to my surprise she remembered me immediately, and we had a nice time chatting about the studio, her art, my friend the other co-owner, and Anna, who married her high school sweetheart and now has two children.
The whole experience made me nostalgic and drove me to the guest bedroom bookshelf with a glass of wine and a Bangles/Van Halen/Tone Loc medley playing on a loop inside my head. You guessed it–yearbooks. Thinking about Anna reminded me of the many other people I knew in high school, people I haven’t seen in almost 15 years, people I probably wouldn’t recognize now because, truth be told, they’re all shorter and have less hair. And not because they shrank and went bald.
If you attended high school in the late 80s and early 90s, or you were a woman with hair in the late 80s and early 90s, you know that the “big bangs” phenomenon has nothing to do with evolution, and you also know that no woman left the bathroom mirror of a morning without a hefty dose of Aqua Net or White Rain hairspray. Why, it’s a miracle any of us could breathe at all as we emerged from our tiny bathrooms a good six inches taller in a cloud of CFCs and scented shellac. Flipping the pages of my high school yearbooks was like playing “Where’s Waldo,” except instead of looking for Waldo I was searching for the faces hidden in the hair. It was hard to determine individual identities because the pictures had to be taken at a great distance so as not to cut out any of the bangs or wings. And woe be to the girl who also had a perm. With a perm AND big bangs it was nearly impossible to hold your head straight for a photograph, so heavy was your [Cowardly Lion from “The Wizard of Oz] mane. I should know; I myself was a girl with a perm.
I’m exaggerating, of course, but only slightly. I mean, can you imagine what hairspray company stocks must have been worth in 1991?
A few years ago when leg warmers made their mercifully brief reappearance in the hosiery aisle at Target, I shuddered to think what other trends might re-emerge: tapered leg jeans, frosty blue eye shadow, layered slouch socks. But of all the scary fashion fixtures of the past, big bangs scare me the most. I wouldn’t begin to know how to make my hair do that today. I admittedly have a small wing problem when my hair is in desperate need of a trim, but not the kind of wings girls honed to perfection back in my teen years, the kind that could literally lift off and take flight in a light wind. And I’ll take my flat wispy bangs–in 1990, nothing short of fashion suicide–over a few extra inches of height any day. After all, there’s always shoulder pads and platform shoes if you want to look taller. Yeah, baby, now that’s fashion.