The worst part of growing up in suburban Minneapolis in the 80s was the ridiculous standard of beauty. Sure we laugh at it now, but big hair was a lot of work. It required, in some cases, hours of diligence and sometimes life threatening feats involving aerosol Aqua Net and a hot curling iron. Many girls in our neighborhood wielded their hairspray encrusted curling irons as a sort of badge of honor.
Every fall when school rolled around I would re-dedicate myself to upholding these ridiculous standards of beauty. The day before school started I marched up to Snyder Drug to arm myself with a bottle of extra-control hairspray (I preferred the Clairol non-areosol in the cool-shaped bottle because it smelled a little better. This was in the days before hair products spelled like fruit and flowers and gumdrops. Kids these days have no idea how good they have it), the latest in Maxi-to-Go eyeshadows, seven different flavors of lip smackers, and an industrial-sized vat of Noxema to remove it all after school.
This was no easy task. First of all, the supplies had to be purchased on the sly. My dad did not allow makeup. He was a tyrant. He didn’t allow short hair either, claiming some kind of nonsense about “God not giving me sons. . .” Second of all, I had no beauty role models. My mom never wore it. Ever. She still doesn’t. And her hair was very 70s hippie — long, thick, and straight. She was no help at all. I was guessing as best I could based on what I saw in Seventeen, YM, and on MTV. I knew this was important stuff. Junior high was hell enough without being the doofus with flat hair. If you had flat hair at Roosevelt Junior High it was assumed your family was part of some strange religion that banned all things that were good — MTV, Doritos, Pepsi, and Aquanet. We shuddered in horror at the thought.
I’d get up every morning at ridiculous o’clock, park myself in front of the She-Ra, crack open my Caboodle with the mirror in the lid, and do my best to apply the stuff in a manner that was pleasing. Sometime before Thanksgiving one very nice ninth grader named Tracey who sat next to me on the bus told me my eye shadow should match my eyes and not the color of shirt I was wearing that day. I thought the peacock blue eyeshadow looked foxy. I was wrong.
It was hell. I never enjoyed the process, and was the only fat girl who longed for the swimming section of gym class because that was the only time of year flat hair was excused. By high school I realized that no matter how high my hair was I wasn’t ever going to be popular. I’d still try, every year, for about three weeks. From the start of school until pictures were taken, but after that all bets were off. The fact that we had to be in homeroom by 7:30 a.m. strengthened my no makeup/hair-doing resolve.
Watching She-Ra tonight made me remember all that hair curling nonsense. She-Ra was the best part of the whole ordeal.