I began my obsession with looks during the summer before 4th grade. I’m not sure what triggered it, but when shopping for school clothes that year, I knew that I had to be very selective about what I picked off the racks at J.C. Penny’s.
My mother took my younger brother and I to Penny’s every summer to pick out clothes for the approaching school year. On special occasions we were allowed to go to the Young Men’s section in Daytons, at the other end of the Burnsville Center. There, you could find Girbaud jeans, and if I was really lucky, I’d get a pair.
But the majority of the outfits were purchased at Penny’s. This was the year I became smart about my wardrobe. I made sure to buy tops and bottoms that could be matched with many other things so that to the lay person, it would appear as if I was wearing many different outfits, even though I had just outwitted them by changing it up a little.
It was also this year that I began “doing” my hair before school every day. I wanted to look good in front of everyone else. I’d assemble my Bugle Boy outfit of the day and march down to the bathroom to begin prepping my hair. I watched my mother do this every morning and figured that it couldn’t be that difficult.
Mom always had dry hair, styled it, sometimes with a curling iron, and then picked out one of those large aeresol cans from beneath the sink and covered herself in its mist. That smell was always awful. If I was present in the room at the same time it would make me gag.
I decided to do things a little differently – I was going to wet my hair down to make it look sleek. So, after getting dressed for the dressed for the day (you had to get dressed before you did your hair, for fear that you would mess up your hair by putting your clothes on), I would make my way down to the bathroom.
Our bathroom was massive. I grew up in a log house that had 12′ tall vaulted ceilings that angled down at the sides of the house. The bathroom was smack-dab in the middle of the house, sot he ceilings created an airy feeling – that is, unless my mother was covering herself with Aussie Moose hairspray – you know, the purple bottles with the kangaroo.
The countertop stretched about 8 to 10 feet long, with two sinks and plenty of mirror space (even for my big head). I’d wet my hair down, spend about 20 minutes trying to get the part just right, or, as I began doing later, created the “side-spike” that I held onto for 8 years. Afterwhich, I would do exactly as my mother did – covered it with hairspray.
Every day, around noon or so, my hair would begin falling out of place. They just didn’t make hairspray like they used to. So every morning I would put more on, in the hopes that the hold would stay longer. No luck – every day around noon, the hair would fall down. It usually happened around the time that my hair became completely dry after my morning style-wetdown.
Over and over again, I’d try putting more hairspray on every morning, but nothing seemed to work. A couple of times I tried styling my hair while it was dry, but that was nearly impossible to keep the part, and proved to be even more of a disaster than my wet look.
Around the 3rd quarter of my 4th grade year, about 6 months into the school year, my mother joined me in the bathroom. I normally tried to avoid her, so as not to poison my young lungs with her Aussie Moose, but I was running behind and decided to risk the lung infection in favor of doing my hair along with my mother.
I was a pro at styling my hair by this time. I could do it in approximately 10 minutes, plus an extra 2 or 3 minutes to apply the hairspray.
As I was misting myself down with the aeresol can, my mother looked at me and said, “Daniel, what are you doing?”
“Putting on hairspray. You do the same thing every morning.”
Having a hard time holding back her smilke, she replied, “Yes, but that’s lysol! I was wondering how on Earth we were going through that stuff so quickly!”