It's true -- over the last half-century or so, I've had a whole lot of bad hairdos. Some I have chosen willingly (the asymmetrical pseudo-Sassoon butchering when I was 19, the long-as-I-can-grow-it-MY-HAIRRR! idea, which never worked with my fine flat locks) and some were forced upon me by my mother or sickly persuasive stylists (the short-bus-looking pixie/bowl cut, the ratty Janis Joplin failed perm). Whatever I think looks good now, I have realized, will look just friggin' awful and tragic to me in a few years. Whaddya gonna do.

Look at this. I was in 9th grade, so I suppose I was 14 or 15 years old here:

Tom, on the left, had hair that curled like that naturally. Not me, friends. Those strange-looking vertical barrels of curl on the sides of my face were part of my pathetic attempt to do the "Farrah Fawcett" hairdo, immensely popular in the mid- to late '70s. But I really have no feel for hair-doing. I can't even braid, still. But as a teen you try to fit in sometimes, so I would wake up in the dark every school morning around 6AM, wash my hair, dry it with my mom's hairdryer from the '50s (which looked like it was from the '30s and functioned like it was from pre-history), then would take a cheap curling iron and go at it. Almost every single morning, mostly asleep and astoundingly uncoordinated, I would burn my neck with the iron. This made me furious, but I wasn't allowed to swear at my house so I would just yell, "AAAAAAHHHHH!" which was appreciated by no one. I started to get very jumpy about it, which added to the time spent. If I even felt a little heat by my neck I'd throw down the iron on the bathroom counter. I can only imagine how demented this all seemed.

I could never once make the sides even -- one would have a tight curl and one would sadly sag, and by the end of the day there was nothing left to the curls anyway. Yet I tried and tried. And please notice what I am wearing there: a turtleneck sweater to HIDE THE BURNS. Other kids had hickeys; I had failure marks from a celadon-colored curling iron trying to have the hair of a Texan beauty queen/TV star. Sigh. By 10th grade, I had enough of this and went back to the bowl cut.

But I will tell you this: all my hair failures don't seem so bad when I put them into nifty perspective with this one picture, taken from the 1980 Sears catalog:

Ladies and gentlemen, that is a BOY on the left. If he lived through this public record and going to school like that, he'd be about 40 years old or so now. Oh, how I wish I knew the story here. Wow. Well, thanks kid! You certainly rocked it. Wow.

Black Mountain, "The Hair Song"