I was born bald as a cue ball and stayed that way until I was almost two years old. Both my mother and grandmother tell me stories of how they scotch taped bows onto my bald head for parties and pictures.
But once I turned two, something happened. My hair took off, with a vengeance. A thick, wavy and wiry vengeance. I have vivid memories of tearing up at the kitchen table as my mom struggled to brush my insane mane into giant pigtails or what was perhaps the world’s biggest ponytail.
As a young girl I was so envious of my blonde-haired, fair-skinned girlfriends. I admired their ability to wear braids, tortoise shell headbands and effortlessly run a comb through their soft, shiny hair. I kept a giant lavender comb in the back pocket of my Jordache jeans, but it was more for decorative purposes; there was no way I could ever run a comb through my unruly hair without major incident.
But then came the 1980s, — the decade my hair was born to star in.
I got a perm when I was about 12 or 13 and it just never went away. Either some magical, puberty driven, hormonal thing happened, or as I like to imagine, I experienced something right out of an ’80s movie wherein the hair that was meant for me seeped into my scalp via a weird science experiment gone terribly right.
That perm was the best $18.99 I have ever spent.
Throughout high school, my hair was “my thing” — I was known as Lori with the big hair, the most likely to win the battle of the big hair and the ever endearing, “Helmet Head.”
I didn’t care. I now loved my hair. Despite the fact that it left a weird film of sticky product at the surface of swimming pools and survived two hurricanes in Tampa, Florida.
Getting ready for school in the morning was quite the process — you’d think I was going to homecoming or prom every day of my life. Staple products included Studio Fix by L’Oréal mousse, Dippity-Do gel and of course, Aqua Net hairspray by the truckload.
Then I would use my hot pink and turquoise Goody brand pick to raise up parts of my hair, spray them with hairspray and then blast them with shots of hot air from a regular hair dryer to glue it into place.
Healthy hair it was not; in fact it was quite fried. But size was what mattered — the bigger the better — and mine was, well, gigantic.
All kidding aside, my hair being “my thing” got me through some tough times. Like millions of others I have struggled with body image and weight issues since my bald-headed birth. I’ve been way up and I’ve been way down. When I’ve been up, I always felt like my big hair “balanced me out.” On days when I was shaming my thighs or my scolding my stomach, I knew that at least my hair looked good. Plus, people always told me they loved my hair and of course those compliments felt good.
I look back lovingly at these photos of me as a girl, sometimes flaunting and sometimes hiding underneath all of that product and hairspray.
Today I continue to sport the big hair — it’s not gigantic, but still pretty big. And people continue to comment on it. And on days when I’m feeling not so great about the size of my butt, I will continue to help “balance myself out” with a little extra height up top.
Thank you big, beautiful, curly, crunchy hair — I no longer desire to run a comb through you. I want you to continue to be gigantic, unruly and fabulous. And I’m very grateful to still be known as “Lori with the big hair.”