I have it, my husband has it and my Baby Belles have it.
As I have previously discussed, curly hair and Southern humidity are not friends. I know that the Belle dress code includes not having a hair out of place, but I can’t live up to that one and I’ve long since come to peace with my decision.
April 29, 1995: The day I quit giving a crap about the squirrel’s nest on top of my head. I was a senior at Carolina and sharing a little matchbox apartment with three other girls. I was scheduled to graduate in May and I was getting married on July 15, 1995. I guess you could say that I was heavily booked.
I was getting all primped up to go somewhere, so I took a shower, blow dried my hair and turned on the curling iron to finish straightening out my frizzy locks. You need to understand that 1995 was soundly within the Dark Ages of hair products. These days (if I still gave a crap), I could go and purchase any number of lotions, potions, unctions and gadgets to wage a respectable war against humidity, but—back in the day—I had a blow dryer, a powerful amount of hair spray, a curling iron and a prayer at my disposal.
The curling iron had spokes or prongs or whatever you call them. Its purpose was to comb through my hair kind of like a straightening iron, not to curl anything. My hair was about halfway down my back and I needed it long for my wedding veil—although I did intend to get it cut shortly thereafter.
So, there I was combing the iron through my hair like I had done countless times before. I don’t know if I was distracted, in too much of a hurry or simply had my planets out of alignment, but the curling iron somehow became tangled up and it got stuck in my hair. Of course, the iron got stuck right near my scalp rather than toward the ends.
Let me assure you that the curling iron got molten lava hot as evidenced by all of the burn marks on my ears and neck at the time, so there wasn’t a moment to lose once I realized what was going on. I unplugged it and immediately bent over into the bathroom sink to run cold water on it and cringing when I heard the sizzling noises. I ran downstairs to solicit assistance from my roomies. They couldn’t get it out, so their conversation turned grimly toward employing scissors.
Prospective brides are total basket cases and the veil was the most special part of my outfit because it came from my grandmother. I held my roommates at bay while feverishly thinking up some sort of alternative. There was a salon a half mile or so up the street from us—I’d walked by it daily on the way to class. Chaz’s Hair Salon: My only hope.
I grabbed my purse and, with the curling iron hanging lamely off of my head, I burned a path to the salon. Of course, I didn’t realize that I’d left the cord hanging out of the car door while I drove, but I’m sure the sight added to the insanity of the scene. I charged in through the door of the business rather like a rhinoceros and all conversation stopped as everyone’s eyes turned toward the crazy woman standing panting in the waiting room.
A man—who I later learned was Chaz himself—left the woman sitting in his styling chair to walk over and get a good look at the horror that was my head. He grabbed my shaking hands reassuringly and said, “Pumpkin, what on earth did you do to your hair?”
The whole sordid tale poured out of my mouth as the tears poured down my cheeks. I was getting married! I had to have hair! This couldn’t be happening!
Chaz gently moved the other lady out of his chair, poured me a glass of wine from his private stash and set to work. The whole salon—stylists and customers alike—stood around me in the chair either petting me and making shushing noises or offering suggestions as to how to fix the unholy mess.
After a lot of work and a lot of prayer, my knight in shiny hair products somehow managed to dismantle the curling iron and get my hair free. Everyone in the salon applauded and I sunk in the chair in relief. Miraculously, there wasn’t any lasting damage—other than the curling iron and I didn’t give a crap about that. I begged and pleaded with Chaz to let me pay him and he resolutely refused money. Like any good Southern Belle, I sent him a thank-you note.
Baby Belle 1 likes for me to straighten her hair and, if I have time, I’ll do it. I’m careful to let her know that her curly hair is beautiful and I warn her away from heated gadgets. I’m happy to be her cautionary tale.
Baby Belle 2 has these fantastic ringlets that would put Shirley Temple to shame, but she poses a different problem: She’s a hair twirler. Yes, when Baby Belle 2 gets tired, those little fingers creep up to her hair and set to spinning. She has put knots in her hair that would stump sailors and Boy Scouts alike. She makes her own little dreadlocks.
Yep, curly hair is not for the faint of heart. It’s a good thing Diamond Magnolias aren’t remotely faint hearted.