The Hand of Oz

For as long as I can remember, my hair has been the one true bane of my existence (along with my height, or lack thereof; the scar on my chin; the overbite that braces didn’t correct; the hook in my nose, which, at least, is only visible from the side; the crazed appearance of my eyes in pictures; and my hips, among others). I refer to it intermittently as a Jewfro and Chia Head.

It’s a nice enough color – dark brown with increasingly gray natural highlights – but is so ridiculously thick that I’m sure DNA analysis would reveal I’m a mutant with two or three copies of the hair gene. I do realize that many people would be thankful for this, and I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but when you’re small-framed and not much taller than a smurf, it’s a lot of hair to support. It’s so thick that since 1976, no barrette, rubber band, pin, headband, comb or clip has ever been able to contain any portion of it for more than 30 seconds. Back in the 07076, no amount of industrial strength aerosol hairspray could keep it teased as high as the other girls’.

A cowlick on the right side makes it impossible for me to have bangs or any layers shorter than chin length. If the overall length is shorter than one inch below my shoulders, the ends curl up in a bouncy, incredibly irksome and unstylish manner. It is too dipsy-doodlish to be desirably straight and too straight to be desirably wavy. If it comes in remote contact with any unpleasant odor whatsoever, be it garbage, leftover Chinese food, cigarette smoke, or diner bathroom, it reeks of said unpleasant odor for days. If it comes in remote contact with even the slightest amount of moisture, its volume, width and weight increase exponentially. Are you familiar with the look Cameron Diaz sported in Being John Malkovich? Her hair was flatter than mine is on a muggy day.

Her hair looks limp next to mine in the humidity

All by itself, it features random strands that don’t hang right, stick out, or curve in. But if I put it up so I can wash my face – even for a minute – the rubber band or clip leaves an unsightly indent that can’t be ignored. And, on top of all this, my junior year of college, I made the naïve mistake of plucking the first few grays that came in, right at the crown. The plucked, offending hairs have since grown back like squiggly antennae and require constant removal. Unfortunately, this requires the use of a tweezer, and unfortunately, most tweezers contain nickel, and unfortunately, I am allergic to nickel, and unfortunately, I often have a red, scaly patch of dermatitis at the pluckage site.

Any attempt at styling or cutting it to amend the problem has only made it worse. As an unhappy teen, I literally used to pray that I’d wake up with “normal” hair. I remember pleading, from my mauve bedroom, with whatever higher power was listening: “It’s just a simple, basic bob. It shouldn’t be that difficult. WHY are you doing this to me?”

After one particularly unfortunate trip to a certain salon that’s still in business and thus shall remain unnamed, I looked in the mirror in utter horror and screamed, “OH. MY. GOD. What happened!?”

And the sorry-looking stylist literally said, “Um … I’m actually not sure.”

I won’t go into the gory details, but let’s just say I had a bi-level. Which wouldn’t have been the worst thing, if I’d been making a cameo on The Partridge Family.

There are Shags, Bobs, Shabobs, Flips, Beehives, Pixies and Page Boys. But the haircut I wanted for all of my young adult life was the one whose name I coined: “The Popular Person.” Guess who it was named after? It consisted of a nice, manageable wavy perm on the bottom; a few teased layers on top; and a few wispy bangs. Was that so wrong?! Apparently, it was.


Then, in 1999, something happened that changed my life forever. My roommate Kiki came home with a 2 1/2-inch BaByliss flat iron. When used on dry hair, it had the power to cure almost all of the hair woes that had plagued me for the past 27 years. It didn’t give me the wash-n-go hair I’d always dreamed of, but it helped a lot. And I can honestly say that things started to improve for me when that thing came into the picture.

Eventually, this flat iron plus the right combination of good shampoo, a “stylist” named Glitteratta, a product called BioSilk (introduced to me by my non-biological twin) left me with hair I could deal with. In fact, it became semi-common for random people on the street to compliment me on the feature I’d so despised.

Thanks, Lil J

Now, as you may know by now, fame – even 15 minutes of it – is something I fantasize about. And as you may know by now, the tabloids continue to not give a crap about my daily routine. Then, recently, I opened one of the media trade e-blasts I get every day.  A producer at a prominent syndicated talk show (no, not Oprah) was working on a segment for which she needed women whose lives had been changed by various hair-related processes, treatments, products and devices like the flat iron. I pounced.  If I wasn’t going to publish a best-seller that would be optioned, made into a blockbuster feel-good movie and land me on the late night talk show circuit, this was the next best thing. My chance at fame, fortune and professional make-up had finally arrived.

The producer was ecstatic (knowing she’d get credit for discovering me, naturally) and said I sounded like a great fit for her “piece.” She asked me to send a few photos of myself – with hair attached – then called me back to confirm the date and time I’d need to be at the studio.

I told everyone I knew about my impending televisual debut, via Facebook, Twitter, phone, email and several billboards on the West Side Highway. This was incredibly stupid, as any good magical thinker and superstitious neurotic should have known.  Later that same afternoon, the producer called back sounding a little embarrassed.

“Have you REALLY been using a flat iron for almost 10 years?” she asked me.  “Because here’s the thing – I showed the photos to [Talk Show Host X], and he doesn’t think you’re right for this.”


I so wished I had an agent. I could barely talk without choking up, but I asked her what was so wrong about me. I mean sure, I could have named a few things, but I didn’t think they’d been that obvious from the photos.  

She responded , “Well, this story is actually about the damaging effects of all these treatments and products. And your hair … actually looks too good for us to make our point.”

Frick on a D-listed stick

Once again, my hair had foiled me.

The Hand of Oz

3 thoughts on “The Hand of Oz

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