A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

The Day a Stylist Broke My Achy Breaky Heart.

In 1982, I was twelve years old and in the 7th grade.

I wore leg-warmers almost daily with my painted-on Jordache jeans and prairie blouses. My friends and I spent hours listening to songs like Jack and Diane and Let it Whip while we practiced inhaling cigarettes stolen from our parents. And memorizing Jenny’s number (867-5309) was way more interesting than anything I was learning at school that year.

I was running with “the wrong crowd” at the time. That was the year I had my first kiss, my first hickie, my first drink, my first fist fight. I’m not sure how any of us lived through those years.

But the thing I remember more than anything about 7th grade was the day I got my first really bad hair cut.

One of my favorite TV shows that year was One Day at a Time. Remember that show? I don’t know what I liked so much about it. I thought the mom (played by Bonnie Franklin) was crazy not to get some of that Schneider action. He was gorgeous, like a modern day tool belt wearin’ Rhett Butler.

Mostly though, I just wanted to look like Valerie Bertinelli. She had the BEST hair.

So one day, I asked my mom for some money and I rode the bus into town to get my hair cut by my friend Susan’s mom at her salon.

Only one problem: I didn’t have a picture of Valerie Bertinelli with me. I didn’t think I’d need it…she was such a big star at the time. Surely I could just mention her name and get her famous feathered do.

But, what was her name again? You know, the sister from One Day at a Time?

Apparently, Susan’s mom thought I meant the other sister. The, uh, less attractive sister who would go on to become infamous in real life for addiction issues and surviving years of incest at the hands of her sicko father. Bless her heart.

Photo Credit: Photo Agency

Because lo and behold, when she finished snipping away and turned me around in that beauty parlor chair, I shrieked with horror. And then I burst into tears and cried like my dog had just died. And then so did Susan’s mom. She felt so bad. “Don’t you like it, Sweetie? But I did what you said! Layers around the face, but still long, right? Like that girl on the TV!”

Oh my God. My heart still breaks every time I see it. Try not to focus on the gray Member’s Only jacket. We’re talking about the hair here, not the official Air Supply sanctioned 1980s fashion staples. Oh, and speaking of staples, why yes, these pics are from my Mom’s scrapbook! She tried so hard to make me feel pretty by dolling me up and taking pictures even though I was clearly distraught by my failed Valerie Bertinelli hairdo attempt.

Here’s another angle for your viewing pleasure:

Yep. Business in the front, party in the back. I’m pretty sure Susan’s mom should get credit for inventing The Mullet. That was ten full years before Billy Ray Cyrus made it famous! Bitch must have taken my middle school yearbook with him to the Curl Up N’ Dye Hair Boutique.

I was absolutely devastated. Would Danny DeLuca still like me? Would Heather Franklin make fun of me?

My best friend Karina invited me over to try and help me figure out a way to style it differently. Maybe a curling iron would help it look less boy-mullety. But, no…nothing worked. I just needed for it to grow back. And of course, it did…eventually.

I learned some important life lessons that year:

1.) Always take a picture with you when you want a new hair style.

2.) Stylists are not mind readers.

3.) Bad hair cuts happen.

4.) Moms and best friends are critical allies during beauty crises.

5.) It’s just hair. It will grow back.

6.) Middle school boys don’t really care about the hair on your head.

7.) I know every word to every single one of these songs.

8.) A bad haircut and lots of black eyeliner are great diversions from having only one breast.

9.) Even if your mom doesn’t let you wear makeup, you can just put it in your purse and apply it when you get to school.

10.) It’s a good idea to remove your earrings and apply a thin film of Vaseline to your face before you engage in a school yard girl-on-girl fist fight.

I have an appointment for a haircut this coming Friday. You can bet your ass I’mma take a picture with me. But if it doesn’t work out, it’s just hair. It will grow back. I’ll probably bring some black eyeliner and a tube of Vaseline with me anyway, just in case.

How about you? Ever had a really devastating haircut? How did you cope?


PS – Y’all, I’m 15 “likes” away from breaking into the Top Ten at Babble.com’s list of the Top 50 Mom Blogs! If you haven’t voted for The Bearded Iris yet, how ’bout helping a sister out?


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris. All words and fashion mistakes are my own.


  1. Julie @ mamamash

    Wow, it’s Mini Me! With a mullet!

    I kid. It’s not so bad. In fact, it looks entirely appropriate for that era.

    Once, I wanted my hair to look all cute and flippy like Reese Witherspoon in Sweet Home Alabama. I went to the salon and got stuck with this old lady who beat me with a round brush and layers scissors. It was awful.

    But yeah, it grows back!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh, that was a cute hair style! Those damn movie stars make it look so easy don’t they?

  2. Jenna

    In 8th grade I went to the salon, and there my mother suggested that I get my hair cut like the figure skater Dorothy Hammel(sp?). I did not know her, but trusted my mom. I mean, why would she want to ruin my life? Dear God, when she spun me around, my hair was so short and feathered, in combination with my long neck I looked like a q-tip. More importantly, with no breasts, I looked like a boy. It was a rough year. Never again did I trust my mother’s style advice-lol!

    • The Bearded Iris

      “I mean, why would she want to ruin my life?” Holy CRAP is that funny, Jenna.

      So let’s see, according to my hairstyle time machine, that means you are 6 years younger than me? Because yes, I had “The Dorothy” in 2nd grade. That was a classic! But yeah, probably better on a 7 year old than a 13 year old. Love the q-tip description! LOL!

  3. Bernie Bickers

    Hey ladies – just so you know, you don’t have an exclusive on this one.

    Sometime around 1994-1995, the show “E.R.” was all the rage, as was George Clooney and his short “Roman-style” haircut. I decided that would be the new look for me (and would be a huge hit with the babes). I explained to the flamboyantly ambiguous guy at Jean Louis Davide – a fancy sounding but actually cut rate NYC clip joint – exactly what I wanted.

    Flash forward to the next day at the office – a huge open-plan trading floor where I worked with about 600 people. The obnoxious traders were calling out “Live long and Prosper” and giving me the Vulcan four-finger “V” salute – I looked just like Mr. Spock (sans pointy ears). Good times…good times…

    • The Bearded Iris

      DOH! That is AWESOME. I remember that Clooney-Do. It was HAWT. Good for you for trying something different and trendy. Those obnoxious hecklers were just jealy, I’m sure.

  4. Muffintopmommy

    O to the M to the G! I might have you beat. My mom took me to a pretty hip salon (shocking) in 7th grade and got me a cute, stylish cut. Maybe if I were like 30 I could have pulled it off with the right stying stuff. Instead, I just looked like a boy. One of the kids in my class asked me if I got the cut at the barber shop in town. 🙁 {SOBS} I wore earrings every day to look like a girl. One day I went apple picking with my friend, a blonde cheerleader with GOOD hair, and went to pay for my apples and the old apple man said, “Thanks, son!” That was IT!!! The worst, utter humiliation of middle school!!! And maybe? My life! Like 7th grade isn’t awkward enough!!!!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh honey, I feels your pain. I’ve been called “sir”…recently in fact. Ouch. Motherfucking myopic Goodwill volunteer. I try to never leave home without lipstick anymore.

  5. Kate Takes 5

    I had that hairdo for years and never even knew it was bad. I’m not sure which of us I feel most sorry for.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Yeah, but you’re a sexy European. You guys have different rules… like siestas, topless beaches, perfume instead of deodorant, and men in Speedos. I bet you were still adorable with your dark haired Irish man-mullet!

      • Kate Takes 5

        Well it’s crystal clear from that comment that you’ve never been to Ireland (except the mullet bit sadly. Matching mullets, not a good look).

  6. Allysgrandma

    Oh dear. I can imagine how devestated you are. My motto to my girls has always been “beauty is pain”. So they are used to the pain that comes with some of those new must do grooming rituals you have written about! In fact I brought them up the other night at dinner with friends. They had not seen Bridesmaids yet and had no idea what I was talking about. Okay so the husbands and us had had a few too many…..oh wait back to you. I am so glad you survived and actually thrived to become the wonderful person/mother you are today. Lord knows every post makes me laugh and feel just a little bit better (even though I am feeling much better since cutting way back on coffee). The weird thing about songs is you don’t even know you still know the words until you hear them on Direct TV’s radio stations (804 is the 70s, 805 is the 80s). We only play 804 when we decide to engage in hum…..let’s just say it takes us back to our wild high school days!

    Love you Iris, hope you have a great week AND a great haircut.

    PS I got a wig! No more bad haircuts for me. Even my sisters said it made me look like a teenager again! I got it just in time for my 35th high school reunion and one of my friends said she turned to another friend and said, “Did Ron bring a girlfriend”. Yes that’s how great it makes me look!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Love you, Cheryl! You are a delight.

  7. Kris the Colts fan

    For my 22nd birthday, I decided to have my hair guy do my hair. My friends had a big night planned for me because my 21st birthday sucked so bad (I got dumped and cried for like a month). I got to the salon and my guy wasn’t there, but his partner was the receptionist and recommended another stylist to me. It was 1990. Big hair was still in but phasing out. I had a slightly above the shoulders bob and just wanted to look sleek and sophisticated. The stylist turns me away from the mirror and starts working her magic. 45 minutes later, she turns the chair toward the mirror and says something like “voila”. I didn’t even know it was my reflection in the mirror. It was like every hair on my head had a super erection. I kid you not. I had the biggest hair ever and there was so much product in my hair, it felt like shellack. I immediately started bawling and cursing like the guys on Deadliest Catch. I demanded that she undo it….told her I couldn’t even drive home with my hair like that lest anyone see me. I’m sure she was offended but I didn’t give a crap. I was not going to have another shitty birthday. Worst hair experience ever.

    • The Bearded Iris

      OMG – the bait and switch! How dare they?! That big 1990 hair was scary. (I had it too… e.g. Pretty Woman. Perm + red hair dye does not equal Julia Roberts!)

      I’m glad you stood up for yourself and got a do-over. Atta girl! Hope your 22nd bday was better than the 21st!

  8. Tracy @ Brain Chatter

    I had that same exact haircut….on purpose. Now who’s more pathetic?

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh definitely me. I think it’s way more pathetic to get stuck with a hairstyle you didn’t want. But if that’s the look you were going for and you got it…well, you’re rockin’ it, I say. To each her own, sister! 🙂

  9. Jane

    College-trying to be radical but still chic. The shortest haircut a person has ever seen on a female’s head. Friends of my boyfriend made so much fun of him for being with me…it’s just hair!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Was it a pixie cut? I bet you were so sassy and chic! I love that cut on a woman. So confident and pretty. And all the time and money saved on styling and products! Those friends sound like d-bags. I hope you keyed their penis-shaped cars.

  10. Amanda Andrus

    It was the summer when I was twelve years old and finally decided to get a perm. Perm + short weird haircut= Poodle. Plus one of my brothers and my sister both got married that summer and my haircut will live forever in their pictures. I still look away in horror whenever I see those pictures.

  11. Susan S

    Oh my, your timing is AWFUL! Not one hour ago I made the decision to have my middle-of-my-back locks cut to a short style and NOW I am remembering the time I had my heart broken by a hairdresser. I chose a full style with the shortest layers at the ear. I left with spikes so short the hair on top of my head didn’t lay down! PLUS, she had thinned my full hair to just wisps. It didn’t help that I was 7 months pregnant and on my way to a family reunion where they take pictures for people to look upon for GENERATIONS! I was a grown up so didn’t cry. In fact, I said “thank you” and gave her a tip! What a wimp!

    I thank you for the advice, though, and will take a photo.

    Your story IS pretty funny. Maybe it isn’t too late to do the Valerie look. She still has great hair!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh you poor thing! You aren’t a wimp, you are classy. Hopefully you can look back on those pics and laugh (someday). Do you regret cutting your long hair again? Just curious because I’m getting really sick of my long hair and was thinking about going shorter too.

      How funny would it be if I took that pic of Valerie with me on Friday and said, this is what I want. I don’t really care if this picture is 29 years old. The 80s are back, baby! Hmmmm….

  12. By Word of Mouth Musings

    I really want to be all sorry for you about the mullet, but i am a little more of the gimme gimme of the momtini glass in the previous post.
    Shallow, selfish?
    Yup, get over it 😉

    • The Bearded Iris

      Well HELLO Dahlink! Checking out the mompetition, are we? 😉

      Yes, that redneck momtini goblet is fabulous, isn’t it?! I feel so fancy drinking my boxed Fox Horn Shiraz out of it. (Classy!)

      Thanks for the visit!

  13. Heather Novak

    Darlin’, that haircut of yours hurt my teeth! I had a bad haircut just after I moved here. Yup, brand new to town (and ready to meet folks) but I got a Dumb and Dumber ‘do. Yup I had pictures to guide them, but other stylists ‘borrowed’ the book and we never found it again during the cut. Never. again. using . beauty. school. (Or going for a sassy new look when PREGNANT and living in a new town. Sheesh.) Of course I do not have any pics of it. No way.

    • The Bearded Iris

      “Dumb and Dumber ‘do.” OMG – I’m dying. And pregnant? In a new town? I can’t believe you didn’t grab those scissors and take revenge on the spot.

      Obviously you’ve found a new stylist because you hair is awesome. Is that your real color? I always wanted to be a redhead!

      • Heather Novak

        Not my real color…evah. I’m dark brown but fair and freckled so it works. I do my own, sally’s beauty, R6 and R7 baybee!

        • The Bearded Iris

          WhAAAAT?! Really? OMG, there is hope for me yet. Hmmm, maybe I’ll go ginger for fall. I’m medium brown, but my eyes are hazel, and my age spots kinda look like freckles, so maybe it will work for me too!! We can be twinsies! Weeeeee! 😉

  14. Livin In Duckville

    I think we’ve all been there Iris…. my bad hair came the morning of my then boyfriend’s Jr. Prom (he went to a different school)….. My mom wanted me to be all ‘dolled up’ for the prom… the long-time hairdresser for my mom – cut my hair in a bob, just below my ears & then gave me a perm…… I looked like Rosanna-Rosanna-Danna!! I just put my head against the window & cried all the way home….. It grew out…. eventually….

    Now I wear it short & spikey… I’m always asking the kids at school if my hair is ok? It feels like it’s messed up…. lol

    Good Luck!

  15. Anne @ Domesblissity

    OMG Iris! I dead set thought that was Mini Me sitting there! That’s freaky! How lucky is she that she’s going to be beautiful like her Mum. I also thought you looked a little bit like Kristy McNichol. Remember her? I was more after the hairstyle of Valerie’s husband, Eddie Van Halen! LOL

    (Congrats on being Number 10! You go girl! xx)

    Anne xx

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh Anne, that is SO funny that you said Kristy McNichol! One time, true story, when I was about that age (and with that haircut), some kids approached me at the mall and asked me if I was Kristy McNichol and if they could have my autograph! I said yes, of course!

      Thanks for the congrats! What a ride, eh?!

  16. Heather

    Oohhhh… you ladies [and gentlemen] CRACK ME UP!!!

    I am the queen of bad haircuts/colors… It started when I was in 9th grade and decided to let my mom “highlight” my hair. I had super short, feathered bangs and super long hair in the back (ok, I’ll just say it – I had the mullet too) but my mom decided to go heavy on the front with the drug store highlighting kit and I ended up looking like a beagle… long and floppy and WHITE BLONDE around my face but the back was mousy brown – because nothing highlights a good mullet like making your head two-toned…

    It never got any better either. I went in to get my hair did a couple years ago and said “Do what you want but I HAVE to have it long enough for a ponytail”… she did, only it was a Carol Brady style ponytail. I had boys in my 8th grade class that had better tails than this bitch left on me… My husband kept following me around saying “It reminds me of someone… hum… who do you look like… OH, I KNOW! Jon Bon Jovi – from like 1992!!!” Yeah, right after I kicked him in the nuts, I immediately put the word out that I needed a good stylist and [thank the good lord] found one that I love (that used to sing lead in a KISS cover band, no less!) See? It all works out 😉

  17. Emily

    When have I ever *not* had a terrible haircut? My mom *insisted* that we were not allowed to just let our hair grow. It had to be groomed, and short enough that she didn’t have to spend hours untangling knots. Which, as a mom now, I get, but it still sucked. So the 80’s featured an ever-lovin’ STRING of terrible short-haircut-and-perm combos that more or less kept me resembling Ronald McDonald, accessorized by the ever-popular Huge Honkin’ Glasses. When I hit high school and tried to grow the horrible perm out, I had this wonderful year of looking like a slightly panicked sheepdog. Then I got the permed bits cut off, and had this nice sleek bob cut that really made me resemble Ted Theodore Logan of Bill & Ted fame. By then I was old enough to grow it long, but it took ages and ages of haircuts before I was finally rid of THE BANGS, which are a whole subject by themselves. So, a lot more bob cuts, with varying degrees of being mistaken for a guy. I had a brief fun freaky anime-style haircut on a whim in college, featuring hair dye that still gives me nightmares. I liked the color okay, but it dyed everything my hair touched as well. Eventually I had to dye my hair red to cover up all the horrible lines from other dye jobs that had *sworn* on the box that they would fade away after a month or so. Red hair dye covers up everything, and it is my bff in that regard, but it also makes me look dead. And THEN, when I finally had my hair grown out, with no weird colors or perms or any of that crap, I went in for a quick trim to get rid of the dead ends. It went really well, until the very end, after the blow-dry. On a whim, the stylist grabbed some hair from the front of my head, whipped out his scissors, and snipped in SOME FREAKIN’ BANGS. He insisted they were “wispy”, and would “frame my face nicely”. Cue even more years of growing out the dadgum bangs.

    You cannot even bribe me to go into a hair salon anymore. And after the first at-home haircut, where I offered to trade with my husband, and gave him what he asked for (TWSS), and he took off pretty much a full foot of my hair in an attempt to give me “a trim”, I won’t let *anyone* else touch my dang hair. When it gets too obnoxious and straggly, I make a mental note to cut it, forget for the next month or so, then remember one day when I have 5 minutes to shower and get out the door. I put my dry hair in a ponytail, grab it with my fist, pull it around to the front without letting it slide around at all, and snip off the straggly ends that are sticking out. Then I snip up a couple of times at a diagonal in random places to make it look less like a straight line. Then I shower. The end. Does it occasionally look a little Special? Yeah. But I’m not shelling out 30-70 bucks for the privilege, so I’m fine. It’ll grow out, right?

  18. Kate

    In the 11th grade my mom took me to get my hair cut (yes, I said 11th grade and my mom took me… I had no control over my hair at any point in my childhood) and colored. It was dyed red (which turned out kind of pink-ish) and the woman did my eyebrows, too. It was AWFUL, because they were like flourescent lines on my face. I contemplated shaving them off, but instead kept trying to pull them out. They eventually went back to normal, and I recolored my hair.

  19. Julie

    Oh even YESSER! It was the summer after 6th grade (1988 to be more precise). I had finally been allowed to see the first Terminator movie on TV (of course with all the good stuff edited out, like Michael Biehn’s nekkid ass in the sex scene (cause back in the day, he was kinda hawt). I totally hearted Linda Hamilton’s stacked layers, which reminded me of the ones JEM had (remember that cartoon?)

    So, since my loving mother was working in admin for a local beauty college, she took me there to get my hair cut. Did I take a photo? I took 6. All different angles to ensure that the “stylist” could indeed make me look like Linda Hamilton. I completely forgot about the fact that she was a student in the heady excitement of not going to Fantastic Sam’s for a cut/perm.

    When she spun me around, I goggled. I had a BOUFFANT without the flippy ends. Seriously, I had a total bubble-head, which needed nothing more than a cute little pink bow on my crown. I was devastated. I was already a nerdy laughingstock of the private school I was forced into a year earlier because we couldn’t afford Guess jeans or LA Gear shoes and 90 pairs of socks a day. I totally rocked the huge plastic earrings, but never had the Ray-Ban Wayfarers or the fringed leather jacket. Well, I had the jacket for a day, until someone stole it out of my backpack. Nice christian school huh?

    I also got BRACES that summer, and ate on 20 pounds. So I was tall, fat, metal-mouth with a horrid haircut and no friends. Thank the lord I slimmed down, grew out the hair and lost the metal before freshman year!

  20. Angela Yurick

    I had a mullet in second grade. Not sure what my mom was thinking. I had long black hair in kindergarten and first grade and then boom, my second grade picture I have a mullet… THEN to make things worse, my mom decided in Third grade that I would look great with a little orphan Annie hair-do…. so she convinced me to have my hair chopped off and PERMED!!! OMG….. thank goodness my friends did not make fun of me at school, I hated it…. LOL…. after that I never let my mom make another hair decision for me… she thought I looked great!!

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