Scene4 Magazine — International Magazine of Arts and Media
Claudine Jones
Scene4 Magazine-inView

april 2008

It’s All About the Hair

‘You have to suffer to be beautiful’ my mom tells her four year old. I’m on my back on a towel getting my hair washed in the sink.  The comb getting out the tangles (pre-conditioner days, I suppose; no way do I do that now.) Parting it straight, down my head in the back, down my neck, giving me an entirely inappropriate thrill. Combing it into fat curls around her finger.

I’ve gotten to see myself in so many photos over the years, having the kind of parents that bleed to take pictures.  The fascination with my hair took hold very early.  Or with other hair—my mom’s hennaed during the war; my dad the photographer shooting her backlit in the sun in Montmartre. My hair was blinding blonde—every chance she had to doll me up, I was complimented on my curls.  Going to a wedding and being almost as popular as the bride—light from the windows in the chapel hitting her white satin and my golden hair. In concert seeing Edith Piaf, whose voice I know from before knowing, I’m sitting on her lap backstage and she pats my head so gently, saying ‘Quels jolis cheveux’.  

Slammed at puberty—hair darker and coarse, going frizzy, surfer look everywhere and no recourse but Dippity Do, giant curlers and a fan in front of a heater on my bed, while I prop myself up and fall asleep sitting on the floor. Or my big brother’s temporary obsession with the effect of a hot iron on wet hair, after which I could go three weeks between shampoos: dry air, careful mummified scarf wraps in bed at night. I was so cool, I got so popular once when the job was really fresh, that every girl on the cheerleading squad who usually hated us actors, was all over me in P.E.—buddies of course—but a mature me sees that they were in love with my hair. Of course my brother lost his obsession after awhile and I lost the ‘buddies’.

Trying to stay dry through rehearsals for Miracle Worker.  I knew Helen gets her face dashed with water from the pitcher at the end by Annie, but I’m blind and deaf and I still dodge it.  I didn’t want to get my hair wet.

The swim club was a disaster.  If I was properly social (“why don’t you call Missy Ganong and go swimming?”) I would frequent the place, but I don’t like Missy Ganong.  I like her brother Pat, who gave me my first kiss—God, my hair was awful that night,  but even less do I like wrestling with a damn swimming cap which gives me a headache and does nothing to keep me protected under there: water seeps in like poison.

I could when tell my mother started itching to try something new on me. She’s a sewing slut.  As soon as I agreed to wear a little green velvet bow, a whole boxful, rainbow of colors & sizes & styles, appeared in my room. She never ceased encouraging me to wear them, even when it was clear they looked silly.  This time, she talked me into a shorter “do”.  I sat on the toilet while she worked on me.  I could feel the pushing & nudging & spritzing. Finally she let me look.  I’d been crisply marcelled from here to eternity, even though I didn’t know that’s what it’s called.  I hated it instantly.  We didn’t talk about it, but I washed it out next day.

I wanted to try something appearing on the market: hot curlers, which apparently smooth your hair and make it oh-so-manageable.  I dropped so many hints around Christmas that I am almost shameless.  No can do. I shook every present and it was clear Santy Claus was not coming from Clairol.  Next it’s dry shampoo—why not? Sounded like the perfect answer: it’s shampoo and it’s dry.  My granny, who was visiting, overruled my mom and secretly got me some.  One of the only times I think I hugged her so tight I scared her.  O. My. God. It was awful. Maybe I used too much. And it stank.

My best friend came to stay the weekend and I surprised her with plans to go to a dance.  She hadn’t packed anything she considered fancy enough and was rigid with fury at me. We hatched an idea to fix me up anyway. She had the hair I wanted: full, straight, rich, deep red with glinting gold highlights.  All natural of course. So we would be twins: mine dark gold and hers auburn.  We washed our hair in the bathroom together and I watched as hers fell into place brushing it dry, while she tried to do me and the brush created a giant foam of crinkling glory, many time the size of my head.  She got a little of hers back.  The boys at the dance swarmed around her and I danced with a boy whose head tucked up under my chin.

You get the drift.  I’ve always been at war with hair.  A director who casts me and then insists she wants ‘the hair at the audition’.  The callback when the director looks straight through me on the sidewalk outside the theater—“who are you? Oh, I didn’t recognize you without the hair.” The curling brush caught and five minutes to places.  The inspiration in Street Scene to shake my own glorious hennaed hair down loose under the lights, in the apartment window up above, just before the last meeting with my lover before the husband kills us both (director loved it). Playing the same part in the same play three different theaters, three different wigs, all glorious red. My buddy Mr. T., the wigmaster who loves to change me like a chameleon—my hair hiding underneath in tiny braids & cap, waiting for release.


©2008 Claudine Jones
©2008 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Like an orthopedic soprano, Actor/Singer/Dancer Claudine Jones has worked steadily in Bay Area joints for a number of decades. With her co-conspirator Jaz Bonhooley, she also has developed unique sound designs for local venues.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives


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