Column Classic: Getting It Straight

By Lisa Scottoline

Women have come a long way, baby, except for one thing:


By which I mean, curly or straight?

Secretly, I have curly hair, and not wavy curly, I’m talking majorly curly. I don’t have curls, I had coils. I don’t have naturally curly hair, I have unnaturally curly hair.

Let me take you back in time, to the Jurassic.

By which I mean, 1955.

When I was little, I had so many curls that once they sprouted from my head, they grew sideways, defying many natural laws, starting with gravity. Bottom line, on my shoulders sat a triangle of hair.

I was too small to care. If anything, I thought it was good, because every adult who came up to me asked, “Where did you get that curly hair?”

Let’s pause a moment to examine the questions we ask little kids.

I had no idea where I got my curly hair or my blue eyes. Nor did I know the answer to the third question, which was usually, “Do you help your mommy in the kitchen?”

I swear, this happened. There was a time in America when they asked little girls this question, all the time. Now, they’re not allowed to. It’s against federal law. Try it, and go to politically correct jail.

Nowadays, nobody’s in the kitchen, and we’re all overweight.

Anyway, I got older, and kids started to tease me about my hair. All the cool girls in school had straight hair, as did the girls on TV and in magazines. Also my best friend Rachel, whom I loved.

So I discovered Dippity-Do. It was hair goop, and they still make it. I checked online and found the website, where they claim to be “the original name in gels, for 45 years.”


I seem to remember that Dippity-Do came in pink or blue, maybe for girls or boys, but that could be my imagination. Boys didn’t use it, anyway, because they liked themselves the way they were, which was clearly insane.

 Girls used Dippity-Do by the tubful, and by ninth grade, I had mastered the art of slathering it all over my wet head, putting my hair on top of my head in a ponytail, and wrapping it around a Maxwell House coffee can, which I bobby-pinned to my scalp.

Then I tried to sleep.

If American girls were drowsy in math class, this was the reason. My hair didn’t even look good, because it would be bumpy on top, until it fell out. The sides would be smooth, except for telltale ridges from the coffee can. And the delicious aroma of Maxwell House.

Still, I did not stop, as there was another product to try, which there always is, this being America, where we girls know that if we just buy X, we’ll be beautiful and our lives will change.

I’m talking U.N.C.U.R.L. It was some kind of chemical straightener that you painted on your hair while holding your nose.

It had a great marketing, with a spy-girl on the front of the box, and if you bought it, you became “The Girl From U.N.C.U.R.L.,” which would make you feel like a cool double agent and not a miserable preteen with a triangle head.

The stuff smelled funny but worked great.

For two days.

Then came blow dryers, and the rest is history. We could blow our hair straight, using an array of gels and mousses, and I still do, though it’s starting to seem like too much work. Once, on book tour, I got too tired to blow dry my hair, and my then-publicist looked at me in horror.

“What did you do to your hair?” she asked, aghast.

“I let it go curly,” I answered, in ninth grade again.

She said, “But you don’t look like your author photo.”

I blinked. That I knew already. I look nothing like my author photo. That’s the whole point of an author photo. If it looked like the author, nobody would buy the book.

The girl in my author photo is from U.N.C.U.R.L.

In contrast, Daughter Francesca was born with curls, lived through all the dumb questions people asked her, and always wore her curls with pride.

“Mom, why don’t you wear your hair curly?” she said to me, the other day, and I told her this whole story. And she said, gently, “I think you should just be yourself.”

I’m considering it, and we’ll see.

Sometimes it takes a kid to straighten out a mom.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline