My mommy says I’m finally old enough to get a perm. We’re going to the JCPenney’s Hair salon at the Christiana mall in exactly fifteen minutes, because my appointment is at 11:00am. Mom says that a perm would make my hair stay silky straight for longer periods of time. That means no more shower caps when it rains! And no more braids. I hate it when mommy braids my hair, because it takes so long. Last time, I sat there for like 6 hours. My right leg fell asleep. I fell right onto the teal carpet when I tried to stand up. Mommy says that if I get a perm then I can leave my hair out everyday like the older girls at church. She said she’d even buy me a brush with the little sticks that have colored balls on them. I think she called it a vent brush. I wonder if they’re made out of porcupine hide. I think I’ll wear my green and white striped shirt with the collar. It’s the most grown up shirt I have. Sneakers are completely out of the question; I will wear my nice white church shoes with the heels instead. They each have a little peach rose with a green leaf on the top near the round toe. Perhaps I should find peach pants. I rummage through my cream drawers and select a lacey peach skirt. Mommy laughs and hands me a pair of socks, jeans, and sneakers. It’s time to go.
Ingredients for Mizani Butter Blends Perm: Aqua (water) Petrolatum Periphenum, Liquium, mineral oil, Cearyl alcohol, Polysorbate-60, Propylene, Sodium Hydroxide, Dehentrimonium, Methofulfat, Peg-75 Lanolyn, Polyquarternium-6, Fragrance, Cocoa, Cocoa Seed Butter, Shea Butter, Hydroxypropyltriumonium Honey.
Mommy keeps all her “special mommy things” on the wicker stand in our bathroom. When we catch a cold and need some Dimetapp, she goes straight to the wicker stand to grab it. When we have a sore throat from a long night at choir rehearsal and need some Chloroseptic throat spray, she goes straight to the wicker stand to grab it. When we need a grown up Bandaid because we’re too old for the Dora the Explorer ones she keeps under the sink, she goes straight to the wicker stand to grab one. And when she needs some clear fingernail polish to stop a run in her Sunday stockings, she goes straight to the wicker stand to select the small bottle of clear polish from her top secret Kiss French manicure kit. To the right of the Kiss French manicure kit there is a small rectangular bottle of Sinful Colors Professional Pink nail polish. It was perfect. It wasn’t quite Barbie Pink, but it wasn’t the dark pink that the older women wore to church. When I was little mommy said that I couldn’t touch her polish because she thought I’d spill it on her carpet, but now I can. I am allowed to paint my nails when she is home, and only after I’ve asked for permission. I’m always very careful not to spill. Teal doesn’t go well with blush-pink.
Ingredients for the Sinful Colors Professional Pink nail polish: Butyl Acetate, Ethyl Acetate, Nitrocellulose Acetyl Tributyl Citrate, Adipic Acid, Neopentyl Glycol, Orimellic Anhydride Copolymer Isopropyl Alcohol, Acrylates Copolymer, Stearalkonium Bentonite Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Benzophenome-1, Mica, N-Butyl Alcohol, Silica, Dimethicone, Tin Oxide, Trimethysiloxysilicate, Calcium Aliminum Borosilicate. May Contain: D&C Red 6, Bismuth Oxychloride, Titanium Dioxide, Red Iron, Yellow 5 Lake, Aluminum Powder, Black Iron, Ferri Ammonium Ferrocyanide, Ferric Ferrocyanide, Red 34, Violet 2, Yellow 10 Lake.
My face is still slightly damp from the cleansing wash and rinse treatment I used to open my pores. My new bra is a touch tight, and the metal digs into my sides. It’s time for mommy to do my make-up. Today is family photo day. We will all be dressed in blue and white. Mommy applies a layer of Revlon Color Stay Pressed Powder foundation to my face. The foundation makes my skin appear warmer and blemish free. Acne is unseemly, according to mommy, and should always be covered up in photos. She puts down the sponge applicator, and reaches for a black tube of L’Oreal Paris water resistant eyeliner. She tells me to look up at the ceiling. I am obedient. As she draws along my eyelid, tears begin to well up in the corners of my eyes. Next, she applies a layer of light cream eye shadow to the arch of my eyebrows. It looks funny at first, unnatural even. But as she continues to apply more shades of eye shadow, my face begins to look vaguely familiar. She gently brushes on a dark red-brown beneath the light cream, a red-bronze in the crease of my eyelid, and a shimmering gold for the lid. With a stroke of a brush she applies the finishing touch: blush. My mother and I look in the mirror to appreciate her work. We look like twins, almost. Once I am finished, I retrieve my outfit. I have selected my cotton fishnet shirt. Only my arms are visible. It was once a pristine white, but now it is covered with a very thin layer of age. Mommy says it needs a touch more Clorox when we wash it next time.
Ingredients for Revlon Color Stay Pressed Powder Foundation: Mica, Bismuth Oxychloride, Zinc Stearate, Silica, Dimethicone, Nylon-12, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Polyethylene, Octyldodecyl Glycol Grapeeedate, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Isododecane, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Lecithin, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Cymbidium Grandflorium Flower Extract, Serica ((Silk) Soie), Malva Sylvestris (Mallow) Extract, Lilium Candidum Bulb Extract, Lactobacillus/Eriodictyon Californicum Ferment Extract, Lauroyl Lysine, Synthetic Sapphire, Dimethiconol, Dimethicone/Silesquioxane Copolymer, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Phenoxyethanol, Sorbic Acid. May Contain: Titanium Dioxide.
It is Saturday afternoon. I am surrounded by mirrors, titanium, and worn black leather. Ms. Denise drones on about new regulations for uniforms at the JCPenney’s Hair Salon. The hair dryers blow a steady stream of lukewarm air towards Miss Nadine’s chair. She’s always complaining about that. My hair is light and fluffy once again. I get a perm once every six or so months. This time Miss Sherry used Mizani Butter Blends instead of Affirm, because it has a special moisturizing agent that is supposed to keep hair healthy. We’re trying to encourage more growth, because it hasn’t grown significantly since my first perm. Mommom says moisturizing agent or not a perm is a perm. Nevertheless, my thick black tresses smell of vanilla, shea butter, and fresh nectarines. I glance down at Babygirl smiling in her seat. It’s her first time at the salon, and she’s getting her hair flat ironed. I can smell the faint aroma of burnt hair masked by various perfumes. She runs her fingers through her straight black hair. She is in love. I remember my first Salon visit. Her joyful eyes are little time capsules, replaying my youth. She is me, before I was covered in a thin layer of age.