Ann Cannon: Memories of home perms and the days of landlines

First Published      Last Updated Feb 17 2016 04:16 pm

My mom called the other day with the following question: "Do you think anybody in the family will want another home permanent?"

Her question gave me pause. Are home permanents even still a thing?

They were definitely a thing when I was growing up. My mom, who must have been a hairdresser in a previous life, had no peer when it came to giving home permanents. She'd plunk me down in a kitchen chair, whip a plastic cape around my neck and go all Toni on me — wrapping my hair up in rods and soaking it with chemicals, after which she'd wash my hair and then put me in a closet for a few days until I stopped smelling bad.


I actually smelled bad for months after a typical home perm. But then so did everybody else at school whose mothers gave them home perms, too. (And, also, let me be very clear about this: My mother never put me in a closet. She was totally progressive that way.)

My mother not only gave me perms, but she gave my brothers perms, too. Yes! I had brothers with perms! Because that's what young white males who wanted to look super bad did in the '70s. They asked their mothers to give them home perms.

Anyway. The '60s and the '70s were the Glory Days of Home Hair Processing at our house. My mother took care of us and also many of our neighbors with her mad perming skills during those decades. She continued perming hair in the years that followed — just not as frequently. (She also bleached her grandsons' hair so they went around looking like Eminem for a few years. But that's another story.)

And then one day people stopped asking for perms. So my mother bagged up the curlers and put them in the garage where they Rested in Peace until the other day when she called.

"Why do you ask?" I said.

She told me she'd been reading a book called "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" by Marie Kondo. Among other things, the book recommends keeping only the things you really love and getting rid of the rest. Which (I think) is excellent advice.

Did my mother love those curlers? No. Would she ever again? Unlikely.

So I told her to go ahead and get rid of them for good.

Here's what surprised me, though. I felt a tiny (very tiny) pang when I said that — sort of like the tiny pang I felt when my parents recently announced they'd gotten rid of their landline because they're all about their fancy smartphones now.

What? You mean that phone number we'd had since I was 11 years old? The one I called when I needed a ride home from school? Or to tell my mom I was at Gigi Ballif's house? Or to warn my dad that I'd run into the back of a parked car on University Avenue?

That old landline phone number is gone now — to that great big phone book in the sky.

OK. I'm being an idiot. And I want you to know that I totally stopped with the tiny pang thing after, like, 2 seconds because COME ON.

Still, sometimes letting go of something familiar reminds you that another chapter in your life has come to a close. But here's the good news: My hair's gonna smell great in all the chapters to follow.


Ann Cannon can be reached at acannon@sltrib.com.