Blue Hair

Women have a flood of products aimed at their every need. Television shows are interrupted by commercials for hair coloring, tinting, and conditioning products. Make-up manufacturers rake in millions in profits each year. The general public is even bombarded with a litany of feminine hygiene products as they are peddled between show segments. None of us is too shocked because women have for years have been concerned about their appearances. Nothing shows their concern for appearance as their attention to their hair.

My mother wore a little rouge, she powdered her nose, and she used lipstick on her lips. Her routine was a simple one, so when I began to date in high school, waiting on a girl to finish getting ready made no sense to me. Yes, they had more hair than I did, but drying the stuff didn’t take two hours. I remember when Amy and I began to date. She had long hair that was impossibly thick. She’d have her hair wrapped around giant rollers that gave her appearance another world look. Mother rolled her hair when we were young. She used “spoolies” and bobby pins to make tight little curls. Occasionally, she would have a permanent done by a friend or family member. The stench from those ingredients cleared the house for several hours, and the resulting hair-do was one that resembled Little Orphan Annie. I remember how women during my early years kept their hair pinned up all Saturday so that it would be just right for church.

Later, Mother visited a salon weekly to have a professional fix her hair. Her coiffure was the result of excessive hair teasing held into place with a half can of lacquer (hair spray). Some women still make that trip each week. My mother-in-law is one. Before bed each night she slips a head cover on that keeps her hair from mussing. All that is required the following day is a bit of straightening with a pick. What bothered me most was the fact that women who had their hair fixed each week couldn’t wash the stuff for an entire week. Is a perfect “do” worth all the trouble?

My mother had beautiful hair. It was white. As a teen she contract typhoid fever, and her hair fell out. She swore that it grew back more white than brown. On one occasion she decided that a change was needed. Maybe she wanted a more youthful appearance. Daddy had died when Jim and I were thirteen, and perhaps Mother was trying to be attractive to other men. At any rate, she came home from the beauty salon one afternoon with her hair a light reddish-brown color. Jim and I hooted as she walked through the door. Yes, it was insensitive, but all we’d ever known was our mother’s white hair. Mother was mad at first, but then she was hurt, a fact I wish I could change. She allowed the color to grow out and never attempted another change.
Eventually, Mother grew content with her hair, almost. She kept the natural color, or lack of color. She sometimes visited the salon, but by then, her preference was to have a permanent or a pageboy haircut. Her only other grooming technique was to use a special rinse. Like so many other women, she didn’t want her white hair to have yellow streaks caused either by the sun or her body’s chemical make-up. To combat this yellowing she applied a blue rinse when she shampooed. Mother became one of “the little ol’ lady troops” with the application of this product. Her hair had the same color quality as a white shirt exposed to a black light.

In her last years, mother opted for minimal care of her hair. She kept it cut short and curled in defense against hot summers at Dollywood, where she worked for several years as Miss Carrie. It was still thick, but during the last days of her life, Mother cared nothing about how perfectly fixed her hair was.

My hair is racing to turn gray or turn loose. Sadly, turning loose is winning. These days, my only attention to hair consists of cleaning it from the shower drain. What I have is gray, but I won’t ever have need of the blue rinse to keep it looking nice. Using the product would permanently turn my scalp blue.


I suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome. I’ve capitalized that ailment because the effects are debilitating after so long. Wanting to go to sleep at night but not being able to is torture. Even worse, losing those sacred afternoon naps to a twitch is heartbreaking. I am sleep-deprived from the effects of this condition, as well as from getting up each morning at 5:00 a.m. to teach a 7:00 a.m. class. So, I am flabbergasted when students come to class, sit in their desks, and fall dead-to-the-world asleep.

As a kid, I NEVER fell asleep in classes. I was afraid of teachers. In the old days, a teacher wouldn’t hesitate to take a sleeping pupil to the hall, and with a swift, powerful, stinging swat bring him to full consciousness. The burning from the backside always kept eyes opened, even if they were flooded with tears. By the way, no child ever suffered a loss of self-esteem when he was paddled. He did, however, stay awake and learn.

As a teenager, the last thing I ever would do was fall asleep in a class. The teacher might embarrass a slumbering child. More often, so-called friends would do terrible things to the comatose adolescent. Shoe laces were tied together so that sleepy heads would trip when they left at the end of the period. Sometimes dozens of foreign objects were thrown into the hair of that sleeping person. Some guys had a more sadistic turn. They’d wait for the person in front of them to fall asleep. Then they would take out their Zippo lighter, strike them, and place the flame close to the person’s backside. Eventually, the heat would grow so intense that the sleeper would awaken and jump from his seat as if he were on fire. Then the sleeping kid was in trouble for disturbing class.

In the earlier years of my teaching career, I used to wake up students who were in my class. When I saw one, I would take my paddle and quietly walk behind his desk. The ensuing “smack” of a paddle hitting the top of the next desk proved to be an effective alarm clock. The system took away the paddle, so I had to rely on different things to wake students. Classrooms usually have floors with concrete slabs covered by tile. When I encountered a sleeping teen, I retrieved the metal trash can, walked to the side of the student’s desk, and dropped it. The bang was enough to give everyone a headache. Sometimes a frightened teen jumped when the can crashed, and he nearly killed himself as he tried to escape his desk. I suppose I should have regretted my actions, but I didn’t.

Kids these days aren’t bashful about laying their heads upon the desks and sleeping throughout class. Heck, a one and a half hour class period is just the right length for a nice nap. They aren’t too concerned about the things they do during a visit to dreamland. Some students drool in their sleep. When they do awaken, a pool of saliva covers the desktop. I ask them to mop up before they leave. Another student might have breathing problems, maybe a sinus infection or deviated septum. This physical ailment becomes apparent as soon as he drops into deep sleep because it is at this time that he begins to snore. Yes, he saws logs in front of God, classmates, and the teacher!

These sleeping children usually have an excuse for their tiredness. Some complain that they worked the late shift at one of our fine fast-food establishments. I ask them if they plan to make a career of asking people, “Do you want fries with that?” They sneer and let me know they have no intention of doing that for a living, at which point I suggest that they might well do so if they continue to sleep in class and fail English. Others say they sleep in class because they are sick. I ask them if they have come to school so that they can infect every other student and teacher. They answer “no,” and I tell them to stay home until they are healed.

Folks might want to know why I don’t wake them up. Have you ever heard of the saying, “Let sleeping dogs lie?” I’m not about to rouse someone who doesn’t want to be here in the first place. He needs rest for attending summer school and making up the credit they’ve slept away.