Weekly Column: Hot Rolling Nerdiness

© Stephenie Freeman

I curled my hair with hot rollers the other day. I haven’t done that since 1989.

Hot rollers used to be a staple at my house. I learned everything I know (which isn’t much) about hairdos from my mother. When I was a little kid, my mother had this thick brown hair that could usually only be tamed with the power of the spiked hot rollers that would heat up on her bathroom counter next to a bright blue can of Aqua Net, a large bottle of Chanel No. 5, and a variety of wine colored lipsticks to keep you busy kissing the mirror for hours.

I have memories of her getting ready for a night out, her high heels clicked along the floor, the hot rollers hanging from her head very Medusa-like. As my mother would bend to kiss me goodbye, I would cross my fingers and pray that I would grow into my very own set of hot rollers one day.

I wasn’t allowed to use my mother’s hot rollers. Instead I was forced to endure the embarrassment of the spongy plastic pink rollers. Mom would roll my wet hair at bedtime and ten hours later I would wake with a rat’s nest of rollers, leaving my hair curly, kinky, and crazy. As if the glasses and braces and pre-teen awkwardness that were plaguing my young life weren’t enough.

Even though I never actually said the words “I am a nerd” out loud, that is exactly what I was and no amount of hair rolling could change that. In truth, the 1980’s were not kind to me and those of you who knew me back then are probably reading this and politely shaking your head in agreement.

Regardless of my nerdiness, trudged through my teens holding out hope that one day I would emerge, blossom as they say, into something better…prettier. All I needed were some hot rollers—and the long thick hair to go with it—to turn my life around. Unfortunately, I had a long way to go.

Let me paint the nerdy picture for you: I wore big, thick glasses and had a mouth full of metal. I liked playing with stuffed animals and was intensely proud of my sticker collection. I always had a horrible haircut, played the French horn in the school band, and spent my free time at school in the library. I wish I was making this all up, but the truth is not always pretty and neither was I.

I saw something the other day on the Internet about celebrities ushering in something called “Nerdy Chic.” There were pictures of said celebs wearing large, black horn-rimmed glasses, sporting preppy attire, and doing so in a very cool way. For me it was like looking at an answered prayer that happened to come 20 years too late.

Eventually I grew out of braces and into contacts and a new self-confidence. In high school I began to see that my self-esteem didn’t have to be solely connected to my looks or lack thereof and in doing so emancipated myself from the nerdiness that was keeping me from my best self.

But any true Nerd will tell you: once a Nerd, always a Nerd. It doesn’t matter how many hair styles I try (and I’ve tried a lot) I’m still my geeky self deep down inside. The last few years I’ve let my hair grow longer and I recently found myself standing in Target, starring at a box of hot rollers.

I brought them home filled with hopeful anticipation. Perhaps with a quick spritz of Chanel No. 5 and a touch of wine colored lipstick, I could be the woman I have always wanted to be.

But maybe, in my own nerdy way, I already am.

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