My Hair History - A 43 Year Odyssey
My Hair History - A 43 Year Odyssey
Noreen (Intro by Karen Marie Shelton) - Copyright - All Rights Reserved
Revised Publication Date:  10/19/10

Introduction

The very first time that I surfed over to The Long Hair Site in early 1997 I found Noreen's photo. I was awestruck. I could not believe how thick, shiny, healthy and beautiful her hair was. Noreen became my long hair heroine. I printed a copy of her photo and studied her hair for a very long time. When I saw Noreen's hair I became more determined than ever to grow my hair as long as possible.

When I saw Noreen's hair I had no idea that underneath all that gorgeous hair was one of the most gentle and caring people that I would meet on the net. From time to time I would see her posts on one of the hair boards and I always appreciated her thoughtful comments, tips and hair information. I noticed that Noreen always made time to help someone who was having problems. I loved the way Noreen would always take the time to answer questions directed to her or add any information that she thought could help.

Noreen and I became acquainted through email and I discovered that my image of her as a really sweet lady, was right on target. She has been really wonderful about sharing her knowledge on Hair Talk. I love reading her posts because I learn so much. Her experiences with Aveda's Beautifying Oil has helped a lot of people.

Since I feel a bond with Noreen, I was so excited when she sent us her great article about growing her hair along with her hair photos. Looking at Noreen's current hair photo again gave me renewed vigor towards taking care of my hair. Thank you Noreen for once again sharing a part of you with all of us.

For Noreen's Photos CLICK HERE

Article

Where should I begin? My husband would say to begin at the beginning. So here goes. This may get very long, but hey, I have 43 years to cover here.

I wasn’t born with great hair. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t born with much hair at all, and what little hair I did have was so blonde that you could see through it. So I guess having any hair at all for me is great. It did take a few years for my hair to fill in and grow. My hair started out very fine in texture and it still is today. My hair color has gotten to be a darker shade of blonde as I have gotten older. My Dad was blonde, so they tell me (he was bald the whole time I knew him) but my Mom had beautiful dark hair with red highlights. Maybe I started lout like him but am getting more like her. I am starting to get some gray hairs, but they pretty much blend in with the other hairs and you can only see them if I am standing in the right (or wrong) light.

I had short hair most of my young life. My mother was a working woman (not very common in the 50’s and early 60’s) so she was an advocate of short hair and home perms. She just didn’t have the time to take care of long tangled hair. So my hair became wash and wear along with my clothes. These perms always took better on one side than the other. I used to think that this was the fault of the perms, but my hair still has a tendency to take curl better on one side. It seemed to be very short and curly, or straight as a pin to my ears with one big curl around my head that resembled a tube. My hair was kept this way until I was about 9 years old, when my much older sister decided that it was time for me to learn that I was a girl and took the time to teach me how to take care of my hair.

From the time I was 9 until I was 16 I kept my hair at all different lengths. I went through all the usual phases as that of most teenage girls, of that time. I tried the Twiggy (does anyone remember her?) cut, and pin curls on the back of my head with straight bangs parted down the middle. I used to tape my bangs to my face to keep them perfectly straight. Taking the tape off in the morning while leaving the skin on my face and the hair on my head was always a challenge. I even ironed my hair to keep out the wave.

You could always tell when I did that. First came the smell of burning hair, then came the sound of my mothers exasperated voice asking what was stuck on the iron. Anything that was a trend at the time, I did. Though I would let it grow out for a while I would inevitably get it cut again. The longest my hair seemed to get was about shoulder length. I gave no thought as to what products I should use or what might be bad for my hair. My hair was just an accessory and unfortunately that’s how I treated it. But any damage that I did, was cut off in the many haircuts I got.

Then about two months before my 17th birthday, I got my hair cut for the very last time. It was cut into a short shag style, very short on top with many layers and one longer layer in the back (just long enough to cover my neck). I did this because I was looking for something that would be easy to care for. You see I was about to become a mother, and everyone kept telling me how difficult it was going to be to find time to take care of my hair. Being so young and inexperienced, I believed them. It didn’t take me long to discover that it actually took more time to style it and how expensive it was to keep going back for more trims just to keep it looking good. So within just a few months I started to grow it again.

I went through all of the awkward stages. Getting all of my layers to get to the same length took some time. My hair is naturally wavy and the waves never went the way I wanted them to. I could never seem to figure out a way to keep my bangs from falling into my face during this time. It was very frustrating, and I would be lying if I said the idea of cutting it all off never entered my mind. But I had a great guy that wanted me to grow out my hair and he was willing to help me in any way that he could.

He was so patient. When I would get frustrated in not being able to find a way to style it, he would come up with something and do it for me. He became quite good at doing braids, and we still enjoy trying out new things. When my hair started getting longer and I was dealing with tangles, he would sit behind me and gently work them out. He was always looking for things that would help me. He once came home with an electronic gadget used to remove tangles. It was called The Purr. It worked really great. It had these two wide combs that would move back and forth in opposite directions when turned on. It removed the tangles from my hair after shampooing and never seemed to break or pull any of my hair out. I used it for years and was really saddened when it finally stopped working. I couldn’t find another one and have never seen one since.

As my hair continued to get longer the next problem I encountered was to find a good stylist that would only trim the amount I asked for. I got very lucky. Two of our female friends went into the hair business. One was a stylist and the other became a barber. I went to the stylist the most. She would take out a ruler and measure exactly what I asked for, make a cut and show me what she had cut. She would do this periodically throughout the trim. She never took off more than I asked for. I would go the barber friend once in a while. Mostly when my husband and son would go in for a cut. She, also, was very careful to take off only what I asked, and my husband would stand behind her and watch to make sure. I am amazed that she never seemed to get nervous with him doing that but she never seemed to mind.

I once went to a different stylist. I wanted to get an angle cut in the front, so I made an appointment with a new stylist at a local mall. I had heard some great things about her and decided to give her a try. When I walked in the first thing they did was analyze my hair. They plucked a few hairs from different parts of my head and put them in this little contraption. It pulled on the hair until it broke. According to them, the amount of pressure needed to break the hair determined the condition of the hair. From this I was told that my hair was in pretty good condition, but that I needed to buy some Redkin products to improve it. So I bought what they recommended and went to the shampoo section to have my hair shampooed for the cut. The poor shampoo girl. I tried to warn her to be gentle during the shampoo or that the tangles would be hard to remove, but I she didn’t listen. Anyway, after about five minutes of trying to remove the tangles she was very frustrated and I had to insist that she let me do it myself. Finally, it was time to see the stylist. I told her what I wanted, and she refused to do the cut! She told me that I would be unhappy with it, and that I had the perfect hair to keep growing. She added that she hoped that I would consider doing just that. So I walked out of the salon disappointed but with a few new products to try out. I wish I had listened to her, but instead I went to my stylist friend. She reluctantly did the cut and it took me only a few weeks to wish she hadn’t. I now had different lengths to grow out again. Whenever I think about cutting in bangs, I just remember that episode and the desire goes away. As for the Redkin products, they were OK but not worth the money to me. They didn’t make my hair feel any different than any of the store brands I was using.

It was at about mid-back length that I finally realized that my hair seemed to be considered special by other people. During this time, I started getting comments on my hair from strangers. My husband was the keyboard player in a top 40 band that played at some of the local clubs. I would often go with him to hear the band and to dance. This was a hard time for me. I was kind of shy and having complete strangers come up and say something nice to me was embarrassing. I didn’t know how to handle it. I would turn a bright red, mutter a quiet thank you and turn my eyes away. After all, it was just hair and not something that, to me, was anything special. However, it didn’t take too long to get used to the comments. I think it helped me quite a lot in getting over my shyness and since then I have met some pretty nice people because of my hair. I also hope that I have learned to be much more graceful in handling these comments.

When my hair was between my waist and hips (about 12 years after I started growing it) we moved to Georgia. It was really exciting to be going to another place to live and to experience a different kind of culture from where I grew up. However, this also meant that I had to find a new stylist. I was very worried about this, so my husband decided that he would learn how to trim my hair. This worried me also. You see I had grown up listening to stories about my mother’s hair. She had beautiful long hair, at one time, but after getting married and not having the money to go a salon she let my dad cut it for her. He did the best he could, but he couldn’t seem to get her hair even, so he just kept cutting until it was well above her shoulders. She said she cried for weeks. I didn’t want this to happen to me, and I didn’t want my husband to feel badly if he had the same problem. After much talking, and a promise from him to stop if he got in over his head, I agreed. It came out great, and since then he has been the only person to come near me with scissors. He does all of my trims and even does my split ends.

During my time in Georgia (11 years) my hair seemed to thrive. I don’t know if it was the humidity or what, but my hair grew to my knees. My husband read an article about George Michael of NY and wrote to him. He told him all about my hair and how we were looking for some new ways to style my hair. Well George sent me two books. One was his book on how to care for hair (which he autographed) and another on different styles for long hair. We learned much from his book about the care of long hair and followed it religiously. I switched to a boar bristle brush, I took the time to finger pick out any tangles, I bought combs without sharp edges, we followed his instructions for trimming split ends, in general I just started being nicer to my hair. Maybe this was the reason for the good condition of my hair. At the very least it didn’t hurt. I have since loaned out the book to a friend that was growing out her hair. She moved to Missouri and I never saw her or the book again. I have been trying to lay my hands on another copy of this "out of print" book, but have not had any luck. I even have Amazon.com looking for me.

About six years ago, I changed the part in my hair from the middle to the side. I wanted a different look without cutting my hair. This has caused some problems. My hair went from being all one length to having some shorter sections on one side. Because of this I had decided to keep my hair at my knees. I thought of it as a resting point for the longer sections of my hair while my shorter sections caught up. I don’t know if this really worked. The shorter sections haven’t really caught up though they are closer, and the longer sections seem to be happy. I also think that my growth rate has slowed down some. Maybe it is my age, or maybe my hair is just nearing the end of its growth cycle. Only time will tell.

A little over two years ago I moved back to New England. Three events happened that have changed how I care for and think about my hair. The first was that we got an internet connection. Through this I got exposure to more people that either had long hair or had an avid interest in long hair. My husband soon talked me into posting some pictures on The Long Hair Site. The response I got was overwhelming. I was very shocked to say the least. I had gotten many comments on my hair in the past, but nothing like this. Everyone was so encouraging and appreciative.

The second thing that happened was my hair. At first there was no noticeable difference. But before the first winter was over, my hair had become very dry. The products that I had been using in Georgia (Pantene) were not working on my hair at all. I started to panic. Was I going to have to cut my hair? There had to be something I could do that wasn’t so drastic. So I turned to the internet. I found a longhair site that had a BB and I posed my problem there. Again, the response was overwhelming. I heard from people from all over the world. They related their own hair problems and made many suggestions of things that worked for them.

This brings me to the third event. One of those who responded was Karen Shelton. She seemed so genuinely concerned and was very helpful. She sent me an e-mail that was packed full of great information and wonderful things to try. Then I started seeing her name in more places. She showed up on the TLHS mailing list, and I found myself reading every one of her posts over and over again.

Then one day she said that the website that she had been involved with was going through some changes and so I stopped in to see what it was all about. I found a site that was informative and a message board where the people were very helpful and caring. I have learned so much from Hair Talk and the people that post there. Thank you to Cher, Dawn, Laura Jane, Clare, Robin, Tamara, Valentine, Dave, and others too numerous to mention here. You all give so much of yourselves.

One of the very best things that I learned of was the Aveda product line. I have been using it for a year now, and my hair has never been in better shape. I use the Shampure almost exclusively, only occasionally switching off with the Chamomile shampoo. It seems to help to switch off once in a while. I love the color conditioners and use the Madder Root and Chamomile.

I like the highlights they give me and they make my hair feel very soft and silky. So far the only product that I didn’t like from the Aveda line was the Rosemary Mint conditioner. It made my hair stiff and sticky.

I am now experimenting with the Curessence and Confixor products and I like what I see. But the very best product for me was the Beautifying Oil. What a difference it has made! My ends are no longer all dried out, and I am no longer thinking of cutting my hair. As a matter of fact, I am now trying to grow it out some more.

Maybe someday I will be blessed with ankle length hair. But no matter what happens, I know that I can go to Hair Talk and get the encouragement I need and all the helpful advice I want. Thank you to Karen and Jeff, who give us all a place to come together and share our experiences.

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Original Publication Date:  4/13/1999 - Revised Publication Date: 10/19/10

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