Bite Size Memoir: Bad Hair Day

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

October 25, 2014

If you are a child of the late 70s and early 80s then you must have photographic evidence of a bad hair day. I have evidence of ferociously faulty fashion sense induced by mixed media influences. (This photo is what you get when you watch Little House on the Prairie and Charlie’s Angels while also reading Tiger Beat and ordering clothes from Sears.)

Beyond the hair, note my retro-pioneer gingham and glasses so large as to dent my cheeks when I attempted a smile.

Thank you Lisa Reiter for resurrecting this photo from its hidden gloom in my hope chest. You can join me and other writers in linking up with her Bite Size Memoir on her blog, Sharing the Story.

Bad Hair Year: 1980 by Charli Mills

The Lesser Known Fawcet/Ingalls Flair of 1980

Fickle fringes do not always shape up like in the movies. In this school photo my tresses are a little bit Farrah Fawcett; a little bit Laura Ingalls. What I remember clearly was my frustration with the curling iron and why it didn’t “work.”

My hair refused to hold a curl. The bangs alone took multiple crimps with a hot iron and enough AquaNet hairspray to be guilty of at least one thin spot in the ozone. No matter how many times I curled the longer sides into a hot coil, they brushed out into uncooperative waves.

Note to my 13-year-old self: you weren’t supposed to brush the curls.

What makes me chuckle is the flair I added, completely of my own creation. Fashion magazines, you did not totally rule me! Yep, that side braid was 100 percent my idea. Why it didn’t catch on in Hollywood is beyond me.


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  1. TanGental

    brilliant, but Charli those aren’t glasses, they’re windows…

    • Charli Mills

      What did I ever “see” in those frames? 🙂

    • Sarah Brentyn

      Hahaha! 😀

  2. Sarah Brentyn

    I love your hair. The braid is kinda cool in a goofy sort of way. And the color is gorgeous. I’ll leave the bangs alone…

    Yup, curling irons are evil. We’ve never gotten along. (I once burned myself and had a curling iron shaped red mark on my forehead for weeks. In junior high school. Humiliation.)

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, no–I think that’s the humiliating rite of initiation of every girl trying to use the evil iron! I might bring back the side braid (but not the glasses)!

  3. Norah

    Gorgeous Charli! What a happy thirteen year old you appear to have been. I love the colour too, and the braid. I used to have one down each side when I was quite young. My mother used to do the two plaits in front of my ears and then tie them together (the plaits that is!) on the top of my head. I don’t think that caught on either. It’s funny when we look back on ‘old’ photos. We either cringe at something we thought was just wonderful at the time, or now (as a much older adult) realise that we didn’t look so old or bad in all those photos we hated having taken! Thank you for sharing this bad hair day – not! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I’d love to see a photo of you all plaited–it sounds so cute! Time and distance makes us question what we thought was stylish. I’m just happy to be beyond this. But then again, I don’t care much for style these days. It’s about comfort!

      • Norah

        I’d have liked to join in on this one but not possible at the moment. I’m not sure if I have a photo. I remember that it used to hurt when my hair was tugged tight to be joined on top! I agree with comfort, but wouldn’t mind a bit of style. I always appreciate it in others! 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, Norah, I remember those tight tugs–as if the snugger the braid, the less chance of it coming loose! Let’s shoot for comfortable style! 🙂

  4. Jeanne Lombardo

    I could relate to every part of this charmingly self-deprecating post. I am about a decade older than you, so I largely escaped the curling iron thing (couldn’t bother with it by then) and (thank god) the bangs. I did, however, have glasses to compete with yours in diameter. I would wager a large sum that my spectacles would have taken the prize in any contest for most Coke-bottly of lenses. I am quite sure that I scared my ESL students one time when, having tortured my eyeballs beyond human tolerance, I was forced to go without my contact lenses for two weeks. All things considered, you look very sweet here. I agree with Sarah: your hair was a strikingly pretty color and yeah, I like the braid too.

    • Charli Mills

      At least I missed out on the big bangs that grew out of my era! It could have been worse, although my small daughters suffered with big bows in their hair. I never did introduce them to the curling iron. My hair color was unlike anyone in my family–it was the color of my horse, oddly enough! And the thing about those old glasses–they lasted for decades!

  5. Lisa Reiter

    Just awesome!! I laughed, no, cackled out loud! There are almost three separate hairstyles going on on the same young head here, aren’t there? Bless your thirteen year old self 😀 Thank you! You’re always game for a laugh and this is no exception.
    I actually envy the plait – I didn’t have hair long enough for such a fantastic braid and it is a gorgeous colour. I used to henna mine to get a similar shade. And the glasses are actually wonderful – I think we’re heading back towards that size of frame in the UK.. Watch this space – between us there’s another horror photo gallery on specs!
    Lots of love Lxx

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Yes, I suffered from multiple hairstyles! As I told Jeanne, my hair was the same color as my horse. Oh, no, the windows are making a come back? I have a friend whose husband refused to give up his big frames until his teenage sons begged him!

      • Lisa Reiter

        Reminds me of my brother throwing an absolute wobbler because my Dad wore his glasses to a parent’s evening!! There wasn’t even anything wrong with them!

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! The things kids get embarrassed over!

  6. wccunningham

    I bet it all comes into style. Loved the glasses!

    • Charli Mills

      I was ready for any style! Thanks!

    • Lisa Reiter

      Yes, just not all at the same time 😀

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! Kind of how I write…hmm…:-D

  7. Amber Prince

    I am loving the rebel braid!
    Curling irons hate me too, I can curl and spray till my arms give out and just look like I forgot to comb it (and not in a fashionable way).

    • Charli Mills

      That’s why I brushed–it was worse if I didn’t! And that’s the bummer about hairstyling…before I went rogue writer, I blew-dry and rolled my hair under every day and the older I got the more painful mornings became! 🙂

  8. Lisa Reiter

    Did you guys ‘scrunch’ in the later 80s and early 90s? I had more success with that and keeping curls. Required a whole new hair drying kit of diffusers and sprays though! 😉

    • Annecdotist

      Oh, yes, scrunch and diffusers – that actually suited my hair quite well.

    • Charli Mills

      I gave up during the scrunching years!

  9. Annecdotist

    Charli, you look lovely, I’ll not have a word said against you and, never mind the gingham, you look extremely poised for thirteen.
    I’m five or six years older in mine
    but we could be sisters. In fact, it was your look that inspired me to join in – oh how I remember those owlish glasses. Large frames, as someone mentioned, are coming back in fashion over here. Not such good news for me with a very strong prescription. I think it’s funny how, even for the fashion resistant like me, an out of date look can seem so wrong.

    • Jeanne Lombardo

      So enjoyed straying off the path to visit Anne’s blog this morning. Once I give myself leave to explore Charli and Lisa’s challenges, it’s very easy to step off the planet of paid work and go tripping off into other writerly spaces…it was about time though. Love this community of writers.

      • Charli Mills

        Thank you for your detour, Jeanne! I hope we gave you a refreshing break and that one day this community will join you on the paid pages of this industry. We have huge potential and new releases among us! Thank you!

    • Charli Mills

      Now I can’t wait to go see your bite! I’m not sure if that was poise at 13 or just the photographer who kept directing my chin this way and that before snapping the shot. 🙂 Oh, the horror of large lenses coming back! That qualifies as a creepy story, hee, hee!

  10. susanzutautas

    I love the braid and I used to have glasses just like yours! You have beautiful hair!

    • Charli Mills

      Aw, thanks! Why is it that those glasses never seemed that big at the time? 🙂

  11. Sherri

    Oh Charli, I just love this post! Your bite made me giggle so much as I remembered my own hair horrors. I’ve yet to do my bad hair day post. Trouble is I had so many that I can’t think what to write first! My hair was thick, wavy and frizzy and I hated it. No straighteners to be had. I had a friend who used to brush her frings (bangs) to the side like yours with loads of hairspray and I used to keep touching it as it was rock hard. She used to get really annoyed with me for doing it. I was rotten wasn’t I? I actually think your side braid is really cute and your hair colour and waves are so pretty. Oh, and you watched the same programmes as me…Little House on the Prairie and Charlie’s Angels? They have a lot to answer for when it comes to our hair do’s 😀

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Those shows created some real dilemmas–1880s or 1980s? Oh, let’s do both! Ugh, that rock-hard feeling was why I always brushed my hair after styling. I guess I didn’t understand it was suppose to be molded like hardened plastic! Then I moved on to perms…not a good decision. Fine hair but LOTS of it leads to a long fro. I looked like Little House meets Hard Rock! Yes, I think hair evolution in one’s life could write volumes.

      • Sherri

        Love it…Little House meets Hard Rock 😀 Had to giggle again at the perms. I did the same…can you imagine? Why oh why did we do those things? Hopefully we’ve learnt a few things along the way… 😉

      • Charli Mills

        Lesson learned–no more perms! Swept back works just fine these days!

      • Sherri


  12. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    What fun. Love the hair your thirteen year old self gave you. The three different styles compete well with each other. Funny how you always want what you don’t have. I would have loved to have your long straight hair as a child. Mine was kept manageably short so I couldn’t have been a trend setter in those days if I’d wanted to be. I’d say everyone at your school was copying at least one of your styles. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      One of my best buds has hair like yours and we used to laugh about how as kids we each longed for each other’s hair! She found a special hairstylist who cuts her curls in a specific way so they don’t flair. It really brings out the beauty of the curls.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Product and cut. I have discovered that since we have moved here to a more technologically advanced hair stylist. But I have to admit to a bit of laziness as well.

      • Charli Mills

        Laziness or perhaps we care less about it. 🙂

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