Life Lessons from the Eighties

Two things happened in the last couple of days that have got me thinking about aging and hairstyles and beauty in general.  First, I was at a reunion on Saturday night with people I went to school with for grades 1-10, and the most popular comment of the night was You haven’t changed a bit!  This is a very kind, though untrue, thing to say.  I believe the sentiment behind it is not that a person hasn’t changed but that a person hasn’t aged.  Which is also untrue – everyone ages, some gracefully, some not – but is a very kindhearted sentiment all the same. 

The second thing is that a friend posted a photo of me on Facebook, a photo dating back to the late eighties.  I was thirteen in that photo, and I was reminded that we all go through very awkward stages in our lives.  I was also reminded that the trend back then was to wear one’s bangs vertically, with enough hairspray to make a solid and unmovable wall.  Possibly my circle of friends was singlehandedly responsible for climate change, given our penchant for Salon Selectives. 

My first instinct on seeing this photo was unparalleled horror – I felt I must untag myself from that train wreck immediately; I’m pretty vain and I was not flattered by this picture.  Upon further reflection though, I feel that embracing our awkward stages is an important part of our development as people.  After all, one must be an ugly duckling before one becomes a swan, am I right?  One must be veiled in a cocoon prior to blossoming as a butterfly.  Etc. 

I felt like I looked nice this morning – I’ve been using a new shampoo and conditioner that is improving my poor heat-and-colour-damaged hair, and before you tell me to be proactive and stop damaging my hair with heat and colour, well, not going to happen in this lifetime.  I’m going to go to my grave with heat and colour damaged hair; likely it will be that orangey-red skimpy hair seen on women of a certain age, paired with bright lipstick bleeding into my liplines.  No matter.  I felt good this morning.  This is what I looked like this today before school dropoff, forehead and undereye lines and all:

Compare and contrast with this photo, from the same era as the one posted on Facebook:

Good gracious.  Although those glasses are probably popular in the hipster community right now, I feel that nothing but improvement can come from that time period in my life.  In other words, I want to have changed and aged.  I want to look different than I did back then, for many reasons.  For one, I didn’t know how to pluck my eyebrows back then and so I went through many years with Martin Scorcese-style brows:

Those are SOME eyebrows.  What I’m saying here, people, is that we should EMBRACE the aging process because the vast, vast majority of us look much better now than we did as teenagers.  You know the old saying that a woman at twenty has the face she’s born with, and a woman at forty has the face she deserves?  I feel like hugging all the young teenage girls I know and telling them that it gets better, it really does, and one day you will look back at your eyebrows and bad skin and cringe-worthy hair and your horrible fashion decisions and you will feel like you have improved immensely with age, like wine. 

Speaking of cringe-worthy hair, I have had emotional issues about my hair for my entire life.  My entire life I believed that I had uniquely awful hair.  In fact, I had such insecurity about my hair at such a young age that I took to wearing wigs that were lying around:

In answer to the inevitable question, no, I do not know whose wig that was.  I just know that I rocked it out.

Looking back at photos I realize that my hair, while not quite shampoo-commercial worthy, was really no worse than anyone else’s, hardened bangs and spiral perms not withstanding.  Well, maybe it was worse for a brief period in 1985:

I don’t know either.  Sadly, this Toni home perm was a turning point in my life, hairstyle wise, since before that the majority of my young life was marked by a variation on the Dorothy Hamill style cut which I hated with a passion:

I always wanted long, long hair, and I briefly achieved this between the ages of seven and eight:

Notes: I am reading Little Town on the Prairie, and probably dying with excitement at the old-timey romance, and also – EYEBROWS.  For some reason, shortly after I rocked out a pink frilly puffed sleeve dress, I allowed my hair to be cut short yet again, only to grown out and home permed a few short years later.

There are lessons to be learned here: a) although I was horrified at finding a photo of myself and three girlfriends and our collectively spiral permed and sprayed hair sitting on Santa’s lap on Facebook, such photos keep us humble, b) we become the people we are through the mistakes we make, notably in the hair department, c) youth is a time of experimentation, also notably in the hair department, d) AGE IS OUR FRIEND.   

Let’s all agree to stop saying you haven’t changed, and instead say you’re beautiful.  Because it’s true – the beauty inside us shines through, and only gets better and better.  Plus, as we age, we learn important life lessons such as how to wield tweezers properly and that perms are not a good idea, and also that hair clips and earrings should never match one’s lipstick.  Age before beauty?  Age IS beauty.


  1. Am now tempted to go scan my photos from the 80s. A temptation I am finding easy to avoid….

  2. ooohhh LOL..the pic of you with a tight permed hair and something verging on a mullet cut I believe I have the exact same picture of me like that..I am now convinced we must have been at the height of fashion since all the mothers were obviously doing it to their kids in 1982 loll…I agree I much rather be the me now, then the me of that I have more self confidence as an adult and feel better about myself something that only came from many life experiences..self esteem issues plagued me thru my teenage years..but as much as I say that in one breath I can’t help but wishing I was the 70lbs lighter again and it would happen without vigorous work and sacrifice . loll..but other other then that…I much prefer me now than..the me of then..aging is definitely not so bad..except hair in new places on my face lol…ask me again though when I am 50..wonder if it will be the same

  3. Awww, you were so cute. Although that Toni home perm – WOW.

    This post made me smile. You *are* beautiful. xo

  4. Well my 1987 self is SUPER envious of the mall bangs you managed to achieve. I had tons of very fine, straight hair that completely and utterly refused to do mall bangs even with 7,000 cans of Aquanet. I was . . . disappointed by this in the late 80s. I went for a short, asymmetrical haircut until 1989, which in hindsight is embarrassing enough. Oh the 80s, you provide so much entertainment 30 years later…

  5. We really did live parallel lives. Same mushroom hair cut. Same ENORMOUS glasses, same home perm, only in high school I started BRUSHING MINE OUT to go with the 7 mile high bangs. This is why I can never have bangs again, I will instinctively back comb them and shellac them with Aussie scrunch spray. I cannot Help myself.

  6. What a fabulous post. (Notice I stopped myself from saying “Hmph. They probably just mean ‘you didn’t get fat’ because people are always looking to see who got fat at high school reunions and”….NOPE. STILL not the place for my big fat body issues *smothers self*). It’s true – for all the trials of aging, I wouldn’t be a teenager again if you paid me. We’ve come a long way, baby.

  7. Love this post. And the sentiment ROCKS.

    Also, you have changed a LOT. Except for your gorgeous smile. It’s miraculous we any of us have hair on our heads, still, given all the bad stuff we’ve done to it.

    A couple years ago I ran into the mother of a high school friend and she said, “You look so mature!” That is also something I don’t need to hear.

  8. I had those glasses and that perm. I never could be bothered with hair, but now that it has betrayed me, I, too, turn to the dye. However, at some point, I am going to go beautiful and grey.


  9. I agree completely – I’m happy to have aged out of the awkward, home perm, giant glasses years. A few wrinkles I could live without, but in general, I’m more comfortable in my own skin now, no matter how I look on the outside – and that’s a thing of beauty.

    I actually would have had serious trouble recognizing you as being you in those old photos. I’d say you look different – for the better!

  10. I wholeheartedly agree with you in that I think that we look so much better older. Lines and all. I think we are more comfortable with who we are and we don’t have our stupid parents trying to perm your pin straight hair so that you look like you got hit by lightening right after you stuck a fork in a socket.
    You look adorable.
    And those curls are tight!

    • Those curls ARE tight! No kidding! My mom was always distressed at my fine hair, and so Toni home perm was the answer back then!

  11. The third picture you posted, where your hair clip and earrings match your lipstick, looks exactly like Sophia Vergara!

  12. Hairline Fracture says

    I love this post! I too am GLAD I have changed and aged! I have the super-thick eyebrows too, so my old pictures look like I have tarantulas glued to my forehead (not really, but it feels that way.)

    Although I do have to say that I think teenage girls are different these days. I don’t see the same KIND of awkward, clueless-about-grooming girls at my school. Some of them don’t go for the waxed-brows, fake nails, fake tan look that the media presents as perfection, but they mostly do pluck their eyebrows, wear nail polish, etc. Now, their fashion choices are definitely something they’ll regret someday…

  13. Bradley Cooper just called. He says you are his Hair-spiration

    Can we talk about that chesterfield?! PLEASE!?!?

  14. Miss Elise says

    Thank you for not posting the entire photo with the one with you with the larger circular red earrings for our grade nine grad…I was wearing a horrible sailor suit thing with my hair also super sprayed with hairspray. In all my recollections (did I just use that word?) you were always very pretty and always very smart…a real kindred spirit…spiral permed hair and all.

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