perms and skiing

rr-richardmarx.jpg Did your mom ever get you to do things you never wanted to be doing–ever? When I was little, it never occurred to me I could say no, or run away from home. Mom just seemed all powerful and wise, and whenever she announced something as fact, I accepted it as fact. For instance, when we moved to New Jersey, she announced “Everyone in New Jersey knows how to ski,” thus began a crash course with my cousins on a bunny hill somewhere in Pennsylvania.

The fact that “Everyone in NJ knew how to ski” stressed me out–was I going to fit in? (We moved there when I was ten from Staten Island.) Would I make friends? So I went down that bunny hill over and over again. My only skill was stopping by throwing my body down to the ground. There was one time I was flying down the hill, headed straight to the bunny lift line. I had already thrown my body down, my one offering from my meager ski skill arsenal, but was still going pretty fast. I yelled “Get out of my way! I can’t stop! I’M A BEGINNER!” I remember approaching the fence at an odd angle, as people desperately tried to WALK away quickly (they were beginners so did not know how to ski yet) from my crash landing. After that, Mom sprung for a lesson and the teacher greeted me “Oh, so you’re the one who crashed into the fence this morning.” When I finally did start making friend in New Jersey, none of my friends knew how to ski.

But the biggest Mom move highlight is reserved for the perms she made me get. For some reason, Koreans (at least they used to in the 80s) looooooooove a good perm. My mother’s logic was that a volumnious perm helped make my gigantic, Korean noggin and pancake round face look more…petite. I have to say, having had two, and witnessing them on other Koreans, it does no such thing. In Staten Island, when I was 9, I was subjected to the Cleopatra–like the bangs and the chin-length that form, you know, that pyramid look. It was kind of awful, but I could live with it, and it even looked pretty when it grew out. The perm Mom forced me into getting when I was 10 right before I moved to New Jersey was not as kind. It also had bangs, and a layer cut close to the sides of my head, plus length in the back. It was like Richard Marx’s hair (pic attached) on a girl. My childhood friend Alex says she remembers me entering the class with my windbreaker hood on, which I refused to take down for the entire day.

And for that, my mom deserves a big shout-out. Thanks Mom.

The only other kid with a perm that year was Patrick Marque, a phillipino kid with a medium-size head. He also had the close to the sides of the head, long in the back mullet look. We had the same hair, but he looked much better than I did.

7 Replies to “perms and skiing”

  1. Oh honey, it’s not just Korean moms from the 80s. It’s all moms who want a “princess” for a little girl. Case in point–my blond german mother, who not only wanted me in a perm, but also insided on giving me braid buns like the good like german-korean-adoptee that I am.


  2. oh my god, that’s hilarious. i can’t really imagine the braid buns. is it like a princess leia look? did i spell leia right?

  3. I think it’s “Lea.”

    It was somewhere between Princess Lea and Gretel (of Hansel and Gretel).

  4. There was this Korean girl who I went to church with, and what I remember most about her was that she had beautiful permed hair and was the best skier in our youth group. Does fairness exist in life?

  5. I can’t believe that my wife, who not only watches the original Star Wars trilogy but the horrid prequels every time they’re on HBO, which is always, does not know how to spell Princess Leia’s name. I still love her madly, though (my wife, not Princess Leia).

    I never understood the whole Asian perm thing. Being from an ethnic group that is famed for its kinky locks (a/k/a the Jewfro, although my own hair is mysteriously straight), I always thought that having beautiful silky straight hair is one of the perks of being Asian. Weird.

  6. I think the pinnacle is when you see a Korean man my dad’s age with a perm. I dunno if they think it minimizes their head size, b/c of all Koreans, the men have the largest heads and it seems the Korean-fro just kind of emphasizes it. Plus, it’s hilarious.

    I think straight hair is okay. I would get a perm again. actually, i admire you mc abe for your multicolor past, and i really would like to have blue hair one day though someone told me recently “oh no, honey, you’re too old,” and i have to respect that. right? at least until i get a new job?

    jen–huh. i would’ve assumed you skiied.

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