I grew up in a small New Zealand town called Paraparaumu (long name, small town). I didn’t like it. Actually there’s nothing the matter with Paraparaumu, but I was a teenager and it was small and I wanted to be a rock star. Hell, we didn’t even have a local movie theatre. I played role-playing games, collected a pop music magazine called Smash Hits, and learned how to play the guitar.
Part of the plan for becoming a rockstar was to stand out. One component in this plan was getting a rocking hair cut. I decided to get a perm. This is a photo taken the day I got my perm, and I am perm modelling if you will.
Perm aside I now take great delight in the fact that I have very un-rock’n’roll short pastel yellow shorts on and hairy legs.
I don’t really remember why, out of all the silly hairstyles in the world, I decided I would get a perm. My mother took me to a hair salon upstairs in Coastlands (the mall) and helped me express myself (I was a teenage boy) to a hairdresser. The hairdresser gave me some hair style books to look through and I obviously flicked though to the section marked “Poodles” and then we were away.
I was amazed at how long it took to get your hair permed. You had to sit with all kinds of gloop on your head for ages, and only then did the hairdresser begin to weave her magic on my locks. Looking back I think this was an insight into the gruelling life of a world tour with Bon Jovi in the 80s. Those guys must have spent hours every single day getting their hair done. I think I got two, maybe three, perms in total before I lost patience with this particular exercise in vanity.
After I had been freshly coiffed I had an attack of nerves. Perhaps, I suddenly wondered, I sort of looked like a tit. I snuck out of the hair salon and along the balcony walkway of Coastlands. I aimed for a set of steps I knew were very rarely used and darted down them. Naturally one of my best mates was standing at the bottom killing time. There was an awkward moment when he registered what I had done to myself, and then he pulled himself together and we had an entire conversation in which he said nothing like: “You look like a complete dickhead”, or “I think there’s a dead poodle on your head”. Sometimes it’s awesome to be a guy.
Actually I didn’t catch any crap for my hair do. In fact, quite a few girls commented on my new “do” approvingly. Not that I did anything about this sudden female attention. There were further aspects of my look to get right.
Here I am with my sensibly dressed Gran in full Kapiti coast, man-gear: stupid hair, long t-shirt (Iron Maiden = good, WHAM! = very, very, bad), black stonewashed jeans, and basketball boots. I was not cool enough to have an Iron Maiden t-shirt. I think the main problem was that my mother would see me wearing it and laugh at me. Iron Maiden t-shirts, if you are not familiar with the oeuvre, feature a corpse-like character looking satanic and doing satanic things like hanging out in graveyards, satanically.
I once bought an album called Masters of Metal in Coastlands. It had an utterly ridiculous cover featuring some kind of corpse with green eyes wielding a sledgehammer (obviously influenced by Iron Maiden), and my mother in an act of sudden generosity snatched the record out of my hand and offered to buy it for me. I was mortified. She went up to the counter where, for some bizarre reason, there was a very matronly looking older woman working, and put the LP down on the counter. They both looked at it, rolled their eyes and laughed. I was at the back of the shop trying to hide behind a cardboard display case of Piano by Candlelight cassettes.
Possibly my lamest form of protest was through the previously ignored vehicle for youth rebellion: the knitted jersey (sweater, whatever, we call them jerseys). Once you tear yourself away from my shapely legs and deflated perm, you will notice the jersey. This was the first in a line of jerseys that I wore and I can tell you that this was pretty fashion-forward for Kapiti in the late 80s. In my defense please remember that The Cosby Show was popular at this time and Bill Cosby was taking the humble jersey to strange, garish new places. Anyway, back to this particular jersey. I had a friend who particularly admired it and asked for the pattern (Christ! this sounds so laughable – how could I possibly be cool if I had friends who were asking to borrow the knitting patterns for my jerseys?). So I gave him the pattern and he passed it on to his grandmother who… refused to knit it because the picture on the cover of the pattern showed a woman wearing the jersey.
I ask you, does this jersey look feminine to you? I was incensed. My manhood was impugned (my permed, jersey-wearing manhood). I raged against such judgements. I ordered another jersey from my Gran for next winter. It was massive, it was lurid, I wore it defiantly in front of my friend on muftiday. I rubbed his face in the yarn of gender-bending defiance. Oh, the heady, heady days of youth.
What am I saying here? I’m saying, on my knees, hands clasped, “don’t judge me”. I’m saying, sitting forward, chin cupped in hands, “you must understand this photo in its proper context.” I’m saying, hand caught in doorjam, crying big man tears, “man it was great to be young.”