Joanna was selected as a finalist in our High School Horror Stories giveaway sponsored by Here I Go Again by Jen Lancaster. The winner will be the one whose entry reposted on BookRiot.com gets the most Facebook “likes” by 11:59PM EDT, Wednesday, February 13. The ONLY way to vote is to click the Facebook “Like” just above this text on BookRiot.com.
I grew up in a rural town in western Pennsylvania. In the winter of my ninth grade year, I went with my mom to get my hair cut. The “stylist” (using that term loosely) believed she found a nit in my hair and sounded the lice alarm. She suggested to my mom that we try a new technique to get rid of the lice that wouldn’t kill my brain cells like a traditional medicated shampoo would. Her genius plan? Smother the nits to death with Vaseline.
I was an honor student and in the top 10 in my class, so killing brain cells was not something my mom wanted to take lightly. So she took the advice of the “stylist” and bought a large tub of Vaseline. We then proceeded to spend a Saturday afternoon having my mother cover my hair in petroleum jelly. My thick hair that reached several inches past my shoulders. It’s simple, she said! We can wash it out when we’re done!
Meanwhile I am sobbing, because as an honor student I know the meaning of NOT WATER SOLUBLE. And I’m also almost 15 years old. And in high school. My tears and my cries of “it’s Vaseline! It’s not SUPPOSED to wash off!” fell on deaf ears.
After the hair was smothered and covered for the requisite hour suggested by the “stylist,” we tried to wash it out with shampoo. And then with dish detergent. And then with Ajax. And then with Comet and a scrub brush. My dad helpfully suggested gasoline, which made me wail even louder. (The chemicals we used probably killed more brain cells than we ever would have with medicated shampoo, which is the great irony of this situation.) Knowing we had exhausted all of our options, we tried to “dry” my hair, which was now in a giant dinosaur-type spike coming out of the back of my head. Think stegosaurus. A ponytail with no hair band to hold it in place. Slick like an oil spill, which is exactly what it was. I knew when my pillow was covered in grease the next morning that I had an issue.
I had to return to school on Monday, and for weeks after that, with my greasy spike ponytail. I walked the halls looking worse than the T-Birds from Grease, leaving oil spots on my t-shirts and with everyone teasing me about what happened to my hair. I was too mortified to tell the truth, so I said I had a hot oil treatment gone wrong (as if a salon within a 30 mile radius of my home town would even offer a hot oil treatment). I couldn’t fess up both the indignity of having a nit AND having allowed every inch of my hair to become what amounted to an elementary school science experiment. It was too much to bear.
Photographic evidence shows it was about 4 weeks until my hair returned to normal. So I spent a month of ninth grade roaming the halls of my high school knowing the giggles and pointing were directed at my Vaseline hair. I am 30 now and just seeing petroleum jelly gives me the shakes.