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What could be more embarrassing at age twelve, than to admit you were worried about some goofy boy sniffing your hair? (Dreaming that he might actually smile at you and give you flowers, like in the commercial--that's what.) To put it more succinctly (and with the benefit of hindsight), a shampoo that called attention to the awkward first manipulations of adolescent courting was not exactly what I was looking for.

At fourteen I made my first visit to a "styling salon" at JC Penney's. It was for a haircut and a perm, but what I was really looking forward to was the shampoo. Until this point, my mother was the only person, except for me, who had washed my hair. My friend Michelle had told me that she loved getting her hair cut because it was so great to be shampooed by someone else. The way she closed her eyes and leaned her head back in a kind of goofy but sincere dreamy way when she said it convinced me she knew what she was talking about.

When I arrived at the salon and sat down in the chair, I checked out my stylist in the mirror. The do she sported was short, curly, and three different colors. It seemed fixed to her scalp with bottles of hairspray, giving the impression that she was wearing some kind of strange helmet. I imagined she was one of those women who had her hair "done" once a month, but who rarely enjoyed a good shampoo.

Once she started shampooing me, however, I forgot about her hair and concentrated on the circular movements of her fingers on my scalp, thinking maybe she knew some secret that would turn me into Farrah Fawcett. I enjoyed the feeling of someone else shampooing my hair, even if my neck cramped a little bit afterwards. It was a helpless feeling, relaxing while, at the same time, tinged with just a little bit of danger, similar to those early-childhood shampoo feelings I'd experienced.