I’m not the original Do-It-Yourselfer, but I did have an early start. I was probably 5 or 6 years old when I cut my doll Amy’s hair. I couldn’t quite comprehend why Amy’s hair didn’t grow back. I’m not sure why I chose to cut my doll’s hair, but it was an early indication that I would fearlessly (and in some cases foolishly) take on many future DIY projects. In fact, my earliest projects all involved hair.
As all women know, it is customary to go to the beauty shop to get your hair done, especially for special occasions. Each time I had my hair professionally styled, I’d come home and totally re-do it. My new “do” just didn’t live up to my expectations. Of course, it was a waste of $5 to have it done in the first place. The $5 fee was what it cost to have your hair done at the “beauty college” in my hometown.
Each time I had my hair styled or cut, I felt the need to try to improve it. Back in the day, the cut was accomplished with a razor blade. I cut my hair often enough with fairly decent outcomes that my cousin asked me to cut her hair. She was trying to save a buck – or $5 as was the case. I cut her hair, and I thought I did a decent job and that it looked really nice. It was a short cut, but she complained immediately after – and for years after – that I had cut it too short. That was her first and last free haircut from me!
When I was older, I decided that I would give the professionals another try. I got a perm and wound up looking as if I had slept in curlers since the time of King Tut. Waaaay too curly! I also tried having my hair colored but way too pricey. I had yet another stylist cut my hair but left the shop nearly in tears, and when I settled into the driver’s seat of my car for the drive home, I commenced to screaming. If screaming had helped grow my hair out, it would have been down to my knees for all the screaming I did. So once again, I became my own barber and have continued to cut my hair to this day. Yes, I mess up some, but it grows out. I also cut my husband’s hair.
When my older son Dennis needed his first haircut, I took him to a female “barber” that my dad went to. He immediately began to fuss, so I offered to let him sit in my lap to quiet him. That didn’t work either. We both wound up covered in hair with him crying and getting hair in his mouth, then throwing up. So I cut his hair, too. After a couple of years, I decided to once again try taking him to the barber. We walked in to Don and Dale’s Barber Shop, where he immediately threw a little tantrum and managed to knock over a whole display of hair care products. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. So he didn’t have a “store-bought” haircut for several more years.
Younger son Jeffrey also experienced the at-home barbering. He had beautiful curls that cascaded down his back. I hated to cut those curls, and although he was a big boy about the hair-cutting experience, I was the one who cried afterwards.
I think I inherited my DIY gene from my mother. She was a welder in a shipyard in Baltimore during WWII. So, quite a departure from the more traditional jobs for women of that time. When I was growing up, she was a stay-at-home mom with the traditional role of homemaker. However, she constantly undertook lots of DIY projects and involved us kids so that my dad didn’t have to do it when he got home from his construction job. We had a large vegetable garden. She picked berries and made jams and jellies, she raised chickens, and many other chores. She even undertook the job of repairing the roof of our house. My brother and I were at school, so she couldn’t be on the roof and keep an eye on my little brother. So she took him on the roof with her and literally nailed his shirt to the roof to keep him safe.
Today, there’s so much info on how to do any project yourself. There’s multiple television programs, web sites, classes, and the list goes on and on. We all can cultivate our DIY gene with the click of the mouse. Who doesn’t spend hours on Pinterest? Of course, you can become a great chef with your own signature dish just by watching a cooking show or clicking on a YouTube video. You can decorate or renovate your home just by making a few key purchases at your local home store and incorporating all the techniques and ideas you’ve seen on HGTV.
And we are all now amateur photographers, thanks to our smart phones. It used to be that you would take the photo with a camera which housed a roll of film, which then had to be professionally developed. It might take weeks, or in some cases, months to use an entire roll of film. We were very frugal with our film and only wanted the very best shots and angles for the very best picture. Then, you had to wait a week or more for your prints to come back to you. But now, all that can be accomplished in a matter of seconds with the press of a button. You can be sharing these photos with family and friends near and far in an instant. All thanks to technology that has made you an amazing DIY photographer.
We also live in a world of instant access to any information we might desire. Who hasn’t self-diagnosed a disease or condition simply by accessing WebMD? And, you can treat your disease or condition by consulting Google as to the best medication or treatment option. This may be DIY taken a step too far.
Of course the professionals will tell you that most of their business comes from DIY project gone awry. How many have actually successfully corrected a plumbing issue? Or an electrical problem? And back to the hair, how many women have rushed to the beauty parlor to get a DIY dye job fixed?
So do these failures keep us from trying another DIY project? Absolutely not! Nor should they, because sometimes we are actually quite good Do-It-Yourselfers!
Bonnie Brown is a retired staff member of the University of Mississippi. She most recently served as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.
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