It all started on a sunny day while I was visiting my mother in Connecticut. I began to ponder my childhood, and, thus, the scrunchies that played so large a role. I looked at the hair tie on my wrist, a simple white elastic, utilitarian and focused on its task of holding back hair, and I realized that the hair tie is not so very different from the scrunchie, after all. I grew tired of scrunchie persecution, and took to facebook with a picture of my hair tie.
“This,” I declared, “is a scrunchie.”
Two hundred vitriolic and stunned comments later, I discovered that people have very raw and intense emotions about the scrunchie. And if people online could immediately get riled up at the mere suggestion of a scrunchie in their midst, how would real life react? Yes, scrunchies are ostensibly "back," but that's on runways and street style stars. What if one were to wear a scrunchie, but nothing else out of the ordinary?
I had to find out.
I set off on a week-long scrunchie vacation, digging out my sole surviving scrunchies from a storage box marked 1992. I’ve documented my journey below in the hopes that we all might learn a little about our past, our present and ourselves. Through a scrunchie.
I woke up ready to start this grand experiment, but as I slipped that scrunchie into my hair, I suddenly felt insecure. I’m pretty much a hot mess who doesn’t care what other people think of me anyway, so I didn’t expect to actually feel embarrassed wearing this. I was wrong.
I mustered the courage to carry on, however, and got out the gate with a bang. Top side pony, scrunchie style. I gave myself a big fake smile and a thumbs up and went off to the coffee shop in the well-to-do part of town to write.
Soon after sitting down, a group of young twenty-somethings walked by giggling, and when I looked up, the lead-bro said "Nice look!" But, like, he was in a ratty red T-shirt and gym shorts, so, I guess neither of us won any fashion competitions that day.
I went to pick up my children from school and they kids noticed my hair at exactly 3:15 p.m. -- 90 minutes after pickup. They had no smarmy remarks, but recommended I try it with longer hair. Okay, kids. I’ll get right on that.
At the bank, the vet, the dry cleaners, no reactions. Either they’re used to me being mildly eccentric or they’re more interested in keeping a customer than commenting on her hair. Or they don’t give a shit. It's probably that.
Once home again, my husband never breathed a word about my change in style.
Online, people were taken aback and confused. They needed answers. Why was I doing this?
The day started in disaster. After holding my one remaining scrunchie in my possession for 25 years, I had somehow misplaced it after only wearing it once! Suspecting foul play, I asked my kids if they knew where it was.
“What’s a scrunchie?” one asked.
“That thing she was wearing yesterday,” the other one said.
“Ohhh, I love that thing,” the first replied, proving my girls are destined to have good taste and respect their heritage. They didn’t have it, but thanks to one of my friend’s flawless research the day before, I knew I could just pop to the store and by some more. So I did.
There they were, right under their more distinguished cousins, the hair ties. And they came in bright, wonderful scrunchie colors. So guess who got a little extra treat in their Easter baskets that weekend? My girls will be stylin’ up the elementary school, for sure.
Heading into happy hour was fun. A few bartenders giggled as I walked by. I found out that it’s hard to gauge people’s reactions to you because if you look at them they cover up their stares or laughs out of politeness.
Sitting outside across from my friend, the first words out of her mouth were, "So what is with this, a dare or something?" No. As a very serious-business 32-year-old woman filled with dignity and self-respect, I would obviously only do this for significant journalistic reasons. Right?
Our waiter made no mention of the scrunchie. No side-eye or anything. He got a good tip.
The kids told me they didn’t like the high ponytail. They suggested pigtails would look better. Still no word from my husband.
Online, the confusion was giving way to annoyance. I was told the idea of this had been funnier than the reality.
After dropping the girls off at Capoeira practice on day three, I settled into my seat at hipster coffee shop down the street with a self-satisfied air.
I thought people were looking at me funny because of my hair and that this experiment was going swimmingly, but then someone told me my shirt was unbuttoned in the front. So the other patrons were most likely staring at my boobs not my head. Experiment was put on hold while I buttoned up and died of embarrassment.
My friend, the homeless guy who hangs out there, walked over to say hi and immediately asked what was with that thing on my head. He realized he’d been uncouth and tried to backpedal.
“It’s a new look for you,” he said. “I like it.”
My husband noticed this scrunchie change for the first time. Mostly because he hates pigtails. I don’t think the scrunchie fazed him at all.
“Interesting look” he said as I headed out to go grocery shopping.
I got carded trying to buy cigarettes there.
The kids complained again. “Mom, can you wear your hair down? I’m forgetting what it looks like down.”
No comments at the gym. I did, however, find myself on the receiving end of an impromptu karaoke duet to Rick Astley with the front desk guy. I’m not even joking; that really happened. Scrunchies are magical.
Later on, I found my original scrunchie! Suspiciously, it was on the guest bed in my husband’s office. Had he actually noticed and taken silent action so as not to hurt my feels?
Meanwhile online, the kindest comments told me I looked like a time traveling babysitter from 1987. The meanest simply called me an asshole. Both are true.
An inordinate amount of comment space was spent on my white jeans, and I wondered briefly if I should have warned my editor about my already questionable fashion sense before embarking on this scrunchie journey.
But, honestly, if you can’t rock pre-ripped, bedazzled white jeans on a Saturday with your family, you’re not someone I want to know. I can’t just give away my best purchase of 2001, and actually, I don’t even think Goodwill would take them, so.
Every member in my family begged me not to wear the scrunchie out to dinner. This broke my pact with myself, but I agreed. They were suffering heavy second-hand embarrassment, and two are only six and the other one has sworn to love me through thick and thin. Plus, none of them have ever breathed a word about my bedazzled jeans. I owe them.
I didn’t don the scrunchie on Easter, but that’s not because I was not committed to this experiment. We just stayed at home all day and I actually didn’t even get dressed. We live far from family and had nowhere to go and womp womp womp, etc. Even the most cheerful of scrunchie heads has days like this, right? Very boring. Moving along.
I began to forget I was wearing a scrunchie, and so I didn’t distinguish the half-smiles and smirks from what I might normally get walking down the street.
At the gym, though, where there are floor-to-ceiling mirrors, I noticed my scrunchie had a negative effect…on me. Some pretty young thing crowded up into my space in body combat, and instead of graciously moving aside or boxing her out, I let her beautiful made-up face and long, high-lighted locks intimidate me just a bit.
Until I remembered that scrunchie or no scrunchie, I am still an old-ass, married woman who will never be 22 again, regardless of fashion. Then I felt better.
Online, people seemed to be coming around to the scrunchie. I was called adorable and given lots of heart emoticons by half of them. The other half began painting swear words on pictures of scrunchies and telling me that scientists wanted me to stop this madness. They were concerned for my wellbeing.
I replied to their comment thread with stern scrunchie face. Obviously.
“Oh my god, you’re actually wearing it!” my landlady and friend greeted me at the coffee shop where we were discussing the renewal of the lease. “I almost wore mine in support of whatever it is that you’re doing, but then I got worried you wouldn’t be wearing it, and I wasn’t about to wear a scrunchie by myself.”
Not too eventful, no one really took note, but interestingly, when I got a tension headache and had to take my scrunchie down for a little while, my social life experienced a marked uptick. Granted, I have the world’s cutest dog, and all the commentary surrounded him, but it seems that not talking to a woman wearing a scrunchie outweighs talking to a cute dog.
Meanwhile, online, the tide had totally turned. I was getting almost 100 likes on my scrunchie pictures, people were tagging me in scrunchie posts, and friends began messaging me pictures of themselves in scrunchies. I had become a scrunchie guru of sorts. People who had been silent were voicing their love of scrunchies, and commending my efforts.
“This has now moved into “OMG she’s so cute!” territory,” one of them commented. “Brave soldier, I salute you on your mission to bring back scrunchies and side ponytails.”
Granted, these are my friends already, and so perhaps more inclined to put up with my antics and come around to my fashion ideas, but I think there’s a deeper societal message here. Fashion and style are fleeting and subjective. If seen often enough, anything, even a scrunchie, can start seeming cool.