i’m not even kidding.

Feb 6, 2009 | Life in Progress

i was a seriously nerdy kid with horrible haircuts. as you can see in almost all of these photos, i apparently had a thing for stripes. and bad perms. and awkward smiles. and i’m pretty sure i was constantly mistaken for a boy for a few years. i grew up in the country where mullets and rat tails were the rage. and i’m not even kidding.

i remember those purple suspenders so clearly. oh how i loved wearing them with my checker boarded pants, my pink hightop converses, and florescent shoelaces. oh yes, and i can’t forget the scented jelly bracelets going all the way up to my elbows. all the while, i had my favorite cabbage patch kid with me at all times. in those days, i couldn’t stand to wear dresses or skirts – i was a serious and bonafide tomboy. i miss these years of doing cartwheels in the front yard, flocking about on three wheelers, jumping off the dock into our lake, fishing in the mornings with my granddad, playing boardgames with all the elderly neighbors, and searching (always searching) for friends who had a trampoline. i heart memories like these.
i’m off for a weekend adventure in nyc with two dear friends. i’ll be back early next week. until then, i’d love it if you convinced me i wasn’t the only kid with bad hair cuts and perms gone wrong. please? can you prove it with a photo?

Sending much love,

Show/Hide Comments (39 comments)
  1. Laurie G.

    OK, you inspired me. I dug out some 1970s pics which I posted on my flickr–I was trying to have long hair like Marsha Brady.

  2. Kasey

    where have i been? I am sooo happy to have found your lovely blog.
    off to peruse it my dear…

  3. Charlie

    OMG You are my daughter! She will never forgive me for the mullet hair cuts. LOL ..She hated dresses too. I could go on and on. I enjoyed this…thanks for sharing.

  4. PCarriker

    Hi Kelly,
    I just stopped by and listened to your podcast interview. I can so relate to the creative mood you get when living in the Pacific NW. I am formerly from the Seattle area, but spent a lot of time at the Portland Zoo as a kid. I miss that ‘cozy’ stay inside feeling. Lucky you that you get to move back:-) I visit often though as all of my family is there. Best of everything in your relocation.

  5. Gypsy Alex

    soooo soooo cute! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. jenifer74

    is that your mom in that photo? i think i’m seriously in love with her dress!!!!

  7. Robynsart

    I can so relate… the youngest of 5 children, 3 of us living at home, and the only girl. So, I had short hair and wore my brothers’ hand-me-downs. Oh yeah, that’s a recipe for popularity alright. I hate those pictures. Even my children say ‘who is that boy in that picture?’

  8. Roberta

    I found your photos, OH so comforting ๐Ÿ™‚ YES, I have those kind of photos too…I especially hated the ones where Mom decided to cut my bangs! Ughhh… You are a brave soul for posting them, not quite sure I can do that, just yet ๐Ÿ™‚ But maybe SOON…

  9. mrs boo radley


    Boyish haircut x too many years.

    Friends with rat tails (sometimes multiple rat tails).

    Cabbage Patch dolls x 8. My Cabbage Patch dolls even had little plastic Cabbage Patch dolls.

    Let’s not forget the black spandex shiny shorts with a fluorescent racing stripe down the side, preferably in hot pink or green.

  10. tricia

    ๐Ÿ™‚ I think that i had those top two haircuts also at some point….I think it was 4th, 5th, 6th grade(ish)…Love it:)

  11. JgWM

    At least your bangs were cut straight, mine were always about 1 1/2 inches long and shorter on one side than the other. I live in the area where you grew up, and we both know on any given day we can stil spot one of those cuts. Have you ever thought about teaching a class when you are back in this area. Gayle

  12. Deirdre

    I was one of those kids too, but I’m not going to prove it with a picture. You’ll just have to believe me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. carolyn

    i can totally relate. i just posted my group class photos on facebook from kindergarten up to grade 6 and tagged as many people in the photos as i could remember and we all had a great time reminiscing and wondering what possessed us to wear such un-cool outfits.

  14. Anonymous

    Wow!!! I just accedentially found your blog and WOW WOW WOW!!! I love your artwork!
    And dont worry…. I think pictures of me as a child are really horrible. My mother cut my hair and NO she was NOT a hairdresser! ๐Ÿ™
    Hope you have fun in NYC and I’m sore I will be popping in from time to time!



  15. Jennifer Valentine

    …are you forgetting we have the SAME mother? I got the same haircuts too my dear…..the same haircuts…..sigh…….

  16. julie king

    when i scrapbooked all my daughter’s baby thru early adult photos, i headlined one spread of photos with the words “please don’t hate me!!!”. they were all the photos of her with the horrible hairdos i subjected her to — the mullet, the overly permed frizz, the big hair, etc. what was i thinking??!!

    it is interesting to see the transition in your photos from the girlie hair that i’m sure your mom loved to the more tomboy look that you preferred! there’s nothing wrong with being a tomboy. most of us turned out just fine, including you!!!

  17. paula hardesty

    Kelly Rae we alllll have these pictures when we were little. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. At least you were clean and your clothes weren’t wrinkled.

  18. Beth Quinn

    ohh kelly , this is such a great post , of course you are not alone !! I totally had bad hair cuts all the way through school – not to mention the coke bottle glasses -LOL!! oh and one time my best friend and i went to a friend of her family’s and the little girl there asked her why she was bringing a little boy to her house -LOL!!! so yes been there done that !
    oh the memories !

  19. Nikki                                                                Lee Anne Ghilain

    you are not alone……my Mom was a hairdresser…..I was the guinea pig!
    so love your book and you are sooo brave to post your pics……you will never see mine……I remember a horrible color of green…dye job on a blond gone bad!Have fun with your friends

  20. Charisse

    wow, you are coming to my neck of the woods! Are you coming to meet up with Donna Downey? She will be in Long Island teaching and I am taking one of the classes!

  21. borcherding

    OMG…Your post totally made me smile. I will search for my 7th grade picture when my mom cut my shoulder length hair and POOOF!! Sausage curls EVERYWHERE!..NOT a good look!!

  22. Soon, Then

    You are certainly not the only one. I’ve been wanting to back and dig through old photos to do this very thing, but most of the bad ones are at my mom’s house. This is awesome!

  23. christine

    Oh, Kelly. Here’s proof that you are not alone.

    It was so good chatting with you yesterday! Have a lovely time in NY and we’ll talk again soon. xo

  24. Katie

    I had TONS of perms gone wrong. And the bike shorts with skirts over them…and Keds in every color…and two or three pairs of socks worn scrunched together. And BIG scrunchies and hairbows. Oh dear.

    We had a trampoline too, and loved it. So many memories…they make me smile.

  25. whenigrowupcoach

    You can never get me to post pics of my bad perm, circa 1990. Bad, bad, bad idea jeans.

    But if it makes you feel better, I used to dress like Punky Brewster when I was a fourth grader – I always had on two different socks & two different shoes. And anything fluorescent. And jelly bracelets, too.

    I'm glad that the NYC weather will be good for you this weekend! I'm in Manhattan and am looking forward to enjoying it as well. Have fun!

  26. Andria

    The perms! The awful, terrible perms which tended to last for about a week before completely fading away. You’re certainly not the only one who has horrible pictures from your childhood. I’ve just hidden mine in a vault so no one can ever see them.

  27. Kerry

    I went through the same thing! I had my hair cut short into a pixie… I wore rainbow suspenders and a vest (with a tie sometimes!). I remember having one picture done at school and the photographer saying “thank you son” after he took my picture. LOL. My parents couldn’t afford to buy school pictures. Oh how I would love to get ahold of my school files… I know they keep a photo a year in there.

  28. Taccolina

    You may have had a mullet, but my sister and I both got bowl-cuts. Took years to forgive the parental units for that one…

    PS- found yr blog recently via TinnieGirl

  29. kristen

    I think you look really cute. I had to crack up at the side view combined with the front view in the photos – what was that they were trying to do exactly with school photos then? heehee.

    Have the BEST time in NYC – you must be bringing the warmer weather with you, it’s supposed to be in the 50’s this weekend!

    I’m sure you already have your itinerary, but try to make it to one or a few of the fleamarkets around town – they are sooo good and even if you aren’t buying, there’s still a lot of eye candy.

    If you want any restaurant or bar recommendations, drop me a line…have a great time, safe travels!

  30. oksana

    It is so interesting to see the old photos!
    My haircut was very similar to yours and I was always dreaming to have a long hair because some people were thinking that I am a boy and I hated this so much:)))
    I loved to go to the nearest forest with my friend, find nice glade, lay down on the blanket, talking, looking on the sky, make dolls from the root of the plantain ( the root were a head with long hair and the leaves were a dress).
    So I am going to post my photos on my blog now

  31. Micki

    Ah I love photos like these ๐Ÿ˜‰
    My mum has all of my old photos, maybe i’ll see if I can borrow some to scan in, i’m sure I remember one particular one posing on a little train somewhere ha ha!!

    Micki x

    p.s. pop over to my blog, i’m having a giveaway!!

  32. andrea

    GET OUT. I love it.

  33. Marianne

    Ah yes – the tomboy haircut. I was exactly the same, but thanks to school uniforms I'm usually more recognisable as a girl than I otherwise would be. I don't know if you can open this:
    But that's me on the far left of the front row, with the bowl cut and scowl.

    Oh yeah – looking good. He he. I love your purple suspenders, by the way, I would have gone crazy for them.

  34. Mooneybeams

    Oooh, terrible haircuts and clothing here too! Red tights! Flourescent pink bicycle shorts with black and white spotted skirt over the top. . . eighties children have horrible childhood photos! I have very thick hair and it was cut in a bob and basically stood straight up!

    But it wasn’t all bad – I lived in NZ and got to ride my horse to school every day (we had a pony paddock and a bunch of us used to do it – country school!). On the weekend my friends and I used to pack a lunch and just take off all day on our horses, and then come home and ride bareback around the paddock and up to the deck, off the horse and straight into the swimming pool! Good times. I was also lucky enough to have a friend or too with a trampoline. . .

  35. Jennifer White

    OMG I am all over this! You looked great Kelly…I think just like we’re suppose to look at that age. I can’t wait to dig around in some of my pictures and do the same thing (if you don’t mind that is)…just remember, there was a time when mullets were cool, especially on little girls! LOL!

  36. ~Barb~

    Oh, so you too were living in mulletville as a child. Uh huh…I was a mullet wearing fool back in the day (but don't ya ever tell anyone, k? lol) OMG, and I had a rat tail when I married my first husband…yep, that shoulda been a sign, huh? Lemme go dig up some pics for you so you can feel in good company…you just have to promise not to laugh….well, just not too hard. LOL

    BTW, I am engrossed in "Taking Flight". I have gone on and on about it on my blog…it is truly reaching down into my soul and helping me to see where I need to be and that it IS possible for me to get there. You are inspiring me in ways you could never know. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

    smile. be free. have fun.
    Peace & Love,

  37. Chookooloonks

    Two words about my childhood:


    I’ll say no more.


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Iโ€™m Kelly Rae Roberts

Before I picked up my first paintbrush at the age of 30, I was a medical social worker. I followed my creative whispers, and today Iโ€™m an artist & Possibilitarian. Iโ€™m passionate about creating meaningful art and experiences that awaken and inspire our spirits.

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