Saturday, September 6, 2014

Long Hair and Little Girls

Yesterday, the middle E decided to play cosmetologist.

She was supposed to be practicing cutting with safety scissors -- one of those skills children need before starting school. Since she's a southpaw, it's particularly challenging for her because I really cannot help her. Still, it was going well. She and E1 were whacking up some magazines in a corner of the playroom while I sat nearby commenting on their shapes and entertaining E3 as needed.

Suddenly E1 proclaims that E2 is cutting her hair.

Well, of course I didn't think she could do that with safety scissors, but I look up and sure enough, she has bangs! Not only that, but before doing her own trim, she apparently cut a few random snips from her older sister's hair -- something that didn't elicit tattling. I guess it was only when it became apparent that their antics would be discovered did E1 decide to blow the whistle, but all the same it led to a lot of drama.

The first words I think I or their mom said were that they'd have to have haircuts... maybe even that they'd look like little boys.

Now that the storm has died down, I've had time to think about the whole long hair to make them "look like a little girl" and I'm angry at myself and every other adult who has ever used that and the threat of a haircut on a little girl. I'm angry that we place so much value on it, and in doing so devalue them for whatever brings a change.

I did it. My daughter hated to have her hair brushed. It was an ordeal for five years.

When she started school I told her it either got brushed like it should without the daily fight, or it got cut. It was cut and there was much less pain for everyone. Why did we suffer for five years? No one ever mistook her for a little boy, hair or no hair. Did she really want her hair long? I don't think so. I don't think she ever thought she had a choice and she probably didn't. It was just expected.

It must have been the same when I was a child, because my early school pictures also boast a short haircut.

From the time they are born, we start trying to make them into pretty little girls with long locks and hair is one of the first things they get complimented on -- not their beautiful blue eyes, their smiles, their kindness, their special skills. We never just acknowledge them as beautiful or wonderful CHILDREN. They have to be pretty little girls, not to be confused with little boys. It's our first attempt to make our children conform to some ideal, some image they may never succeed at reaching, something that can make our little girls feel like failures even before they're in school.

I've done it. Wondering how my cousin's little girl can have such long, luxurious hair when she's younger than E1, whose hair is mid shoulders -- or I should say, was mid shoulders.

And even though I've been unhappy to see it straightened with a blow out -- recognizing that as some change that could make them feel less than perfect as they are -- even I didn't recognize the false importance attached to simply having hair.

No wonder we grow up to have our whole days ruined by bad hair days.

On Sunday they'll be visiting their other grandmother, who thankfully is a master cosmetologist and will be able to salvage their hair. It will be shorter. E2's will have bangs and perhaps some creative layering. They may both benefit from the change, even while we mourn the loss of their hair. I've seen beautiful short hair styles on little girls and I'm sure no matte how short they wind up, theirs will be wonderful.

But even if their heads were shaved, even if they continued to sport the misshapen cuts that E2 administered, they would still be beautiful little girls.

I hope I can remember that when E3 gets hold of some scissors, as I'm sure she will. I did it when I was 2. I'm sure my daughter did it, although she's in possession of the baby book that might hold the evidence.

It's just hair. It doesn't make any of us better people. It isn't the fine line between the sexes and it's not the end of the world if a little girl is mistaken for a little boy, or vice versus.

Perhaps we'd all be a little better off if we decided they could grow it long when they were able to take care of it, if they wanted to do so. Because in the big scheme of things, when you're raising children, you've got more important things to do than worry about brushing their hair.

Or cutting it.


  1. She is beautiful and would be even if she didn't have a hair on her head! I've had to rethink what I feel about hair the last couple of decades. My cousin is a Stage 4 breast cancer survivor and she's had several different types of chemo, all of which caused her to lose her hair. She is one of the most beautiful women ever inside and out and I love her baldness and the bravado with which she wears it! Great post!Teresa from NanaHood

    1. Thanks for the comment, Teresa. I'm glad we can rethink and not be stuck where we were in the past. I'm sure E2 will rock whatever hair style she winds up with, and bangs will let us see her eyes and smile so much better than the hair that is always in her face.

  2. I have never thought about it this way. It was always said to me and I said it to my daughter not to long ago and she's 23. When my granddaughter gets here I will make it a point to ask how she would like her hair!