My Hair

After exposing all of my issues with Hannah’s hair, it is only fair to turn the lens on myself. After all, I was a preteen in the late 80s. And while there are no spiral perms in my past, I did have my fair share of hair disasters. Crimping irons, anyone?

1977

1977

I have never been all that adventurous with my hair. My greatest fear has always been ‘ruining’ it. Ever since my first do-it-yourself cut when I was 4 years old, I have been keenly aware that you may be living with a split-second decision for a very long time. For this reason I have never had a perm or an all-over dye job, and there hasn’t been much variation in my ‘dos. You can see my cautious nature on top of my head.

You can also see that I don’t spend much time on myself these days. I only make it in for a haircut a few times a year, and other than washing or brushing I don’t really do anything with my hair. I mentioned in another post that I probably spend 10 minutes a day on my hair, and that’s about right. I could blame motherhood, but the fact is that it was this way long before the kids came along. Barring special occasions the most effort I’ll put in is a ponytail or hair clip. I’m sure someone somewhere is dying to give me a makeover, but I’ve made my peace with my look (if you can call it that).

1987

1987

My sister, on the other hand, is always perfectly coiffed. She’ll have this great look on some random Tuesday, and I’ll ask her how long it took. She’ll say something like, “Oh, not too long, only an hour or so.” I am blown away. I lack that kind of patience, plus I don’t think that I could replicate her efforts in twice that time.

The funny truth is that as a kid I was way more tolerant of having my hair done than she was. I didn’t exactly enjoy having it brushed (head yanked back, bristles on the back of the neck, ouch!). As I recall, though, it wasn’t a big deal to me. And I think I mostly sat still and let my mom give me pigtails or braids or what have you. Gretchen would run screaming and cowering to the corner of the bathroom when my mom took out the hairbrush. When she was 4 my mom threw in the towel and cut her hair short, which she liked. So I know that the kid who won’t let a hairbrush near her head as a preschooler may be a very different sort of adult, and vice versa.

1997

1997

When I was a little kid I always had really long blonde hair. It’s the sort of thing that gets you lots of compliments from old ladies at the grocery store when you’re 6. I think this fed into my fear of somehow damaging my hair. I may not spend a lot of time on my hair, but I have this underlying feeling that my appearance and my femininity are all tied up in it. I make a mistake, and I lose that thing that sets me apart, that one thing that I have unreasonable vanity about.

I finally cut my hair to bob-length when I was around 9 years old. I kept the bangs, though, because everyone had bangs in the 1980s. If you didn’t have bangs, what could you curl and feather and hairspray in the mornings? The short look didn’t last all that long. By the time that I was 16 I had a hair idol, Kelly Taylor. She could do no wrong in my book. When I finally cut my hair shorter in first year university it was in imitation of her ‘new’ look. You can imagine my disappointment with Jennie Garth’s infamous wedding hair in 2001.

2007

2007

For the past 14 years my hair has hovered around shoulder length. I grow it out for a while, and then cut it all off. I am currently in a growing out phase – we’ll see how long it lasts. The things is that I love haircuts. For me there’s nothing more liberating than leaving 6 inches of hair on the salon floor. You’re lighter, you feel the wind through your hair, you’re brand new. I may occasionally fight it, but I can’t resist forever.

There have been a few bad times, of course. There was this high school dance when Jon’s gum ended up in my hair. Laurie came home to find us in her downstairs bathroom, my head covered in peanut butter. Eventually I got it out, but it was a tense hour. Or my high school graduation when I planned to do my own up-do, and practised, but couldn’t pull it off on the day. I was the only girl wearing her hair down that night that I can remember. And of course in my big bang days there were curling iron burns and incidents involving too much product.

The photos below represent the good, the bad, and the ugly. Please enjoy yourself at my expense. 😉

Hannah’s Hair

I have a strange relationship with my daughter’s hair. It’s a love-hate thing, an internal struggle that I’m not exactly comfortable with. I sort of want her to have long hair, always neatly arranged, attractive and well cared for. On the other hand, her hair is hard to manage (at least for me) and she generally pulls her hair clips and elastics out shortly after I put them in. I don’t want to impose my esthetic on her or create conflict over pigtails, but I also want it to look ‘nice’.

I didn’t anticipate that I would feel this way. Or perhaps I didn’t anticipate that my daughter would have strong ideas of her own at a young age, forcing me to examine myself so closely. I always laughed when I heard mothers lamenting their daughters’ decisions to cut their hair short. I felt then, and I still do on many levels, that it was wrong to feel attached to your kid’s hair. That living vicariously through your child, casting them in your own image isn’t entirely healthy for anyone.

19 months old

19 months old

I’ve always insisted that Hannah brush her hair. It’s a requirement for having long hair – you have to take care of it. In my mind it’s the same as brushing your teeth. I brush Jacob’s hair every day, and I don’t imagine that will change. Although, to be fair, it will most likely be much faster and he won’t have to sit through my styling attempts. It’s not exactly the same. There is a gender difference. Even if Jacob did want long hair, you know I wouldn’t be braiding it.

2 years old

2 years old

I really faced my inner conflict a couple of nights ago when Hannah told me she wanted to cut her hair short. I pointed out to her that her hair would be short for a very long time, and it couldn’t grow back if she changed her mind. She said that was OK, and wanted me to get to cutting. I put her off by explaining we would go to a hairdresser if she wanted a real haircut and that would have to wait a few days.

From the back at 2 1/2

From the back at 2 1/2

By the next morning Hannah had changed her mind. She told me she liked long hair. I felt relieved, then I felt uncomfortable with my relief. If my child really wanted short hair, why should I feel disappointed about that? Why did I try, in my own way, to talk her out of it in the first place?

Almost 3 years old

Almost 3 years old

Then there’s my own hair. I’ve always been a natural blond. People say that they pay good money to make their hair look like mine, and I feel completely superficial pride about that. Right now Hannah’s hair is exactly the same colour as mine. I find myself pointing out that my hair was much lighter when I was her age, that her hair is more similar to her dad’s. I’m worried that if Hannah’s hair darkens, somehow that will be a problem. That she won’t share that satisfaction that I’ve always felt with my hair’s colour. Weird, right?

Braids at 3 1/2

Braids at 3 1/2

I wonder if it is all so very bad, being caught up in our children’s appearances. Of course we want them to look good. People who look good generally have an easier time in the world. I can see why, as mothers, we spend this time on our children. Why we wrestle hair bows onto the heads of 2-year-olds. We’re just like monkeys, grooming each other as a sign of care and affection, to keep the parasites away and advance our social stature.

But this is a very slippery slope. I hardly want my child to base her value on her appearance. I don’t want her to develop a distorted view of herself. I hate to think that she may fall prey to the struggle that so many women face over their sense of self-worth and their looks. So I do my best to keep my mouth shut and to honour Hannah’s decisions about her own appearance. I let her know that I love her for who she is, no matter what. Because that’s really the truth – she is my daughter, whatever’s on top (or not on top) of her head.

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