My hair finally came in – flaxen wisps that somewhat curled when the humidity dictated it. It grew into a dark gold…thick and unruly. I have indelible memories of sitting on the floor watching television while my hair swam in de-tangling spray as a brush pulled through the snarls, tugging enough for my eyes to well up in tears. Yet, I still proudly paraded my long hair, day after day.
Then, somebody had the bright idea to chop all my hair off around the age of seven. Can you feel the bitter hostility through the screen? Clearly, I still need to work through that. I remember being crushed, having the only super short hair cut amongst the girls in my elementary class. And even at seven, the idea that long hair automatically made you beautifully seemed to permeate my thoughts. Sure, the pixie inspired haircut made for a much cooler summer, braving the 100+ heat index in Israel, but at seven I wasn’t really thinking that logically. I remember the tears shed over the loss of my hair, the tantrum like fights I’m sure I made my parents deal with.
And then…only ten years later, I chopped it all off again.
I can still recall vividly how, in a moment of teenage angst, I cut off my shoulder length hair, leaving the salon with less than two inches of curls atop my head. I had just returned from a two week trip which included visiting numerous concentration camps in Poland. I came back with a need to purge, to change, to have control over something – and that something ended up being my hair. I indeed felt lighter with my shorn locks, and reveled in the small sense of freedom it allotted me. I had not, however, taken into consideration the larger picture.
About a week or two later I found myself staring in a mirror, running my hand through the short, spunky curls, wondering what the hell I had done. I was no longer able to twist my fingers through my locks, or brush it over my shoulder in a flirty manner. The fact that it was different than my peers wasn’t lost on me either. Tons of people mentioned they loved the hair cut, yet the majority of adjectives that followed were “cute,” “sassy,” and “adorable.” All the insecurities that hit me hard when I was seven came flooding back.
Women are supposed to have long, luscious, flowing hair. Of course, I didn’t really think that, nor do I succumb to that thought now, but it would be pretty naive of me to not acknowledge that a good majority of people subscribe to that thought. From magazine covers to images that saturate our television and computer screens, the standard belief is that long hair on women is that ideal.
We can all roll our eyes at the awful presumptions, but I’ll admit that I still have that moment of self-doubt whenever I go in for a shorter cut. It’s not easy to erase years of media and societal conditioning. I am still susceptible to all of these gender based views on hair and beauty. And somehow all of these stereotypical views on hair, whether conscious or not, filter down and affect my three year old.
As a woman who looks back upon her baby book and sees, for the most part, that nearly bald head up until almost three years of age, I was thrilled to see my son sprout lush curls starting around his second birthday. Before then he had wispy locks, hardly enough to consider getting trimmed. Yet, during his second summer, it was like Miracle Gro was added to his scalp and his hair began growing longer and curlier, and has yet to stop. I had my own personal Chia Pet.
Then…the questions and comments began.
When are you going to get it cut?
Looks like it’s time for a trim!
Don’t you think he looks like a girl?
Not a day goes by that somebody doesn’t comment on his hair. It has gotten to a point where my son grimaces when a total stranger will place their hand on his hair and sigh, as they point out his copious curls. And, I get it, I truly do. He’s got some pretty kick-ass hair. I always thank them for their compliments and encourage him to do the same.
I love when people remark about how lovely his curls are, but a good portion of the time, if they’re strangers, they inherently lead off with…She’s adorable!
Most of the time I’ll correct them, and then there is a good amount of back peddling that occurs, while they decide how best to proceed. Sometimes it’s with nostalgia, when they talk about the bittersweetness of cutting their own babies’ hair. Other times, they continue with a knowing smile and conspiratorial nudge, like, of course I’ll be cutting it soon.
But, I won’t be. At least, not until he’s ready for it. I’m not ready to give up the beautiful curls, and EZ really loves them, so really, there is no rush. He doesn’t seem to notice or care if somebody mistakes him for a girl, and I think at three and a half that is perfectly fine. He has talked about his hair in relation to gender though, and his observations are interesting.
EZ loves his curls and mentions that occasionally, but doesn’t feel that his long hair looks girly. Apparently it’s not the length of the hair, but how you wear it. Sometimes, on really hot days, I’ll ask him if he wants to wear his hair up in a ponytail, to allow his neck some air, but he’ll steadfastly refuse, claiming that a ponytail would make him look like a girl. Of course, trying to discern toddler logic is akin to translating the Rosetta Stone with no knowledge of ancient languages, but I still try.
But daddy wears his hair in a pony tail, I say, thinking my argument is solid. Nope. A shaking of the head and crossed arms tells me my argument holds no water in the court of a three year old. In fact, nothing I can come up with will sway his opinion. The hair stays down, in all its curly, sweaty mess, even as the temperature crawls towards 100*.
We’ve asked if he’d like it cut and some days it’s an appealing idea, and other days he can’t be bothered by it. Today I ended up trimming his bangs, to prevent the sheepdog syndrome that can occur, his front curls shading his line of vision. He demanded we keep his curls in a dish, so he could check in on them from time to time. Clearly he is attached to the curls.
For now he is happy with his long, curly hair and I’m in no rush to cut it off. Instead, I look in wonder as people continue to mistake him for a girl, despite all the clear “boyish” traits I see in him. (if that isn’t a loaded statement, I’m not sure what is…but let’s just leave it for another blog post)
We live in an area where we see guys of all ages with all sorts of hairstyles, and as I’ve mentioned before, EZ’s dad has long hair. In fact…when we met, I was still sporting my short style, and MD had hair down to his bum. We were two sides of a coin, eschewing popular beauty standards, and somehow, despite our own changing styles, it’s filtered into the hair and mind of our toddler… And I couldn’t be prouder.