The Before Shot: A certain someone doesn’t seem too sad about saying good-bye to those long long tresses…
My 10yo daughter has been badgering me to let her cut her hair for nearly a year now, and I just kept putting it off… and putting it off… and putting it off…
I don’t know why I kept putting it off… It’s not that I was against her cutting her hair, it’s just that… well… it’s just that I didn’t make it a priority.
For one thing, the first time she told me she wanted a haircut she announced, after school one day, that she wanted a bob, just like two of her friends at school. Now, I have no problems with bobs – I think they’re adorable – but I do have a problem with doing a particular something (any something: cutting your hair, jumping off a bridge, etcetera etcetera etcetera) for no other reason than because your friends are doing that something.
And then there was the fact that, on quite a few occasions, Paisley didn’t seem even remotely interested in parting with her long hair. Take, for instance, the time when I went to pick her up from school and, approximately one minute before the bell rang, she loudly proclaimed “GROUP HUG!” and every single classmate obliged her request, and, turns out, as that little love fest was happening right before my very eyes, a mom standing next to me oh-so-off-handedly mentioned that she had heard there was a lice outbreak in the class. @#&%!! And so began The War of the Lice, Round Three. ROUND THREE!!! I swear it’s like Paisley’s long long long hair begs lice to hop on and come party on top of her head! And do you think my (adorable if overly-affectionate) daughter would take me up on the offer to get that haircut she’d been asking – nay, hounding – me for (even if she still wanted a bob because her friends had one, because at this point I was completely willing to jettison my principals out the bathroom window)?? OF COURSE NOT! And in the midst of trying my best to gently convince her (read: foaming at the mouth, waving my arms up and down in severe agitation while pacing the floor, and basically doing my best impression of Jack Nicholson in The Shining) that cutting her hair right then (I could even do it myself!! What a grand idea!!) would definitely speed up the lice-removal process the next morning at her (apparently regularly scheduled) appointment at the Lice Knowing You Salon (which, with her long hair, would take more than two hours), I was suddenly forced to stop short my own little (and, might I add, really well thrown) pity party when I finally noticed my (completely freaked out) daughter protectively placing her hands on her golden locks, her eyes three sizes larger than normal and welling with tears, rendered completely speechless (do you know how hard it is to render my daughter speechless??) and slowly shaking her head back and forth and back and forth and back and forth in a clear sign that, uh, yeah, maybe she wasn’t quite ready for short hair. (At least not until the next week, when she quite perkily bounced up to me and reported, that, hey!, she was finally ready for that haircut I said she could get! Yeah, not kidding.)
And for another thing, honestly, with our ridiculously hectic schedules, it was just really hard to carve out the time to take Paisley to the hairdresser. I mean, there was no way, and I mean NO WAY, I was going to take her to get her hair done with the two younger siblings in tow (can you imagine?! I have a headache just thinking about the effort it would take to keep the boys from spinning each other on an empty barber chair until they vomited or stabbing each other in the eyes with a pair of untended scissors while we waited for her to be done – excuse me while I go get some Advil), so weekdays after school were OUT. And then our weekends are always full of different sporting events and birthday parties and running errands and staring at our yard pretending that someday we’ll actually cultivate something other than weeds (the poisonous hemlock that keeps sprouting up seems to be doing quite well, so that’s all good, right?!). So I kept putting it off…
And then, a few weeks ago, while cruising on Amazon looking for a short, black wig to complete her Halloween outfit (and no, I’m not nearly as on-top-of-things as this makes me sound; the outfit was originally planned for her end-of-the-season roller derby party, but they’ve since changed the theme from Sci-Fi/Space – for which Paisley had decided to go as one of her favorite graphic novel heroines, Zita the Spacegirl – to Formal Wear, so now the outfit I’d already put together will be used for Halloween), Paisley went gaga for a particularly “animé-looking” wig we saw; it had good reviews and was on sale so I bought it and when it arrived a week or so later, you would’ve thought I’d given her an iPhone (the one she’s been insisting “absolutely everyone has but her,” and, because I have absolutely no problem being “the meanest mom on the planet,” I adamantly refuse to buy her): she insisted I help her put it on right then and there, and she dashed to the bathroom and shrieked – SHRIEKED!! – with pleasure at her transformation. And then informed me that THIS was the haircut she wanted – no, the haircut she HAD TO HAVE.
Paisley’s Inspiration Photo: At least it’s not Justin Bieber, but am I really the only one whose 10yo daughter wants her hair to look like a young male model dressed up as the manga character Izaya Orihara, the parkour-hopping, knife-wielding, Russian-speaking, underground informant from the popular Japanese light novel, Durarara!!, which was also made into an animated TV show that, as far as I can tell, is only available to watch online and is completely inappropriate for a 10yo to even watch?? (Photo credit: Amazon.com)
But… oh, because, you know… she just so happens to have fine, blonde, wavy hair – and NOT thick, black, straight hair (hey, only an observation!) – yet again, I put off the whole haircut thing…
Until last weekend… when my daughter made it quite clear she was over the whole waiting game thing…
Right, so last Friday, immediately after school, Paisley asked if we could finally go get her hair cut. I stalled (as usual), reminding her, “But you have your last roller derby practice tonight. We don’t have time.” To which she (very) quickly suggested, “How about we go right now?” To which I (not at all) sadly replied, “I’m sorry, but we have to pick up your brother from school in a few minutes; we really don’t have time today.” She thought about that for a moment, shrugged, and declared, “That’s okay. We can do it tomorrow.”
And “tomorrow” came – bringing with it Paisley’s big end-of-the-season junior roller derby bout in the morning, held across town from the 6yo’s baseball game which started at the exact same time as the bout (it’s all about divide-and-conquer these days: Bill took Paisley to her bout and I took Liam, with his almost-3yo brother in tow, to the baseball field), followed immediately by Paisley’s end-of-the-season choir concert (again, held across town, but in the other direction), taking up four hours of the afternoon and early evening (the concert itself lasting 2 ½ hours!!), leaving us with barely enough energy to make pizza and enjoy our family movie night (we finally introduced the youngest member of the family to the joy that is STAR WARS – and now he finally understands why he owns several shirts with Darth Vadar, R2D2 and C3PO emblazoned on the chest and why we have a roughly 1,008 Jedi swords in the house, but I digress…) – and went, another day gone with no visit to the hair salon. As I tucked her in that night, Paisley sat bolt upright in bed, and with utter despair howled, “Mama! We didn’t get my hair cut!!” With more than a bit of exasperation creeping into my voice (I know, bad bad mama!), I reminded her about the bout, the concert, and the family movie night. “There wasn’t time today, honey.” And then… SHE BURST INTO TEARS.
I kinda chalked the tears up to a long, tiring day, but in my heart, I sorta feared we were nearing the point when my daughter was going to COMPLETELY SNAP and would most likely take the scissors to her own head (which really didn’t go over so well when she did it when she was 3yo), and totally knew that I needed to stop trying to delay what was looking inevitable and make that dang hair appointment… But because I had already poured myself a glass of wine and it was waiting for me downstairs I decided to not think about it anymore that night (because, clearly, I have my priorities straight); I’d deal with it tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the week after that…
And so, another day dawned with my daughter’s long tresses still attached to her pretty little head…
The first thing Paisley asked me (very enthusiastically I might add) that Sunday morning, as she pranced downstairs (where DOES she get the energy? Gah, I was still staring blankly at my cup of coffee, wondering how it’d gotten into my hands, but extremely grateful that it had…), is if she could get her haircut THAT VERY DAY.
I rubbed my bleary eyes, blinked a few times, and explained that she had a soccer game that afternoon and Liam had a birthday party to attend (again, both events scheduled at the exact same time, and again, both events across town from each other – truly, my life is crazy); she was going skating with some of her roller derby teammates that night; and somewhere in-between she also needed to finish (and, um, also, to even begin) the school project she had planned for her class’s Market Place that would be held the very next day (she came up with the idea of making paperweights by painting several dozen rocks that she’d collected at the beach the week before, and then, using a paint pen, writing inspirational words – like Laugh and Love and UW Huskies – or drawing cute pictures – like owls and funny faces – on them after the first coat of paint dried, and then, once this second coat of paint was dry, setting the whole thing with a final spray of clear gloss; you know, the kind of project that requires just a wee bit o’ time). To which she responded (again) by BURSTING INTO TEARS.
And to which I responded (wisely) by retreating posthaste to the kitchen for some more coffee…
… and then mentally tried to rearrange the day in order to free up an hour or so for an impromptu hair appointment. But how?! I couldn’t see it happening…
My daughter, however, is nothing if not stubborn and tenacious (excuse me, laser-focused and persevering), and that afternoon (it was already 2:30!), after her soccer game and as she sat down outside to start painting 30+ rocks that were due the very next day, she asked (or rather, beseeched) me to um, help her with her project? So she could maybe still get to the salon? You know, THAT DAY?? (I swear I am not making this up.) So… I first thought about banging my head against the house; but then I realized that that would HURT. And then I thought about bringing her attention to how late in the day it already was and gently letting her know how I didn’t think getting to the salon that day would be possible; but then I visualized the tsunami-level waterworks that would come my way if I did. And then I thought that, well, if I’d helped Liam with his Amelia Bedelia diorama (because, after all, he’s 6yo – he can barely spell diorama, let alone build one without a parent showing him how), then it only seemed fair I help Paisley at least paint the base coat on her rocks. And so, without further ado, I stopped thinking, grabbed a paint brush, mixed up some colors, and went to work.
(Not that I expected Paisley to actually finish her project with time to make it to the salon, but can I say: painting rocks is so much fun! If you have a chance anytime soon, I highly recommend you paint your own rock paperweights…)
And so it was that, about two hours later and with much paint all over the sidewalk (we’re messy painters, what can I say?), and just as Bill and Liam arrived home from the birthday party, Paisley finished writing/painting on her last paperweight, put the rock down with proud satisfaction, looked up at me with great expectation and demanded, “Can we go now?!” As the boys were happily clutching bags of Dick’s Drive-In burgers and fries in their hands (they clearly agree with Esquire’s assessment that Dick’s is America’s Most Life Changing Burger Joint; not that I would ever let them read that magazine), I realized I didn’t have to make dinner… The rocks still needed to dry before we sprayed on the clear gloss… And, with a shock, it dawned on me that I had run out of reasons to put off the haircut. There was nothing for it but to squeak, “Um… I guess?”
With a whoop and a holler, Paisley rushed me into the car (probably worried I’d change my mind if given half a chance), and less than fifteen minutes later we walked into Rudy’s Barbershop. The salon was PACKED, being a weekend day at the über-trendy Seattle institution that specializes in cheap but quality haircuts and walk-in appointments; there was at least a 45-minute wait. I looked at Paisley… and saw the sheer panic in her eyes. I sighed, put her name on the waiting list, told the (super hip) guy behind the desk we’d be back, and went and made a date of it by going out to dinner.
Paisley and I grabbed a bite to eat (and I grabbed a much-deserved, and much-needed, beer!) before heading back to the hairdresser.
An hour later, and stuffed full of good food, we walked back in for Paisley’s appointment. She was escorted to a chair attended by an ultra-cool and tattooed stylist with purple hair pulled up into a retro boho-chic bouffant and pinned with a bright turquoise bow; Paisley nearly melted in the chair, she was so psyched. Our friendly stylist asked Paisley what kind of haircut she wanted, to which Paisley jauntily replied “Short.” The now-intrigued stylist asked “How short?” and Paisley immediately directed me to pull up the picture from the wig product page on Amazon that she’d made me email to my iPhone right before we left so it was easy to access and refer to when she was asked this very question… I obligingly showed our enquiring stylist the picture of the young man with the thick, black, straight hair, and mentioned that I had, in fact, told Paisley that, because she does NOT have thick, black, straight hair, “Your hair, I’m sorry to say, just won’t look like this.” To which our experienced stylist turned to Paisley and repeated, “Your hair, I’m sorry to say, just won’t look like this.” And to which Paisley nonchalantly repeated back to her (with truly awe-inspiring, and never-wavering, confidence) what she’d been repeating to me for all the weeks since she’d first put on that wig: “Oh, I know. I want that haircut… and my hair will just make it look different.” (Subtext: Like, duh people! It’s all good. Now get to work. *Snaps her fingers.*) And then she flashed us both a beatific smile. I mean, what can you do with that?! I’ll tell you what you do with that: you give her that haircut… And know it’s just going to look different… It’s as simple as that.
And so, Paisley’s long long long hair went back into a ponytail, and the scissors came out. I think both Paisley and I were rather shocked at how quickly her hair was cut off (seriously, after months of badgering and haggling and crying and persuading, it took all of 10 seconds for our very efficient stylist to snip, snip, snip, snip that ponytail right off Paisley’s precious head) and all those sweet ringlets I’ve always loved tugging on were, just like that, GONE! (I’m not going to lie: it made my heart ache a bit).
The lovely stylist showing off the 11″-12″ of hair which Paisley proudly donated to Locks of Love, a wonderful charity which makes wigs and other hairpieces for children who have lost their hair from chemotherapy treatments or any other medical malady.
And so, my daughter now has very short hair. Very very short hair. And she loves it. I’m talking, like, loves LOVES LOVES it.
The After Shot: A certain someone is mighty pleased with her new short short hairdo… (and is also approximately two pounds lighter).
And after living with her and her very short hair for a bit over a week now… you know what? I DO TOO. Holy. Wow. What was I thinking, putting this off?! I. Love. It. And not because it’s so adorable (which it is). No, I love it because it now takes her a total of two seconds to shampoo her hair (*fist pump*!!); because, better yet, it now takes approximately ZERO seconds for me to brush the tear-and-tantrum-inducing snarls out of her hair (oh yeah!!); because I now don’t have to relentlessly nag her about pulling her hair back in a ponytail – so she can actually SEE – for soccer and Jiu-Jitsu and swimming practice (wahoo!!); and because, upon returning home yesterday afternoon from the three-day sleep away camp she’s been at with the 4th and 5th graders of her school, if she just so happens to tell me in the next day or two (please please please, no!) that her head is itchy – and yes, while she’s significantly less likely to get lice with short hair, I still don’t put it past my hug-loving and socially gregarious daughter and her friends to braid each other’s hair, trade hats and headbands and brushes, swap sleeping bags and pillows, and generally do whatever it takes to share absolutely everything with each other, secrets, notes and lice included – it now will take all of 10 breezy minutes, instead of the usual 45-60 excruciating minutes, for me to do the subsequent lice check (to which I say: bring it!! Actually, don’t; please don’t bring the lice…).
And perhaps more important than the purely selfish reasons I listed above (though all still very relevant reasons, I would like to say in my defense!), I love my daughter’s short hair because, though it might have taken her eight months or so to get to this point (she is, after all, only 10yo; self-determination takes time, as does – and anybody who has ever gone to a barber and paid good money for a haircut will confirm this – finding “the right” hairstyle) and another month or so to convince her over-scheduled (and okay, sometimes slow-to-catch-on) mother that she was really serious this time, Paisley made this decision all on her own and not because she wanted to be just like her friends, and not because she was bullied into it by her lunatic mama suffering from a (completely understandable?!) lice-induced anxiety attack; and not even because she wanted to look like some formerly unknown manga character to whom she doesn’t even have a passing resemblance.
Ready for her own graphic novel!
And here’s what I only realized after the hair fell to the salon floor, and what I almost missed because I thought I was too busy to make this a priority: I love that my daughter walked into that salon ready for a big change and with a fierce confidence that never wavered. I love that she was so bold and so fearless. I love that she embraced the uncertainty of the outcome; she knew her hair wasn’t going to look like that picture from the internet, but she had faith that she was going to like it anyway. And I love (and I’m talking, like, love LOVE LOVE) that she was going to like it anyway, because she LIKES HERSELF. For her, her hair is just her hair. It doesn’t define who she is; it’s something fun to play with, another prop in this drama called life. Yes, she is absolutely having a fantastic time surprising her friends and teachers and neighbors with her new look. But she still skated her heart out that night at the skate rink, after everyone remarked on her transformation, and she still completed her paperweight project on time (and which were so popular at Market Place that she sold every single one!) after everyone oohed and aahed at school the next day; for her, she is a skater and a seller of rocks no matter what her hair looks like. And the few times people have told her she looks like a boy? She’s been completely unfazed. This (seemingly) simple haircut (that’s become, for me anyway, something more significant than a simple haircut, and has, rather, marked itself as a milestone moment in my always-amazing daughter’s life) has shown me that her identity, her concept of who she is as a person, is not wrapped up in how long or short her hair is, or how others expect her to act. And as a parent raising a daughter in a culture that puts so much pressure on girls (and the women they grow up to become) to look like this (unattainable) ideal of beauty or that (archaic) concept of femininity, I could not be more proud, or grateful, that my 10yo daughter feels so empowered to take risks with her appearance and experiment with her hairstyle and not at all feel defined by what she looks like to others. As her mother, I hope she always maintains that spirit of independence, that joy in reinvention, and that courage to take risks which she exhibited in that hair salon as she continues to figure out what it means to “be herself.”
And I hope that next time she has to badger me into taking her to the hair salon (because, c’mon, I’m still not going to take her when the boys are around, and it’s not like our lives are getting any less busy!), she still wants me to stay by her side, sitting in the empty chair next to her. And I hope I remember how privileged I am to witness her awe-inspiring development into the phenomenal young person she’s becoming, no matter what hairstyle she comes up with next. And I hope that I will never forget, no matter how busy life gets or how many trips to the salon we make, to take every opportunity to let her know as often as possible that she’s beautiful, both inside and out…
…no matter what her hair looks like.
Because for me? Well, now… that’s a priority.
(Though here’s to no one showing her a picture of Mr. T anytime soon… because, seriously, because, seriously, I am SO not ready for a Mohawk!)