It is somewhat hard to begin this story because it could start in so many places. Like when I was younger and my theatre teacher told me to grow my hair out because I needed to look more “feminine;” or the countless times I have seen ads, commercials, or any other media outlet showing beautiful women with equally gorgeous, flowing hair.
It could also start when we found out my mom had cancer, although she was more frightened about losing her breasts than her hair.
Most recently my 5-year-old daughter, Olivia, came home from her preschool and announced she needed to have long hair to be “pretty” and it wouldn’t hurt if I could put her in a dress for school. Initially I didn’t think much of that comment, but it bothered me.
I promptly told her she was pretty no matter what she wore, including messy, short hair and muddy shoes. She furrowed her brows and said, “No, mama. I need to wear a dress, I am supposed to be beautiful, and boys are supposed to be handsome.” I tried not to scowl as I said, “I think boys can be beautiful too, and some boys also like to wear dresses.” She quickly dismissed me and went to put on a princess dress.
When she emerged later as Cinderella, I said, “Remember when we talked about hair and you want yours really long? That is ok Olivia, if you want it long that’s great. I have a question: would mommy still be beautiful with short hair?” She thought for less than a second before responding loudly, “Yes!” I laughed and said, “It doesn’t matter what my hair looks like, or what I am wearing. It doesn’t matter what you dress like or how you wear your hair, we are both beautiful because of what is inside our hearts. It is what is inside our hearts that counts.”
In our home I want my daughter to feel free to be a ninja or a princess, but I do not want it to stop there. I want her to feel she can also be this way OUTSIDE of our home, whether that is at school, a friend’s house, wherever. Do we own Disney movies? Why, yes we do. I grew up with Disney and can honestly say I was enriched by the artistry and magic, and I also had parents who made sure we weren’t glued to the television set all day. They instilled a passion for reading and creativity that I continue to pass on to my own child.
Then came the kicker: Olivia started saying how beautiful my hair was…. and noticed other people made comments about it too. This wasn’t exactly an issue, but when she started saying she needed long hair “like mama’s….or Rapunzel,” I started to look at myself. What message was I actually sending her? I could say all day long that short hair is equally great, but was I actually being a real example of that? I had always thought one day I’d shave my head out of rebellion, to release all of the past energy fed to me about long hair equating my femininity. Now, I had the opportunity to do so, and let my daughter know there are also people in our world desperate for hair because they have none due to illness.
When I told my fiancé I wanted to shave it off I expected him to respond vehemently against it because…well, there are wedding pictures to think about. I really should have known though, that this is not the kind of man I am choosing to marry. He smiled sideways and said, “Okay.” As soon as he said yes, I started looking up organizations to donate the hair to, and the next day I announced to Olivia that she was going to help me cut my hair after school. I think she was more shocked that I was going to let her cut my hair, than reacting to the fact that I wanted to cut my hair short. After explaining to her why I wanted to do it, she smiled and said, “Okay… which scissors can I use?”
I collected the hair in a pony tail as the organization Children With Hairloss specified; and Olivia sat in the bathtub watching closely.
After I cut the pony tail off, my daughter and fiancé proceeded to cut my hair down to a few inches on my head. When it was done, all choppy and lopsided, I walked outside with Olivia and she said, “Mama…you look funny…and you are so, so, so, so special!” I gave her a huge hug.
That afternoon, before I had shaved my choppy cut down, I went to a furniture store with my fiancé Tim. After finding a few much needed pieces the store owner and furniture craftsman visited with us, and we talked about our children. I told him my daughter had cut my hair for me to which he immediately and honestly stated, “It is beautiful. You look beautiful.”
For the first time ever I actually believed that statement. I knew in my heart no matter what kind of hair I had or didn’t have, my spirit was making it look perfect — and that is the lesson I needed to learn.