Friday, August 12, 2011

Are YOU my Mama? Number Two: Interesting Hair

(Number one in the series of ruminations on identity and motherhood)

My main reason for wanting to get pregnant was to get that shiny hair everyone talks about. Sure, baby, whatever, experiencing a magical transformation as life grows within me, bond with husband, propagation of my genetic material blah blah blah...but I wanted that shiny hair. Well, I didn't get it. My hair remained unchanged--a bit coarse, very eager to get frizzy on top at the slightest sign of humidity, increasingly grey with each passing day.

I am, however, getting that thing where your hair falls out after the birth of your child. And because my hair is waist length, having drifts of it everywhere is...what's the word...disgusting. It has also taken on an extra dull and brittle quality, a sort of straw-like texture.

Furthermore, Bun Bun manages to get her limbs caught in it multiple times a day. It's just the right length that her toes snag it when she's nursing, and sometimes while I'm untangling her toes, she'll manage to get a hand caught. And she's not even old enough to grab things yet.

So naturally I'm thinking about cutting it off. The thing is, I think seriously about cutting it once a year. It hasn't been short since I was sixteen, when I chopped it off myself. When my father came home from work he gently asked if I'd like some help straightening it out. You can imagine what a picture of beauty I was.

There are a few reasons I always end up deciding not to cut it. First, short hair has to be kept short, and usually by a professional. That sounds tedious. I can't see myself going to a salon regularly.

Second, hair is a statement of who you are. I don't know what my statement reads to others--probably something like I am hideous--but having long hair makes me feel a bit unconventional, a bit impractical. When I wear it down, people comment on it, and I find it gives me a sense of satisfaction. Something like: I may not be beautiful, but at least I have Interesting Hair.

I've always wondered whether I would cut my hair if I had a baby. Babies are notorious for hair pulling: even if you wear it up, they'll find a way to get you. Do I want to suffer endless hair pulling? It makes me see red to have my hair pulled...

But then I think about that prototypical mother with short, practical hair. Do you know the one I mean? The one who shows up in ads for cleaning products or frozen food, who has zero time for anything at all because she's so busy caring for her family? And real mothers with short, practical hair like to tell me how I'll be sure to cut mine off any day now, as it's just Too Much Work. I can imagine what they'd think if I were to say, But it's my expression of self! They'd think: There is no self, there is only Mom. If you think you have time for Interesting Hair, you're in for a rude awakening. Or else you're just not a very good mom, not willing to make sacrifices for your child.

I don't want to become that mother. She seems impatient with the very idea of her own existence. I think Bun Bun knows (or will eventually know, when her brain is less primitive) that I'd cut off any part of me, head included, if she needed me to. I also think ultimately it's better for Bun Bun if I try to keep my sense of self. Particularly if it gives her something to yank on.


  1. So funny as I just butched off my hair yesterday but I did it because I wanted to feel trendy and hip again since I'm constantly covered in vomit. On the upside, its very cute. On the downside, Mac still yanks on it and its probably more work than before. Stay tuned until after I've actually showered today.

  2. A TIGHT BUN is your friend. Definitely resist the urge to adopt that practical 'mom' hairdo! :)

  3. I've let mine grow longer, actually. Ponytails and braids, my friend. At least when nursing or when most vulnerable to baby-fisted tangles. (And I do get my hair pulled -- purposefully and with gusto -- when nursing sometimes, but I keep a hairband on my wrist all the time now to remedy.)

  4. I'm cutting mine off, but it's not that long (almost touches my shoulders). It's the falling out thing--- it is driving be crazy and is gross. Add that to 2 cats and a dog hairwise we are talking dust bunnies the size of the baby roaming around!

  5. Mine started falling out 3 weeks ago, I was assured by people that this post pregnancy thing just wasn't going to happen to me. It is the most disgusting thing ever. I have the same sort of problems with my long hairs all over the place. I actually thought something might be amiss as there seems to be SO MUCH missing...glad I'm not alone but sorry you have to go through it too. I got these goody brand hair bands that hold it out of my face and the baby's face while nursing, but it is still everywhere. Perhaps it could be collected and sold for wig parts?!? eh?

  6. Definitely keep it long if you like it long. Absolutely do not relinquish your sense of self for a "practical" hairdo; go short if you think it'll be fun, but not so that you can have "more time to devote to baby" (gag). I agree that short hair actually requires a lot more upkeep--especially if you have frizziness-prone hair; the length/weight keeps it somewhat tamed. And the constant need for haircuts (maybe moms like the mom-do so they have an excuse to sneak off to the salon every 6 weeks?)
    For me, even a little cut helps bring some "spring" or "body" back into my hair, when its looking & feeling dull---maybe a trim, or a few inches will be enough for that?

  7. You could have a chignon. And perhaps a gaulois or two, plus languid attitude? Think of it as the Anti-TV mom.

    And really bunny, referring to BunBun's brain as primitive - have you read her incisive work on children's literature?


  8. No mom hair! Or mom jeans. Got it?

  9. My hair's only shoulder-length, but I will NOT go shorter. I have a weird, angular face (you'll have to trust me on that one) and I need hair to keep it from taking center stage. I'd just look bizarre with mom hair. So I hope the baby agrees and takes to gently patting and stroking my lovely locks rather than yanking and pulling.

  10. I have very short hair (much shorter than the "practical mom hairstyle"), and I have to tell you, while it's less work from day to day (I keep it short enough that I couldn't style it if I wanted to), you're totally right about the upkeep of having to go to the salon. If I was really keeping it up the way I should, I would probably need to go once a month. As it is, I wait and wait and wait till I have a performance or some other important thing coming up, and then grovel to my stylist about how sorry I am that I've let it get so shaggy.

    I say, if you like the long hair, keep it by all means. Resist the mom-formity! Not all moms have to have That One Mom Haircut and That One Pair of Mom Jeans.

  11. This sounds like a post more about your identity then anything else. I wonder how this is changing for you now that you have Bun Bun. I mean you are arguably the same person but not all at the same time... things to think about...
    sending love to you and bunbun.
    thanks as always for all of your support.

  12. I don't know what to tell you, I am a long hair girl myself. Long hair rules! My mom had hair down to her butt when we were babies..she didn't get the Mom doo until we were much older. I wonder how she managed...although now that I think about it her hair is always in a funky updo style of the time and not down and flowing until much later in the 70's...which could be the styles of the times or a coping mechanism for early babyhood. I'll be interested to hear how you solve this because the hair pulling part doesn't sound fun! :)

  13. I'm a long hair girl, too! And continue to be, even as the babies yank yank yank on my tresses.

    Your last post had me laughing out loud. My god your little Bunlet is cute. And speaking of hair, her's absolutely melts me. It's soooooo cute! She has so much of it!! Now I know where she gets it. :) xoxo

  14. Hair is very symbolic and, as you've said, it's a form of self-expression. And that self-expression is much more potent than, say, clothing or jewelry or makeup, because it STAYS. Naked, dressed, tired, dressed up - the hair is a constant. I think that if you have doubts, don't cut it. It's okay not to.

    I had long hair (not quite as long as yours, but close) for years and years and years. The veteran of too many "pixie cuts" as a child (that made people think I was a BOY, damn them and damn that hair) I had hair halfway down my back from the ages of about 16 to 28. I loved my hair and didn't want to give it up, even when other people opined that it would look much nicer shorts. Pshaw, I thought.

    I DID end up cutting my hair, after one of those huge life-transitions that make you just want to...shake things up. It was that or a tattoo, and I chose the haircut. And I hated it at first because it was so damned...practical. And staid. And not me. But then I cut it even shorter, and it became edgy, and a bit punk. And I thought, "Voila!" I've arrived. (A few plugs for short hair: it IS easier; if you get the right cut, it can look edgier and every bit as individual as long hair; and it's much better at disguising gray because - depending on the cut - the hair doesn't fall open in the same way at the parts).

    That said, I'm growing it out again. Go figure. All of this a long winded way to say: you have to be on board with it and you shouldn't do anything until you're absolutely ready to do it, especially because you're in a phase in which your very identity and essence are growing to encompass so many other things. And that be freaking scary enough.

    (And you can always get a tattoo:)

  15. Oh, the disgusting drifts of hair! I actually had to take a sharp pair of scissors to my hairbrush recently because OHMAHGAWD the ratty tangle of hair wrapped tightly throughout it was interfering with its ability to adequately brush my hair. The bathtub drain catch looks like a live animal has nestled in it after my shower sometimes. Is that gross or what? My hair starting falling out around 4 months postpartum and it hasn't let up. Oddly, I still have plenty and plenty to get forgivably yanked on by Arlo.

    Anyway, my hair is the longest it's been since I shaved my head my senior year of undergrad, 10+ years. I had a short pixie cut after that for years, and short hair did require more salon maintenance than my mid-back length hair now.

    I have my hair constantly pulled back in a ponytail or in a braid, and even still it is tugged on. I figure Arlo will be out of this hair-yanking stage faster than it would take me to grow my hair out again, so I'll just keep the long locks. A friend once told me that all new moms regret the post-baby haircut, so that's once piece of assvice I've taken to heart.

  16. I'm so afraid of the loss of hair after pregnancy! But I think it will spend a lot of time in a pony tail - the better to grab on to, my pretty...

    Definitely don't lose your sense of self - no matter what!!!

  17. Hair. What I wouldnt give for decent hair.

    I had to go back and look at your picture. Twice. It was such a darling shot I wasnt quite sure it was really you when I first read it - maybe it was a stockie? I dunno. Why would I think that? It was too perfect for your story. Anyhow. Yer darling.

    I dont buy your claims of straw. It looks magnificent. I am glad you plan to keep it.

  18. I know it's strange to comment on such an old post, but I discovered your blog a week or two ago and have been reading through the archives. It's been eerie at times -- I'm also an academic (just a post-doc right now, no tenure-track job for me yet), with a new baby (Gwen is almost 3.5 months). My maternity leave just ended a week and a half ago so I'm adjusting to being a working mother (where "working" often means "sitting on the floor of my daughter's room with both cat and laptop on my lap, reading secondary literature for my next paper while waving a rattle in front of Gwen") and academic. But why did I pick out this post to comment on? I also usually have long hair, except for when I flip out and hack it all off. The last hacking happened almost two years ago, so it's now getting to be a decent length again, but while this time around I enjoyed having the short hair, thought it looked rather cute, by the time I had to decide whether to get it cut again or to let it grow out, I was pregnant, and that did the trick: There was no way I was going to be one of those short-haired moms. Besides, even if I cut my hair, Gwen would still have my glasses to grab at.

    I look forward to finish reading through your archives and then follow you in real time!