Hair today, gone tomorrow

“Are you cutting your lovely locks?” the kindly grandma waiting for her stylist asked as I hung up my coat. I nodded.

“Short?” she queried.

“Real short,” I answered, explaining how I planned to donate the cut hair to Locks of Love, which provides human-hair prosthesis to children who have lost their hair due to medical reasons.

“Someone will be very lucky to get it,” she said. “You have beautiful hair.”

I wrote in Sunday’s Forum about the power struggle of sorts I’d been having with my long, wavy hair. Last week, as I put the finishing touches on a three-day, five-story series on the power of hair, I decided it was time to end the struggle, and make the big cut.

I scheduled a last-minute appointment Wednesday morning at the beauty school. (For readers familiar with my Money-Savin’ Mama posts, you’ll be proud to note I got my hair cut for $3 plus tip, thanks to a $10 discount card.) My stylist, Britney, said she had never had a request like mine.

After repeatedly consulting one of her instructors, Britney bundled my hair into a thick ponytail using three clear bands. A few other students gathered around as she sawed her way through the strands at the base of my neck. She told me later her heart was pounding as she chopped nearly 10 inches from my head.

My "lovely locks," bundled up


The Big Snip


The final cut

I was at peace with my decision, and excited about the layered bob we’d decided on for my new style. It felt so good when Britney expressed awe that my hair color was all natural (“It’s so pretty!”) and told me how healthy my hair was.

Then dear, sweet, young Britney inadvertantly said something quite ironic, given that all my hesitation in cutting my hair stemmed from my fear of having “mom hair.”

“We’ll give you the mom invert,” she said, referring to the angled cut that’s shorter in the back and longer in the front.

“Did you say ‘mom’?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said brightly. “I always think of moms when I see this invert.”

“I don’t want mom hair!” I cried.

“Not old mom,” Britney quickly reassured me. “Cute, new mom!”

I wasn’t convinced, even when the grandma from the waiting area complimented my new haircut. My husband also said he liked it. I played with it more when I got home.

The new 'do

Of course my toughest, most honest critic would be my 3-year-old daughter Eve, who loves to brush my long hair. She questioned repeatedly why I had cut my hair. She considered it carefully.

“You don’t look like a mommy,” Eve finally told me.

I perked up. Had I escaped the dreaded “mom hair” afterall?

“You look like a daddy,” she finished.

Oh. Great. Good thing hair grows back.

Donating locks worth the risk of ‘mom hair’

Over the past three days, the SheSays section has featured stories of hair, illustrating the power it has in shaping self-identity and even expressing faith. The series was inspired by a power struggle of sorts with my own hair, as I debated cutting it the past few months.

During both my pregnancies, in 2008 and again this year, I let my hair grow out. Those pregnancy hormones did crazy thing to my body, but amazing things for my hair. The longest layers nearly reach the middle of my back.

As my now 3-year-old daughter brushes out my hair with a pink, plastic Barbie-sized brush, she tells me my hair is like “Tangled” – an animated adaptation of “Rapunzel” and her new favorite movie. In this version, Rapunzel’s 70-foot long mane has magical healing powers. Eve tells me she wants hair like mine, too.

My hair, a bit blurry, as photographed by Eve

At a high school graduation party this spring, I noticed a clique of teen girls, all willowy thin, all wearing variations of the same short sundress, and all sporting long, loose locks like mine. “Who am I kidding?” I suddenly thought. “I’m too old to have the same hair as a teenage girl.”

I told myself I should get it cut, but didn’t. Now Baby Owen’s chubby hands have started grasping and pulling on my long strands. Plus, I’m shedding like crazy, as most women do postpartum. My husband disgustedly pulled one of my foot-long strands out of his casserole the other night, reason enough to sport a shorter ‘do.

Still, I’ve hesitated to get it cut, relishing the compliments I get on my mane, and mainly because I recall the words of a beautiful, younger, Brazilian friend.

I met Thai, a college buddy’s wife, four years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter. In her charming accent, she immediately complimented my long, wavy hair, and noted she was glad that, even though I was pregnant, I didn’t have “mom hair.” You know, short and practical.

Three months after Eve was born, I cut off all my hair, donating two ponytails to Locks of Love, an organization that gives human hair wigs to kids who’ve lost their hair for medical reasons. Eve’s little hands had discovered the strands, and I was going back to work. I needed something more practical, something short.

Thai’s comment stuck with me, though, after that and several more haircuts. “Mom hair.” Whenever the word “mom” is used as an adjective, it’s not good. It indicates something is unsexy or dated. See: Mom jeans.

This time around, having entered my 30s, I didn’t want the equivalent of mom jeans on my head.

Then I interviewed Sally Larson, whose daughter Sophie began losing her hair as a toddler. Sophie recently received a human hair wig from Locks of Love, a story we shared in Friday’s paper.

Hearing how that wig has helped Sophie feel more confident and allowed her to curl and style her hair just like other little girls made me realize that my hair does have special powers, like “Tangled.” It has the power to help.

To help a child like Sophie who doesn’t have hair of her own.

I’ve decided to again donate my hair to Locks of Love. I’ll happily have “mom hair” if that’s the end result.

Besides, I’m pretty sure my daily haphazard ponytail screams “mom” more than any short hairdo.

Check out the Forum Mom blog on Monday to read about the long-debated haircut and to see photos of my new ‘do.

A little off the top …

Sherri circa 1983

I was a bald child. Only the faintest wisps of white-blond hair graced my head until I was about 3. Women used to ask my mom why she cut a little girl’s hair so short. She hadn’t, she’d tell them. I just didn’t grow any. It took years before she was able to finally gather enough for skimpy little pigtails, much less cut a lock for my baby book. I imagine it was kind of disappointing, considering I was her youngest and only girl.

So when Eve was born with dark brown hair covering most of her head, I was thrilled. I told people she had “soooo much hair.” Really it was probably less than average. It just seemed like a lot, considering my follicle-challenged infancy.

Eve never lost that hair, like some babies, but what was there didn’t grow very fast. There wasn’t much more in her first birthday photo than in her six and nine month shots. After she started befriending pony-tailed girls her age and younger, she would beg me to put her hair in a ponytail, too. But I really couldn’t. Nor could I snip a lock of hair for her baby book.

But in the last few months her hair has gone through a bit of a growth spurt. She finally had enough for a small pony on top, and the front started to grow long enough that she’d push it out of her face. I eagerly decided, at 2 1/2, it was time for Eve’s first haircut.

I was so excited to reach this milestone, to finally have that first lock of baby hair, I didn’t even think through the potential consequences. That the scissors could permanently trim away her sweet curls. That it’d be traumatic for her, or me. Thankfully those scenarios didn’t come to light.  She enjoyed sitting in the barber chair and watching “Finding Nemo” on the TV. She still talks about how the stylist sprayed her head “and made it rain in there.” And I finally have that little lock of hair, tied with a purple bow.

Trimming Eve's bangs

It will be awhile before her next haircut. There wasn’t very much to cut off in the first place. But a little off the top meant a lot to this mom.