Thursday, April 3, 2008

Little Girls with Big Hair

So today's NY Times has an article about girls who are 8-12 going to salons and getting fancy hair treatments. As a light-make-up-wearing, only organic milk-serving, trying-to-limit-TV, free-to-be-you-and-me kind of mom in sensible shoes I know how I'm supposed to react. I'm supposed to wring my hands and bemoan the loss of childhood innocence and the imposition of sexualizing fashion on our precious little ones. I'm supposed to agree with the naysayers at the end of the article who ask "What kind of message are we sending our girls if we let them get highlights at 11? What does that mean?" But all I could muster was a little, "Feh." Because you know what I think it means? Bubkes.

OK, I'll qualify that. Hair treatments in a bubble mean bubkes. If your whole life is devoted to the art of the external, if you only care about fashion and show your daughter that the only way a woman can be worth anything or get anything done is by looking a certain way, then you've got some problems, problems that go well beyond the hair thing. Hair maybe part of it, sure, but unless you not only teach but show your girl that women can accomplish great things only when their hair and bodies slam, I don't think a few highlights mean your 10-year-old will screech onto the express lane with Rock of Love season 10 as her destination.

I would say I don't love the whole expensive salon thing, and I certainly don't love the under-10-at-the-salon-thing, but I've got to confess, when I was 12, back in, ehhem, 1980, curly hair was a good thing and my mom took me for a perm. Well, it wasn't a perm, it was a body wave.

Whatever you call it, two days after the chemicals were applied to my hair, I washed it (as instructed) and went to sleep. I woke up the next morning with hair like the Bride of Frankenstein. It was awful. I refused to go to school. My mom didn't know what to do. She brought me to my Aunt Grace's house. (Technically, Aunt Grace is not my Aunt, but trust me, she's my Aunt). Mrs. Herman came over. (I now call her Rita and her last name is now Archer, but for the sake of historical integrity, I'll refer to her as she was known to me then.) The women all pow-wowed over how to fix my hair as the minutes of my sixth grade Monday ticked by. Nothing could be done. My hair remained untamed and so I refused to go to school.

Aunt Grace, though, was having none of it. She sat down across from me at her kitchen table, she looked me in the eye, and she said this, "It is your responsibility to go to school no matter how your hair looks. Now let's go." So I did. Everyone in my class of 15 who'd known me since kindergarten laughed at me, but not in the worst way. Besides, they'd laughed at me before and they would again and I learned this important life lesson: It's. Just. Hair.


Roni said...

I liked how one of the mothers interviewed said that her daughter gets good grades, is a good kid, so why not treat her to a salon? I agree. My mom let me get my ears pierced when I was 10 (my middle sister was 8, but there was a 2-for-1 special at the mall and my mom was no fool), a perm when I was 12, and my first pair of 1.5" heels when I was 16. For mom, it was a matter of teaching us to be well groomed, and she emphasized that it was secondary to getting good grades and staying out of trouble. We all graduated from good colleges, one of us is in graduate school, and not once in the (cough cough) last 30 some odd years did mom wring her hands over us "growing up too fast." Thanks, ma.

Robin Aronson said...

see--a little balance, a little polish, nothing wrong with that. it just can't be the whole game....nice to see you, roni!

Anonymous said...

As a mom with a downstairs fridge full of organic milk and yogurt, I also feel like I should but upset but cannot work up the lather. My husband and I subscribe to satellite just so that we can get Sprout. We are not casual about our children's upbringing. I really don't see the big deal here. There are many things women do to feel good about themselves, i.e. being well-read, preparing and eating healthy foods, spending time with family and friends, volunteering, exercising, praying and a little salon pampering. As long as you are teaching the whole package of self care, what's wrong with a highlight or two? Also, I really believe you have to pick your battles as your children get older if you want them to continue listening to you. I'm not advocating a compromise of core values but nothing turns off a child, or anyone else for that matter, faster than nagging.