kids

"My hairdresser refused to give my child the haircut I wanted. Her message was clear."

I made an emergency trip to the hairdresser last weekend. My daughter had decided to give herself a haircut, because her hair was getting in her eyes when she was riding her bike.

(Let me just say, my daughter has had no formal hairdressing training. I also have the feeling there was no mirror involved when she gave herself the haircut.)

Anyway, the hairdresser trimmed a bit here and there from my daughter’s bob.

“How about shorter?” I said, eyeing off the uneven bit near the front where my daughter had hacked into it.

The hairdresser was firm.

“No. No shorter.”

“Just a bit?”

“No.”

The message was clear. Don’t cut your daughter’s hair too short, or she’ll look like a boy. It’s better for a girl to have slightly wonky hair than very short hair.

Cuuuuuute. Right? Photo via iStock.

It's not just my hairdresser who thinks this way. Decades after women's lib, there's still a very strong belief that girls, especially young girls, should have long hair. And quite often, it's mothers who are pushing it.

Start typing "daughter wants to cut hair short" into Google, and you get some weird stories. There's the mum blogging for The New York Times who won't let her tearful six-year-old cut her tangle-prone mess of curls because "I feel that when you are given a gift of hair like that, you appreciate it". There's the mum posting on Quora whose 13-year-old daughter wants a pixie cut "but I think it might make her look homosexual or like a boy". Then there's the mum on The Well-Trained Mind whose 15-year-old daughter wants to donate her hair to Locks Of Love, but "I just plain do not want her hair to be that short".

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Step back, control freaks!

I've seen local mums discussing it online. One mother, upset that her young daughter wanted a "boy" cut, begged for help from other mums about how to talk her out of it. No one smacked her down with, "Oh, it's her goddamn hair, let her do what the hell she wants with it."

No wonder so many teenage girls are obsessed with their looks.

Short hair, adult-style. Photo via iStock.

Yes, even today, it can still be a big deal for a girl or a woman to cut her hair short, especially super-short. I've had hairdressers - before my current one - say to me, "Shorter? Above the ears? Really? Are you sure?" Yeah, I'm sure. I've never regretted going from waist-length locks to a pixie cut (only the appalling "styles" I had in between).

I like the way it looks. I think short hair suits the shape of my face more than long hair. But there's more to it than that. It's like sending out a message, saying, "Oh, I don't fit your ideal of a pretty, feminine woman? Cool."

One friend who chopped her hair off confided in me, "You know, I'm attracting a better class of guy now that I've got short hair."

As for my daughter, well, the hairdresser worked a bit of magic and made her hair look acceptable in the end. My daughter was happy with it, so I didn't push the issue. But the minute she decides she wants a pixie cut, it's all coming off.