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Sailing Short Hair in A Sea of Manes

I have short hair. Buzzcut short. I used the #4 clippers. Buzzfeed’s listicle fierce women with shaved heads was my inspiration. Also, my daughter, who is nine and already well into the performance of feminino-normative. She wears her hair long. Of course. She’s a girly-girl. 

In an effort at frugality I calculated how much money I’d spend on my hair—making my thin limp mousy situation mermaid-like and emphatically not grey—and it was thousands of dollars. Thousands of dollars I could have spent on a boss vacation. Or on gardening supplies. Anything that might have brought me joy. But I zombie-like spent it on the dead cells that sprout unassisted from my scalp skin. Crazy, no?

Hear me out, Baltimore moms. We are collectively spending millions of dollars on the hair on our heads (not to mention the hairs otherwheres.) And whycome?  We’re in a collective lady trance! We’re being swindled. Sold a bill of goods. We spend to fit in to a stereotype we buy into (literally, with thousands of haircut, style and product dollars) that moms are supposed to look a certain way. You know the way I mean. MILFy. Peak hair. Age limit: 34, tops.

Credit: Wikipedia

Melania Trump knows what I’m talking about.

I used to be one among the waves of the expensive, butterscotch-kissed tresses. Thinking I could turn back time and cheat death. I used to be one of them. I had a specialized hairdryer/curling iron that looked a little like a sex toy that I used daily to achieve The 34-Year-Old Mermaid. It was straight up medieval what I did to my hair. It felt like freedom to toss it. And my Big Sexy Hair products. I say what’s sexy now.

My daughter, though, has been disapproving of my new ‘do. “You don’t look like a girl, Mom,” she said, disparagingly, even though I have been compensating for the lack of hair with lip gloss and nail polish in STILL STRAIGHT DESPITE MY HAIR pink. I have been psyched to save the money on hair essentials so I can use the savings on bold earrings. I am a girly-girl. Yet I’m gender non-compliant among the suburban moms in Baltimore County just because I have short hair. For that reason I am an outlier. Why is this such a gender-wender woop-de-doo for people?

“Do all girls have to look a certain way?” I questioned my daughter. “Do all moms? Where did we get the idea we have to be the same, like a herd of wildebeests?” Out of habit I made the gesture of smoothing down the locks on my head that aren’t there anymore. “I guess it will grow back eventually,” she said. “And you’ll look normal again.”

Baltimore parents, we usually think of our kids as struggling to fit in. Especially in middle school. But have you ever felt that you didn’t fit in as a parent? Because of your hair, your language, your clothes, your religion or sexual orientation? What did you do about it? I guess what I’m asking is, Should I grow my hair back and perform a certain style of suburban Baltimore county femininity because it makes my daughter feel more comfortable? I wish I was asking for a friend.

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


About Elizabeth Bastos

Elizabeth Bastos is a freelance writer mother of two in the NW Baltimore suburbs. Her work has been featured in The Baltimore Sun, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, McSweeney's, and The New York Times. She is at work on a book about reconnecting her children with nearby Nature. When she's not writing, she's hugely embarassing her children by looking for pigeons and animal tracks outside Target.

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