Long hair can mean long hours

A seemingly innocuous exchange in my household:

“Honey, could you empty the dishwasher, please?” I ask.

“Oh, sure, Mom,” replies my youngest. “I’ll just finish my hair.”

I let out a big sigh.

You would think that I would be satisfied with my youngest daughter’s reply. It sounds like she’s being reasonable. Pleasant. Even eager to appear agreeable.

But the proof is in the qualifier. The phrase “just finish my hair” in most households translates roughly as “just a few minutes.” Alas, in my house, it could mean an hour and a half. (Picture the line-up outside the bathroom door in some iconic episode of the Brady Bunch.) Preoccupation with hair can cause delays not only in freeing up the bathroom but in getting chores done or getting to school on time.

I only have myself to blame. Okay, her father can take credit for giving my youngest daughter her flowing crown of glory. Me, I have run-of-the-mill brown, thin hair that I can never grow much beyond my shoulders. And do something with it? I run a brush through it, and that’s about all the taming it will accept.

Which explains, in part, why I’ve encouraged my daughters to grow their hair long despite the trouble: I LOVE beautiful long hair. (Perhaps it tugs at my heart because it’s an original archetype? Think Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.)

It all started back when my youngest was a wee one, and the hair started coming in fast. I didn’t have the heart to cut it, but it was so thick and curly that it didn’t flow neatly down her back. Instead, it sprung out from her head, not quite like an afro but almost. The sheer volume startled everyone who saw her for the first time. It looked like a massive helmet perched at the top of her little two-year-old frame. One of my neighbours laughed, saying “Any moment now that girl’s going to tip over from the weight.”

If you’re thinking of allowing your child’s hair to grow long, be warned: the benefits may not outweigh the work involved. Keeping a girl’s hair long can be a huge challenge before they learn to brush it themselves. With my older daughter we kept the tangles somewhat in check by keeping her long hair in braids—long beautiful braids they were, too. In Grade Four, a teacher gave her the nickname Pippi Longstocking, who was my daughter’s favourite fictional character at the time, and to whom she bore a striking resemblance, especially on the Halloween when we dressed her up as Pippi and wove her long hair along an extended coat hanger so that her braids stuck straight out. Brilliantly original, I must say.

My youngest daughter did not take so kindly to braids. So at times the tangles would go unchecked. And with curly dense hair, the challenge of keeping it from matting is enormous. In fact, just remembering the HOURS I spent detangling her hair makes me feel a little more sympathy for the hours she now spends in front of a mirror. When you have hair down to your waist, it takes time, dedication … commitment. Though she does more than just detangle: she dries, she straightens, she pins it up, she takes it down, she sprays, she fusses. It’s exhausting just thinking about the time involved.

As a result of her efforts, though, my daughter emerges from her boudoir looking like her idol, Lana del Rey. Except with longer hair.

Some time, I’m sure my daughter will transfer all that focus and energy to more practical pursuits.

In the meantime, I bought her a ‘professional’ ceramic styling brush last night. She was delighted and spent at least an hour in the bathroom testing it out. Apparently it works beautifully.

Margaret Hoogeveen is a local writer, editor, and mother of two school-aged daughter.

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