The long and short of it

I found myself gazing wistfully at my daughter last night. I don’t do wistful, generally speaking. I well up at things from time to time (most Wednesday nights whilst watching 24 Hours in A&E, in fact) and I am sentimental now and then. But wistful? Not really.

So, what was she doing? I hear you ask.

Nothing particularly wistfulness-inducing. She was twirling her hair round and round and into a bun on the top of her head. Okaaaaay, I hear you thinking. Nothing particularly special about that. Oh, but there is. You see, she has long hair. And she can twirl it up into a bun on the top of her head.

I feel an explanation is needed.

As a young girl (a few short years ago) I yearned for long hair. But my hair was very, very thin and wispy. After many fruitless attempts at growing it, Mum took me to her hairdresser and they suggested that it might be an idea to cut it short to see if it would thicken up. And oh, how it did. So thick, in fact, that it made it almost impossible to grow it. I managed to grow it once when I was in 6th Form and to keep in line with the fashion at the time (and as my friend was training as a hairdresser and asked if I would be a guinea pig) I had it permed. The result was a very thick, wavy mess. (I had spent four hours with curlers in as that was how long it took for the perming solution to penetrate the thickness). Subsequently, I have always kept my hair short and even at that length it is still unbearably hot in the summer and I feel like ripping it from my scalp. Having said that, I can’t imagine myself with anything other than short hair and I have been quite daring over the years with different styles and colours.

When I was little, I used to pretend I had long hair by putting towels on my head or scarves: anything long and floaty that I could tie to my head would do. I had a Girls World hairstyling head that I LOVED. I was so envious of my friends flowing locks and I was taken back there last night whilst watching A twirling away. I was, and still am, very much in the minority when it came to hair length and there were times when I felt singled out or excluded because of it. Sounds dramatic, but it’s not easy to join in at sleepover makeover sessions when you don’t have hair to “put up” and it does make you an easy target for lesbian jokes, or just downright being mistaken for a boy (and not always from behind). You only have to look at the female role models of the time – Charlie’s Angels; Wonder Woman; female pop-stars of the time, like Madonna – to see that long hair was de rigeur. The only women in music with short hair in the 80’s were in the Human League (OK, and Shirley from Wham! but she doesn’t count) – I liked their music but they weren’t pin up’s. I embraced it more in the 90’s and started getting edgier styles – I once got mistaken for Marcella Detroit from Shakespeare’s Sister; a highlight of my late teens – but through school life it was a bit of a bane. Not only was I tall enough to have to stand in the back row with the boys for school photo’s: I had a matching haircut. I think this had a lot to do with me not wearing very girly things. I have always been happiest in jeans or trousers and had an almost pathological fear of having to attend a formal function that required a dress. Even the prospect of wearing a wedding dress wasn’t a completely happy one.

When she was tiny, I feared that A had inherited the wispy gene as she had a head of Mohican-style fluff. Luckily it grew a bit, flattened and, although it was thin, after a few years in a short bob it was thick enough (but not too thick!) to grow. And grow, and grow. I love watching her twirling it around. I love helping (in my very inept way) to put it up in styles for her and I even have a Pinterest board of hairstyle ideas just for A. She has always wanted long hair and I can’t see her cutting it short any time soon (I have never enforced this, by the way- I loved her cute little bob). I know it’s not PC to encourage your daughter to be girly or to fit into the stereotype that girls should have long hair and wear dresses. But, I am glad that she likes it long and I am glad that she will wear a skirt from time to time and that she likes to get dressed up a bit. It’s taken me until my forties to consider wearing girly things and since turning forty I have bought no less than 4 dresses – up to that point I owned a big fat total of zero – and a few pairs of high heels. My favoured attire will forever be jeans and I will always have the teenaged me in my head saying I look stupid in anything else, but I have got better at shoving a figurative sock in her mouth.

Who knows what my girl will do with her hair in years to come? I won’t stand in her way if she wants to chop it all off (I may weep a few tears into my pillow) but I won’t discourage her from keeping it long. Her lovely, long hair. Twirling it round. Sorry, I’ve gone all wistful again.




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