Friday, April 10, 2009

Charlotte of Langham Place

My daughter is midway through her seventh year. She is a mild-mannered creature, anxious (perhaps too anxious) to Do as she Should and offend no one. Sometimes I forget that she is also very strong-minded, and has definite, though quiet, opinions of her own.

She had very long, curly hair last year, and decided she wanted to donate it for kids with cancer, after reading of another girl who had done the same. When she went to the salon, much was made of her - the beauty of her hair, the kindness of her gesture, the 'sacrifice' she was making. I could tell she was a little unnerved by it all, but she went ahead in silence, just smiling politely at all the people hanging over her and cooing.

When they asked her how short she wanted it, she put her hands up to her temples and said "Here."

"Oh! -- really? You have such beautiful hair, you don't want it TOO short?! Don't you think, maybe....[indicating her jaw] here?"

She glanced at me (I smiled sympathetically and said "you tell her"), hesitated, and said "Well, I wanted it here."

"Oh, well, how about here?" [hands at earlobes] What we'll do is, we'll cut it here, and then you can still tuck it behind your ears."

In the natural order of things, children defer to adults. Charlotte deferred, and got this.

It was nice enough - she kept it this way for quite a long time. Not by choice, though - in the course of nine months two other stylists refused, in the sweetest possible way, to cut her hair the way she wanted it.

A few weeks ago she told me she wanted to try again. I asked her how she would like it, and she named one of my friends. "Just like hers."

Okay then, we were off to the salon again. This time, almost a year and three haircuts later, she was very firm. "It's this one," she told the stylist, pointing to a magazine picture.

"Wow, that's short. Did you pick that yourself?"


"Is it what you really want?"

"Yes. I like it."

"Are you sure?"


And now she has this.

And look how happy she is.

We live in a sexist world, to be sure. It's a mad merry-go-round that girls are thrust onto, when very young - even the stylists collude, unwittingly, in buttonholing them into a Disney Princess stereotype. I'm glad I didn't step in, that first trip to the salon - I'm glad I let my daughter find the strength of will to make her own decision, even if it took her a year.

Raising girls is difficult. There are a host of obstacles pushed in their way from infancy - obstacles to good self-esteem, obstacles to independence, obstacles to healthy attachments. I worry a lot that I will fail to equip my daughters properly to make their way in this hostile world...I worry that they'll listen to the wrong people and accept lies about their abilities, talents, and potential. But then they surprise me. And as silly as it seems, these little victories, like this one of Charlotte's, give me a bit of comfort.

Maybe they'll be okay.


Anonymous said...

Adorable haircut, adorable (and smart) child.

Valerie said...

Charlotte has a wise, intelligent Mom. I think the two of you will do just fine.

Having only a boy to raise, and 15 nephews, I had completely forgotten the "hair = little princess" thing from childhood.

Personally...I prefer short hair. And Charlotte is lovely in any type of hair, as your photo's indicate.

Gena said...

Oh, she's too adorable! And her hair is great. I can't believe people flat out refused to give her that cut when you were standing right there!

She's lucky to have a Mom who lets her find her own strength and express herself. I would love to have a little girl one day, and I hope that I can let her make her own decisions and come to things in her own time.

mel said...

They'll be ok. You're a good mom.

(total side note - my hair looked just like this, for a little while anyway ;) There's a class pic from 7th grade and it's very hard to pic me out from the boys. Sadly I think all the comments on that prompted me to grow it out - in the following year's pic I look very different!)

Dave Hingsburger said...

Voice. Choice. Personal power. That's what this post is about to me. I love how you handled the situation. Many parents would intervene and speak for the child. Intervention isn't teaching. Charlotte, now, has a beautiful haircut - she also learned something important about ... voice, choice and personal power.

Geek Knitter said...

I think they'll be just fine. It was a valuable lesson for Charlotte to learn, and she got the perfect haircut out of it. Well done to both of you.

Stace' said...

It's the easiest style ever!!!! Love it!

Gwen said...

Good job, Shan. Love the new lid.

Brenda said...

Great new do, I love how happy she looks!

You are raising her to be a strong, confident, intelligent woman who knows what she wants, just like her Mom! :)

Emily said...

That is such a lovely, encouraging story and she looks SO cute with her pixie cut! Good for both of you!

Jodi said...

Good for Charlotte, getting what she wants! Personally, I had a pixie cut forced on me as a child and absolutely hated it -- I wanted my hair long, but my mother thought short was much easier to manage. So, different strokes for different folks.

Perhaps the stylists had suffered traumatic short haircuts when they were little like I did? Who knows...

Christy said...

I must be super emotional today because I cried when I read this post! Good for Charlotte and she looks awsome!!!!

Cynthia said...

Good for her! And you -- I'm pretty sure I would have stepped in a year ago, to encourage her to "tell the stylist what you want" or to tell the stylist "she told you how short she wants it." In fact, I'm still not sure I could keep quiet. I see the benefit of letting her find her own voice, but it's hard to step aside.

Also, of course, my Charlotte is five, which might make a difference.

Ssejors said...

As a young girl I always had super short hair. In high school I was nicnamed little man! BUT I LOVED IT! It was so freeing and Clean and comfortable and she Looks Just awesome and beautiful. Like a little woman. Very proud!

carlarey said...

She looks terrific. That smile says it all.

My boy caved in to pressure and got his long hair cut last summer because everybody kept assuming he was a girl. He immediately regretted it, and hasn't cut it since, swears he never will. I love having a kid who goes against the grain.

Erin said...

You're both strong females. Well done Shan & Charlotte!

lizbon said...

She looks fabulous. She IS fabulous.

Jenny said...

What a wonderful daughter you have. Must learn it from her wonderful mother!
I have a friend whose daughter shaved her head a couple of months ago and donated the money to cancer. These children are amazing!

Alison said...

LOVE(10000)! I still haven't found the strength to do the same - I got dumped over a haircut years ago, and part of me still wants my hair short, but I'm too chicken...

Anonymous said...

ooohhh so bueatifuly cute
your a wounderful mom the second I saw where you were going I knew how it would end....wel I was picturing shinad oconoor short hair but itreaally great and your daghter going to grow up strong and womenly
strength is womenhood
I live in a college town rather than an island and I'm so exicited and greatful of our youth. we have come a long way baby just not the way we thought we would:):):) since when does anththing go as planed,
ps heres a link to a great female author/podcaster

Annalea said...

Shan, you seem so aware of the challenges your girls will face growing up . . . I only hope I can do half the job I see you doing (albeit only through a blog keyhole).

I have a pretty strong personality, and I worry I've done my share of personality squashing when it comes to my daughters. I'm doing better each day, but I still worry.

I'm trying to edge my way up to short hair . . . I think I would love it. I'm equally afraid, though, that I would hate it, and be stuck with it for a year. lol

Hooray for Charlotte, and hooray for her haircut!

tara said...

Hey Shan, she looks great! I was at least twice her age the first time I lopped my hair off like that. And yes, I got all sorts of comments. But she looks so happy, and so sure of her choice! You're raising a great girl!

Kristine said...

That's wonderful. Robb and I have been having this fight in regards to Lucy. He has a tendency to say she is "too smart" or "scary smart," and he is such a wonderful, good man that he has No. Idea. how those labels get used against girls.

I'm proud of Charlotte. And proud of you.