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.