About a month ago, after a particularly challenging day/week/month, I got up in the middle of dinner, went to the bathroom, locked the door and cut my hair off.
I had toyed with the idea of cutting my hair for months. Years, even. (I wanted to chop my hair off and bleach it blond, Sia-style.)
Every time I entertained the idea, the peanut gallery responded with a resounding NO!
"No! Don't do it, Mom! We like you with long hair. Don't change, Mom. This is how we like you."
And so I'd hug them and promise that I would still look the same come morning. And the next day. And the day after that.
Don't change, Mom. This is how we like you.
It came up again, recently when I was trimming Revi's bangs and took the scissors to my own hair while everyone was getting ready for bed.
"NO, MOM! DON'T DO IT!!!"
Everyone looked petrified.
"What? I'm not doing anything. I'm just ... never mind."
And then, a few weeks back, as we were all sitting around the dinner table, everything went quiet. The kids were arguing and Hal's back was out and everyone was asking me for something at the same time and "Mama? Mama! MAMA! MAMAMAMMAMASNJADBMAMAMA!" and I just kind of broke.
I kept hearing their little voices, begging me not to change and suddenly it was all I wanted to do. Not to devalue them, but to empower myself.
Don't change, Mom. This is how we like you.
So I got up from the table, went into the bathroom, locked the door behind me and proceeded to change.
BUT I WANT TO CHANGE. I NEED A CHANGE, OK? AND I'M SORRY IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT BUT THIS IS MY MOTHERFUCKING HAIR.
I cut my hair in the same way I cut my kids' hair. I started on one side and went to the other—back and forth until the right length was achieved. I use this little pair of paper scissors with an orange handle. You can only cut little bits at a time with these particular scissors, which I appreciate. Once the left and right sides were the same length, I put my hair in a series of ponytails, pulling the hair up above my head so that I could see what I was cutting across. (I had someone fix up the back the day after I cut it because it was not exactly straight across. Cutting the back of one's hair is a tricky enterprise.) I cut my hair and lightened the load.
It didn't take long for my family to come a-knocking.
"Are you pooping in there, Mom?"
"Bec? Are you OK?"
"Mommy, do you need a wipe?"
"Mama! Can I use the bathroom now?"
I unlocked the door. Hair was everywhere. I hadn't bothered to clean it up or cut it over a trashcan. It was all over the floor and on the vanity and in the sink and all over my shirt.
"Hi. I'm not pooping. I was just—"
"YOU CUT YOUR HAIR!"
"IT LOOKS LIKE MINE!"
"Wow. You look. Different."
"Do you like it?"
"Uh, I guess?"
"Why did you cut your hair off?"
It occurred to me that all these months/years of ALMOST changing my hair but not, was me being a shitty parent to myself. I always tell my kids to do what makes them happy. To wear their hair and their clothes and their mismatched shoes with pride. (Fable still wears mismatched shoes to school for fun.) I tell them to DO what feels right for them, regardless of how others feel about it. I tell them to CHANGE what they want to change, not what they are told to.
I haven't decided if I'm going to go full-on with the bleach job. I did it once before (in high school) and it turned out bright yellow and it took years for my poor hair to recover, so I feel like maybe I should have learned the lesson. Since Archer was born, I haven't colored my hair because I have been so concerned with maintaining and embracing my natural body/color/self, which I still want to do. But I also want to change it up after ten plus years of Samey Mc Samesame. I want to listen to MY voice sometimes instead of just theirs. Because "Don't change, Mama," while understandable, cannot interfere with my own mantra, "It's OK to change, Self."
Because it is.
It's so OK that it's IMPERATIVE. It's the law.
"I cut my hair off because I wanted to. Because it's my hair and I wanted a change."
It was silent for a moment and then everyone shrugged.
My hair was shorter. I was the same, but better because I listened to myself. Because I got up from the table without saying a word. Because I felt like I was choking and I did something about it. Because sometimes one must excuse herself and leave the room so that she can find some peace.