Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Aug. 15, 2008

Hair today, gone tomorrow

From my vantage point on the beach, I glanced at daughters Katie and Mariya sitting on the pier bench, both of them looking out over the lake. Despite the six-year age difference, they are pretty good buddies, so it didn't surprise me to see them sitting with their arms around each other's waist.

But what happened next made me laugh, Slowly, Katie's hand drifted upward until it reached Mariya's head and she ran it back and forth over the top, palm down.

This is something Katie has been doing frequently - ever since her older sister decided to shave her head. She likes the contrast - how it feels so rough when she moves her hand in one direction and so soft in the opposite.

I also had to laugh at myself. I thought of those fleeting moments after Mariya told me of her plans . . . those moments of thinking, "Why would my little girl want to cut all her beautiful thick hair off?"

Niece Gabriela made an interesting observation when she saw a picture of Mariya with her previous "do" - a mohawk. "Did you notice how all the women went, 'Oh my gosh,' when they saw the picture, but the men just shrugged their shoulders?"

I'm not quite certain what to make of that, but I have a hunch it has something to do with the fact that we have long given men and boys more room to be adventurous, more space to take chances.

This was brought home recently when Art was looking at some pictures from the 1920s of his mother and some of her friends. He didn't really think much about the photos, other than wondering why there were so many. Then Donna said, "We made those clothes ourselves for our trip to a cottage up north. We felt so risque wearing pants out in public."

Sure enough. In every picture they were wearing pants, an act in the conservative Midwest that was then considered a bit daring. In an odd twist, now pants are the more conservative choice of dress for women.

I also thought about my Mom - how her teaching contract was not renewed once she and Dad married because female teachers were supposed to be single. I'm not sure if it was because the school board felt a married woman couldn't give adequate attention to being both a teacher and a housewife, a fear that she might become pregnant during the term or if it was just because that's how things were done. It was probably a bit of all of those.

When I was Mariya's age, we were considered daring to wear such things as tube tops or halter tops.

I also recall Mom wondering out loud where she had gone wrong since, fresh from college, I had signed up as a Peace Corps worker in the distant land of Ecuador. She saw it as a sign that I was unhappy with Kansas.

But when we get to be a certain age, I think we begin to see these youthful experiments in a different light.

We had heard Mariya speak for several months about going from long hair to short. Later, there were weeks of considering going from blond to black. Then the out-loud wondering about having a mohawk and then "buzzing" all her hair off. None of them were spur-of-the-moment decisions.

Husband Art predicts that when it all shakes out, Mariya will end up with hair like mine - short and with its natural color. He reasons that while Mariya likes to experiment in a controlled sort of way, she is pretty practical. In the end she, like me, will more than likely find that short and natural is less fuss and there are just too many things to experience in life without spending so much time fiddling with your hair.

And he may be right. Mariya has already discovered the hard way that hair is pretty effective at keeping a scalp from burning!

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