DEAR HARRIETTE: My ex-husband’s new wife completely crossed the line with me the other day. She took my daughter to get her hair “trimmed” and brought her back with about 4 inches of her real, natural hair cut off. My daughter insists that she wanted her hair short, but as you can imagine, I was completely blindsided. I’ve had no issues with my ex-husband’s wife up until this point. My daughter likes her, and she seems to be a nice woman. However, now I am completely furious that she thought she had the right to make such a bold decision on my daughter’s behalf. My daughter is 6 years old and isn’t allowed to make decisions like that without asking me. My ex-husband knows this. What should I do? — Haircut
DEAR HAIRCUT: Go directly to your husband’s new wife. Ask to speak to her, and express your concerns. Do your best to stay calm and clear. You want to maintain your power in this situation, and emotion will drain you of that.
Tell her how disappointed and upset you are that she had your daughter’s hair cut without your permission. Point out that a haircut is a big deal in your eyes, and your ex knows that and knows that you would not appreciate this violation of your jurisdiction. Acknowledge that for the most part, you two have a positive rapport, and you know that your daughter and she get along. You would like for that to continue. For that to happen, she must honor your authority and check in with you before even mentioning major changes to your child. (c) DREAMLEAPERS
I’d probably react exactly the same way if I were the letter writer. But since I’m not her, I have the objectivity to see that this situation isn’t worth getting upset over. It’s entirely likely that the hairstylist overcut the hair. This happens to me all the time. I’ll say, “I’d like my hair to be cut just above chin-length,” and then I’ll put my hand, laid out flat, right along that crest between my mouth and my chin. Every single time, the hairstylist will cut it nose-length. I’m not making this up. I’ve started to wonder if hairstylists lack visual comprehension.
It’s like when I order a sundae. I always say, “I’d like the such-and-such sundae made with such-and-such flavor of ice cream, and I don’t like or want any whipped cream.”
That seems rather straightforward, does it not? Do you know what I get asked by the ice-cream employee, every single time? “Do you still want hot fudge, nuts, and a cherry?”
Now, let’s think about this. If I didn’t want hot fudge, nuts, and a cherry, then why would I have singled out whipped cream as the topping I don’t like?
Every. Single. Time. I get asked that. I’ve tried modifying what I say to this: “And I don’t like whipped cream, but I do like all other standard sundae toppings,” which yields this response: “So, you still want hot fudge, nuts, and a cherry?”
I give up. I’m pretty sure that if I were to take this approach: “And I don’t like whipped cream, but I do want hot fudge, nuts, and a cherry,” then the employee would respond, “So, you’re saying you just don’t want whipped cream, but you do want everything else?”
Yes. That’s what I’m trying to say. Maybe I should just give up. I could order the sundae without modifications and then remove the whipped cream. But I’m bound and determined not to fall victim to logical mental glitches. We can’t let ourselves be ruled by them. I have faith in a society where we can all somehow harmonize how our minds work, and I’ll never give up on that.
My cause may not be as holy as St. Joan’s, but it’s still meaningful. Ordering will become streamlined. Useless questions will go the way of the buggy whip. People will come to visualize things the same way. The exact image in my mind of the haircut I want or my ideal sundae will transfer to the other person’s mind via mental telepathy, and my hair will never get cut too short, nor will my sundae ever have whipped cream (but it will, of course, have hot fudge, nuts, and a cherry).
Anyway, my point is this: hairstylists see a little kid and automatically think, I need to cut off a lot of that kid’s hair so that his/her parents won’t have to bring him/her back anytime soon. I’ll save time and money for today’s busy parents. And then they get scissor-happy. This is why little boys get almost all of their hair chopped off, and little girls have ugly bangs that are wayyyy too short.
Now, as a parent, or step-parent, if you only want your kid to get a trim, you have to bend over backward to override this automatic thought and convince/persuade your hairstylist that you’re just looking to have the ends trimmed. And even then, you’re taking a gamble, because the stylist might choose not to believe you, or he/she might decide you don’t know what’s best. I’m not making this up.
So it would be tragic indeed to blame the stepmom. I doubt she had much to do with it. Now, the letter writer could discreetly ask her ex what went down at the salon. A la, “I don’t want to cause problems, but how did little Shelley wind up getting so much of her hair cut off?” But I’d give the benefit of the doubt here. I’m not exaggerating when I say how many haircuts I’ve gotten at nose-length when I asked for just above chin-length. It’s disturbing and somewhat freakish.
But also, this letter writer needs to give her daughter some more autonomy. I’m not an expert as I have no kids, but six is old enough to decide that you want a shorter haircut. If the kid regrets it later (which seems like a minimal worry, but I guess it could happen), you can gush and fawn all over them like it’s darling, maybe buy some new barrettes, and remind them that hair grows really fast.
I suspect the letter writer was hit with a bad case of feeling threatened by the stepmom. I can understand that. I disagree with Harriette’s advice. This isn’t a noble hill to die on, because there’s no evidence of malicious intent. I mean, it’s possible that the stepmom thinks the little girl did, indeed, get a “trim”. Four inches isn’t a haircutting massacre.
My daughter is 6 years old and isn’t allowed to make decisions like that without asking me. My ex-husband knows this.
To some extent, she needs to trust her ex-husband to make decisions from a place of good intentions. The girl didn’t get her head shaved or get tattooed or get body piercings. Divorce shouldn’t be the kid’s problem. If Mom can choose a haircut, then so can Dad. This isn’t something that warrants division. Decisions will be made in divorced families, and sometimes you have to run with it. As long as there are good-faith reasons for the decisions, then you don’t really have a problem unless you choose to have a problem. It’s a haircut! The kid’s fine.
Also, if I were this letter writer, I’d research the recent news story about the girl whose mom got her highlights for her thirteenth birthday, and whose dad and stepmom disapproved, so they had all her hair chopped off and made her look ugly. Upon investigation by local authorities, the girl hadn’t broken any of her dad’s rules. It was more like he found out that she’d become pretty, so he decided to ruin her life. She was completely traumatized and terrorized, and there’s video of her sobbing her eyes out and apologizing while her dad and stepmom watch on in approval as her hair gets chopped off and framed into an ugly-as-sin boy cut.
It all went viral, obviously, and what saddens me is that a lot of people reacted like it was funny. Like it’s a funny joke. Um. At any rate, the girl no longer has to spend any time at all with her dad and stepmom unless she chooses to, and one very generous organization got her a nice wig of her choosing. (Her hair looked hideous. I love pixie cuts, but this was like a boy’s haircut.)
People were calling it emotional abuse. I’d say it was even similar to physical abuse. She was forced to sit there as if she was restrained, or something. So not cool. I’d like five minutes alone with her dad, her stepmom, and some scissors. But… we’ll have to believe in karma here.
So the letter writer needs to realize that nothing remotely like that happened to her little girl. Perspective is important here. What occurred here isn’t bad. It’s hair! Let it grow.