Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bad Hair Mom

I have bad hair and it’s mostly my fault. I’m the kind of woman who has no hair styling skills whatsoever. I let my hair air dry. The pony tail is my up-do of choice. The one time I dyed my hair it was purple (on purpose). Getting layers was adventurous. If I’m feeling fancy or have a big event (like, oh, say my wedding) I’ll blow dry and maybe use a bit of hairspray. Maybe. I do own a flat iron but really I just can’t be bothered. I can barely stand the 30 seconds it takes to comb through my hair after a shower.

It takes 20 minutes to comb through my one year-old daughter’s hair. That’s if she cooperates. ‘If’ being the operative word. The first time we saw Zoey was through the nursery window. I had assumed she would be bald. But no. The nurse plucked off Zoey’s little baby cap and holy heck! There was thick black hair all over Zoey’s head. When we washed her hair for the first time it corkscrewed into tight, tiny curls. I took about a million pictures of her cute curls and then I thought, “Uh-oh.”

I struggle with Zoey’s curls. They turn into tangles .5 seconds after combing. After sleeping or a ride in the car seat the back of her hair is a mess of knots. Early on, I googled hair care products. I consulted various professional stylists. I accosted people in public that had similar hair to hers: “Um…so…what kind of products do you use?” My husband eventually asked me to stop doing this. “We do fine with her hair” he said. “We? WE?!” I said. Or maybe shrieked. “What ‘WE’? When was the last time YOU combed out her hair?”* I was perhaps the merest bit frustrated.

Zoey is bi-racial (African American and Latino). She doesn’t have “white” hair (like mine) and she doesn’t have “black” hair. I couldn’t find any advice on this. Even bi-racial hair care tips were geared toward African American and Caucasian kids. One person in Target suggested I shave Zoey’s head so it would grow back in with “a better texture”. A neighbor told me not to cut Zoey’s hair because it would “never” grow back. One internet site told me to wash it every day. Another said to only wash it once a week.

And the products? Don’t even get me started. We have spent well over $150 on gels, sprays, conditioners, oils, lotions, and shampoos. Most of them are expensive. Most of them smell bad. And none of them make combing out her hair any easier. There is a wasteland of hair care products under my bathroom sink. In my not-so-great moments I see all those products as a growing monument to my failures as a mom and maybe even my failures as a woman. Shouldn’t I know how to style my daughter’s hair? Shouldn’t I know how to style my own? Here’s a confession: I barely know how to regular braid. French braid? Don’t even ask.

Combing out Zoey’s hair is a chore. For both of us. So much so that I get panicky at meal times. I’m afraid Zoey will smear hummus or sucked-on graham crackers into her hair and I’ll have to comb it out. Again. A friend jokingly suggested we put a shower cap on her at meal time. I’m seriously thinking about it.

Lately, we have a morning hair ritual. Zoey sits in her special wooden chair (one that was her Dad’s when he was little) and I kneel behind her armed with a spray bottle of water, leave in conditioner, and a wide toothed comb. Zoey is supplied with 20 minutes worth of Goldfish and I take a deep, cleansing breath and ask the Hair Goddess for patience. I begin with the curls at the base of her neck. Stretched out they reach past her shoulder blades. I take a few curls between my thumb and forefinger and I begin to comb, starting at the ends. Sometimes it feels rather Zen and other times it feels only slightly more appealing than cleaning the bathroom. Depending on how dirty the bathroom is. But the point is: I do it. I am getting better. I am learning her hair the way I have learned the rest of her: the moons on her finger nails, the curve of her cheek, and the tickle spot just behind her knee.

I love Zoey’s curls. I love to see her silhouette against new morning light. I love to gently touch the curls at the nape of her neck. I love to breathe in her curls as she sits in my lap and I read her stories before bed. My daughter has beautiful hair and she is going to grow up knowing it. Even if her mother has bad hair, can’t braid, and has a wasteland of hair care products under her sink.

* Please note: Demetri now combs out Zoey's hair every weekend and is darn good at it. He also came up with her current hair product regime that includes a 2 in 1 kids shampoo and conditioner, gobs of leave in conditioner (that we wash out), and a detangler spray. All of which cost under $6 thankyouverymuch! GO SUPER DAD!


  1. You do a TERRIFIC job with her hair! It is beautiful and sweet. And no worries - I braided all the hair for the colorguard squad in high school and can do all sorts of crazy braids. We can practice on dolls. ; )

  2. My nephew saw a picture of Charlie on the computer a few weeks ago and asked my sister, "What happened to his hair?" She explained that it had grown in very curly. His reply? "Well, do they ever BRUSH IT?" We call Charlie "Kramer" most of the time, because, well, you know....

  3. Dont feel bad, Jos. Having curly hair of any ancestry is a life long adventure! My mom went through a similar thing with me every morning!!! It just does what it wants to do. Im proud of my wild hair and its a sign of my inner wildness (although I did think of your blog this morning and I tried putting some leave in conditioner to try to tame it a bit...! I tell ya, life long adventure...)

  4. I don't know why I didn't see this post until now...who really thinks that if you cut her hair it will never grow back? That is so funny. I certainly have no advice to offer. I'm a one-minute hairstyler myself (wash-n-go). You know, I always had straight hair (if you'll remember) until I had kids. Now it's all curly for some strange reason (I don't do ANYthing to it). I may need to get some advice from you soon!

  5. I love Zoey's hair.


  6. "I am learning her hair the way I have learned the rest of her..."