About a week ago I wrote a post about the media's speculation about Ashley Judd's changed appearance and her diligence in taking them to task for their attitude. I sat on it for several reasons, the strongest of which was that I was unsure of myself. Not unsure of my thoughts, but unsure about what others might think of them.
It's one thing to form opinions about body image, vanity and lack of self-esteem in the relative comfort of my office chair; quite another to put those thoughts out there, open to criticism and analysis by others. I welcome discourse, but not necessarily about a subject so nuanced and sensitive. It's different in person, when we can exchange ideas and explain our poor choice of words, but the disadvantage of blogging is that once it's out there it seems as if it's written in stone, right there in black and white, unflinchingly staunch and unyielding even if there really is more to say.
So it's still sitting in my drafts folder, collecting virtual dust and becoming less relevant by the minute. Perhaps that's the way that it should be; perhaps these thoughts come and go just as they should, content with being typed but not shared.
Then, this past weekend, Erin begged for a haircut. She didn't just want a trim; she wanted the length gone. All of it.
And I flinched.
I wrestled with so many emotions, thinking about how pretty her hair is when it's all combed and fixed and perfect. Thinking about how I have been growing my hair for what feels like forever and it seems to have stopped significantly north of my shoulders. Hearing those antiquated voices that say girls hair is prettier when long; why do I entertain those voices, when I love short hair and admire the women who rock it?
I realized that it isn't about me–it's her hair. Still, I did my best to talk her out of it.
Logistics won, because she hates that her hair tangles and I've grown weary of shushing her when she cries as we coax the knots out every morning and again before bed. I took a seat in the waiting area after I instructed the hairdresser as to what we'd discussed. So when I looked up from my magazine and saw said hairdresser shaving Erin's now bare neck I was one unhappy mama.
When I walked over and saw that she gave her a 'stacked' cut in the back, with the front sides just a tad bit longer, I literally bit my tongue and argued with the woman about what, exactly, 'chin length' means. I recalled the hundreds (ok, maybe half that, but you get the gist) of times my former hair gal tried to talk me into getting a cut similar to what Erin now has, short and spiky in the back, and just a tad longer in the front.
It's a cut that I know wouldn't look good on me (I'm jealous of those it looks great on), so I assumed that it wouldn't look good on my girl. I totally missed her toothy smile and her beaming eyes as she checked out her new self in the mirror while I was busy arguing and mourning the loss of her long locks.
I was letting those stupid voices–the ones that say our beauty comes from a certain haircut, a certain body type, a certain insert-stupid-standard-here–get in the way of seeing how she is breathtakingly beautiful just as she is.
My girl is so incredibly happy with her short cut. She calls it sassy. She says she feels more like herself now, that she loves that she has no knots, and that she can sleep an extra few minutes in the morning. She asked me to paint her fingers and toes, and we made some funky headbands for her to wear. She's been more 'girly' in the past few days than I ever remember before. Because she feels good. She is confident. She thinks–and believes–that she's beautiful.
I know that, sometime far too soon, she'll start to hear the voices too. I don't know that we can ever stop those, no matter how often we tell our kids that they are beautiful, smart, radiant and loved. I think that we all, at some point, question who we are and if we 'fit'.
My prayer is that, no matter what age, when Erin looks in the mirror she sees this girl that she is today. I pray that her eyes don't cloud over with convention, as mine have, and that she always lets her sass shine .