Recently, The New York Times declared, “Mom Hair: It Exists. Now What to Do About It.”
As a mom and a spokeswoman for hair, I feel uniquely qualified to declare, “No: It Doesn’t.”
Not in the way this judge-y, insipid article implies, anyway: As a marker of shame and a daily reminder that your sex appeal is a thing of the past. Kaput. Dead on (baby’s) arrival.
“In fashion there are ‘mom jeans,' “ it begins. “So, too, there is a counterpart in beauty: ‘mom hair.’ You’ve likely seen it at suburban malls: the longer-in-back, slightly-shorter-in-front bob that should read sleek but is inescapably frumpy.”
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I can’t even picture that, but I don’t need to. The writer’s point has been made: I am trying to be stylish, but I don’t know how because I’m a mom and I don’t live in Manhattan. So I’m subjecting the mall-going public, and the rest of humanity, to my frumpy. (It’s inescapable!)
What am I thinking? What are ‘you' thinking?
“The first thing new moms want to do is cut their hair off,” Juan Carlos Maciques, a stylist at the Rita Hazan salon in Manhattan, told the Times. “They’re feeling lousy about their bodies, and they just want to get some sense of self again.”
I remember feeling a lot of things as a new mom: bewildered. Sore. Transformed. Besotted with a barely describable love. Grateful. So, so grateful.
Lousy about my body? No. I felt in awe of my body, actually. I had never felt more proud of my body, which had just successfully grown and delivered a human being. And then, on demand, produced the only nourishment that a human would need to stay alive for months and months.
If any new moms feel lousy about their bodies, it’s because people have told them they should. People who have a terribly narrow definition of beauty and pummel the rest of us with that definition when they sense our departure from it. People who can’t abide women determining their own style and, more to the point, their own self-worth.
Which brings us to mom hair.
Buried beneath the judgment, the Times article has a kernel of a relevant idea. Women often experience hair loss after giving birth, which can be a scary, tricky thing to navigate.
But, like so many discussions about women’s bodies, it quickly veered away from health and well-being and into appearance and, predictably, weight.
“It’s not just your hair that’s changing,” Maciques said. “Your body is, too. You might not be at the weight you really want to be yet. And the truth is, long hair can be a little bit of a distraction. When you go short, you are more exposed. There’s less, literally, to hide behind.”
Remind me why we’re hiding again? Oh, right. The weight. The lousy body. The inescapably frumpy.
I can’t believe this is how we talk about moms.
I can’t believe we capture the attention of women who are, in all likelihood, working tirelessly to pay bills and meet deadlines and feed children and enrich brains, and we exploit it. We waste their time and wither their spirits by telling them that’s not enough. They still need fixing.
Mom hair is not a menace. We don’t need to decide “What to Do About It,” because it is not threatening our security or contributing to climate change or discriminating against our fellow Americans.
It’s hair. It grows on top of our heads, which we use to think and create and problem-solve and love.
That alone makes it beautiful. End of story.