The Day My Mother Cut Off My Hair

Please understand what hair is to a girl with low self-esteem.

When I was about 9 years old, I lived in such a dysfunctional atmosphere that I was prone to dissociation. I was profoundly depressed, so I learned to “go somewhere else” inside my head. I had a rich inner life, because my outer one, in a nutshell, sucked.

One day I was abruptly wrenched from that world, though, when my mother cut off about 12 inches of my hair. I screamed. I cried. But the damage was already done.

She said to me, “I told you and told you that if you didn’t wash your hair properly, this was going to happen.”

The thing is, I have no memory of her giving me that warning. None. I remember being shocked when she said that.

Maybe she did warn me. Maybe I was somewhere else at the time. There’s no way for me to know.

In my profound depression, it wouldn’t surprise me if I wasn’t taking particularly good care of myself. Looking back at this as an adult, you’d think this might have been a red flag that called for some sort of intervention on her part, rather than an opportunity to violate my body in such a horrifying way, but no.

Please understand what hair is to a girl with low self-esteem. It’s something to hide behind. It’s practically all you have. When someone chops it all off without your permission, it leaves you exposed, vulnerable, and feeling completely out of control.

And while a pixie cut may have looked cute on Twiggy in the 60’s, one glance at the photo of me below and you realize I wasn’t exactly rockin’ it in the 70’s. When you’re 9 and have no other thing to identify you as female, it’s devastating. I was mistaken for a boy for about a year. I wanted to crawl under a rock and die.

I took to wearing a big, ridiculous looking floppy hat. But I couldn’t wear it at school. There, I wore things with flowers. I hate wearing things with flowers. It’s not who I am. But this hairstyle was not who I was, either.

When you’re a few short years away from puberty and already confused about who you are, the last thing you need is to have what little ability you have to express yourself wrenched away. I don’t know if this was the only contributing factor, but to this day, I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin.

Please don’t do this to your daughters unless they want short hair themselves. There has to be another way. Communication would be a great starting point.

Very few photographs of me from that time still exist. Whenever I see them, I can see the pain in my eyes. I want to take that little girl in my arms and rock her and tell her how wonderful she is. Someone should have done that at the time. Nobody did. That was the crux of the problem.

1972 ish School Pic - Barb

Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book!


Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

6 thoughts on “The Day My Mother Cut Off My Hair”

  1. Got rid of all childhood photos in my teens. When those you look to for support tell you you’re stupid and ugly and even the school photographer calls you Olive Oil, such photos are painful reminders. I also refused to sit for yearbook pictures so it’s near impossible to find photos of me before my 20’s. Still camera shy and hate that everyone has a camera on their phones. Hair or no hair, never comfortable in my physical skin but love the soul I’ve become beneath it. Hope you do too because it shines through your writings as a beautiful portrait of your humanity.

  2. I am sorry you had to endure that period and wait till your hair grew back to feel better about yourself. From reading this it seems to me this was a painful situation for you. If I may ask, did you have any feelings toward your mother? How do you think about her?

    1. Thanks, Florita! I loved my mother very much, but it was a complicated relationship, and I think her parenting skills were not the best. I think I went through a lot of trauma that I shouldn’t have. But then, none of us are perfect, are we?

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