My “Beautiful” Hair

Sophie and I played “hair salon” today. I sit on the floor of her room while she brushes and puts barrettes in her dolls’ hair, waiting my turn. When my turn comes she tries to brush it but quickly becomes frustrated, because of the curls. Then she sticks some barrettes near the bottom of my hair, says “It’s beautiful!” and then I get up and finish cleaning the kitchen.

Except today, I forgot about the barrettes.

Three hours later, I took Sophie to ballet and hip hop at the Y.

It wasn’t until the kids’ bath, when Andy walked up behind me and started tugging on a barrette, asking “What’s this about?” that I remembered.

“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.” —Mark Twain

My Kitchen Salon

We often make bread in the bread machine. And mix milk and whipping cream together to make our own half-and-half. And we try, we really try, to never eat out but by never I mean at least once a week at around 6pm we look at each other, exhausted, and we look at the kids, screaming, and we go out.

We have our indulgences. We’ve given things up. And while I don’t think I could ever give up my haircuts with Nicholena at Mitchell’s Salon & Day Spa (see her at the Northgate location, especially if you have curly hair—she’s amazing), I did agree to give up professionally dyed hair purely for budgetary reasons.

Only recently has my mom encountered a few gray hairs on her head. My head, though, has hundreds of them. I’d like to blame my children but she had three children, too, and taught a classroom full of kindergartners for 30 years so I don’t know why she’s just now going gray and I’m long past the plucking stage.

I can’t dye my own hair. I’ve never tried, but I know it would be disastrous. I’m not good with hair. It took me a long time to discover product for my own hair (and my hair needs product). My friend Greg once asked me to cut his hair with seemingly fail-proof clippers in college. He ended up with a bald spot on the back of his head. My sister asked me to dye her hair in high school. I still feel bad about the red streaks that resulted.

So Andy and I made an agreement: I would stop having my hair professionally dyed and he would dye it for me.

And that’s what we do.

I like to pretend I hate it. My kitchen is not a fancy salon. In fact, it’s not even a fancy kitchen, what with its laminate, muddy brown floor and 1980s cabinetry and chipped laminate countertop. Every few months I pull one of the cheap Ikea chairs the kids use at our dining room table and scoot it next to the dishwasher. I grab an old towel—the same towel we use for Tucker’s muddy paws, sick kids and large spills—and, after taking off my shirt, I wrap it around myself securing it with a wooden clothespin. I pour a glass of wine and while the dishwasher cleans the night’s dinner plates next to me, I debate: Garnier Nutrisse Dark Brown or Feria Deeply Brown.

Andy weighs in, takes a picture of the top of my head with his cell phone so I can see the difference between the previous color and my roots. We decide. He opens the box and fights with the plastic gloves designed for women. I note the brown bananas on the plate on the counter and consider making banana bread. He pierces the “colorant” tube and squeezes its contents into the “developer” bottle. I look at the paper-plate ghost Sophie made in preschool, hanging on the refrigerator. It’s December, I think. I should switch that ghost out for the Christmas crafts she’s bringing home. He opens the “fruit oil concentrate” and adds it to the mix. I try to guess what the crumb is underneath my bare foot.

Then, Andy attacks. He goes about his job with great intensity in part, because of love (I like to think) and in part, because he knows if the outcome is not good I will insist on having it professionally color corrected, which I’ve informed him is more expensive than just an all-over color. He apologizes for constantly poking me in the head with the bottle. He lifts up large handfuls of hair and applies, applies, applies, swishing hair this way and that, up and over, back and forth (I have a lot of hair), muttering to himself. He runs out. Determines he needs another box to adequately cover. He remixes. He applies some more.

Throughout the process he breaks to wet a paper towel and dabs my face—a lot of my face, I always think—to rid my ears, forehead, cheeks, sometimes nose (?) of dye gone astray.

Always, when finished, he swoops up my heavy, wet hair (he uses two bottles, after all) into a pile on top of my head. He peels the gloves off his hands and sets the microwave timer for 25 minutes. He brings me my laptop. And I sit. And I wait.

There’s not a Vogue in sight. There’s no softly playing music. My towel is often itchy. I grow impatient.

The timer rings. I go up to the bathroom, checking on the boys who we just moved to twin beds. I turn on the fan, start the shower and rinse and rinse and rinse, until my fingers wrinkle and the water runs clear—and cold. I exit, put on on my flannel pajamas and sit next to Andy on the couch. He critiques his work. He points out the few grays he missed, the nonuniform color. I realize the hair blow dryer is tucked away in Sophie’s bedroom from her night’s bath and I debate risking waking her up to get it or going to sleep with a head full of wet hair.

My kitchen salon is not glamorous. And I would be lying if I said I never wished for a salon-color experience. But there’s beauty—different than salon beauty—in my kitchen, too.

And for that, I am grateful.

“By common consent gray hairs are a crown of glory; the only object of respect that can never excite envy.” —George Bancroft

Hair, Adorned

Since Sophie had enough fine hair for me to slip through a barrette, I have tried to adorn her hair. She won’t stand for it. No barrettes. Ponytails. Pigtails. Headbands. Bows. Most days I love her now-long, now-thick, unadorned hair. It’s beautiful and natural and messy and soft. And hers. All hers. But sometimes, when we’re playing with each other’s hair, I adorn. And I love. But it never, ever lasts.

Until her last haircut.

Some history: Nicholena has been cutting my hair for years. Sophie loves Nicholena. She talks about Nicholena often. Some days, she begs me to take her to get her hair cut, even when it doesn’t need cut. End history.

At our last visit, Nicholena and I decided we should try to grow out Sophie’s bangs (we, of course, asked Sophie her thoughts on the matter and, after consideration—and explanation—she agreed). But then I thought about the adornment—or lack of. I expressed my concern to Nicholena. How would I keep her bangs clipped back during the sometimes-awkward, growing-out stage?

So Nicholena spoke with Sophie. She told Sophie how much she loved barrettes and headbands and how pretty she thought they would look in her hair. Sophie listened, intently.

And then. After almost four years of my not being able to keep a single barrette in her hair for any length of time, Sophie insisted on this the next day—the entire day:

At our next visit to the salon I plan to ask Nicholena to share her passion for green beans and broccoli.

“The hair is the richest ornament of women.” —Martin Luther

Finding Time for Me, Specifically, My Hair

I’m still terribly behind updating my blog but, to be fair, I’m terribly behind on everything right now, including laundry, thank-you notes (they’re coming, I swear) and, well, my hair. Up until yesterday, I had not had a haircut since early March—before we moved, before the boys were born, before I was put on bed rest. For some women, four months between haircuts isn’t uncommon. But I have big hair. And when I don’t get it cut, I have really big hair. So yesterday I took advantage of the fact that Andy had had some child-free time the night before with friends to have some of my own child-free time and I headed out to Pump Salon for a much-needed cut and color.

Never before have I had a more embarrassing haircut.

Thankfully, Nicholena, who cuts my hair, recently had a second child of her own and was more than understanding.

Here’s what happened:

1. As Nicholena applied color to my hair she found not one, not two, but three (three!) I-kid-you-not dreadlocks in my hair.

Now, to be fair, you should know that I have curly hair. I can’t brush it. If I were to brush it, it would be huge. Instead I wash, condition and run my fingers through it. Styling involves several handfuls of mousse and a ridiculous amount of Frizz-Ease hairspray. I never blow dry. So the fact that I had three small sections of terribly tangled hair isn’t all that unreasonable. But still, I was mortified.

Lately, showers have been hard to come by. And when I do shower, I throw on clothes and then tend to whomever needs tended to while my hair starts frizzing and getting bigger and bigger, drying without product. Not wanting to live with a huge head of hair all day I usually find time to take a 30-second break to apply mousse and hairspray. Throughout the next few days I haphazardly place bobby pins to hold curls that pop loose. And then, eventually, I find 10 minutes to shower again.

Nicholena was awesome. She acted like she finds dreadlocks in curly hair all the time (I’m sure she doesn’t). And she painstakingly combed each one out. I’m thankful she didn’t have to cut them out.

2. Once the color was applied I got to sit on a comfy chair with my feet propped up on an ottoman. I flipped through Glamour, Cincinnati Magazine and Allure. And then I fell asleep. Minutes (seconds?) later I woke up to find the back of my right hand covered in hair dye. Apparently I was propping my head on my hand and my head, in my sleep-deprived-nap state, slipped. I’m looking at the stain on my hand as I type this. Yes, it probably would come out if I showered but remember, I don’t have time to shower.

3. As Nicholena washed the dye out of my hair I felt her pulling. And pulling. And pulling. Pulling ridiculous amounts of hair. Out. Of. My. Head. Apparently postpartum hair loss is normal. And thankfully, I have a lot of hair so losing a lot doesn’t do much. Yet it’s still quite embarrassing to see your hairdresser clutching fistfuls of your hair. Nicholena reminded me over and over that it’s normal but did admit she was amazed. Sorry, Andy. I’m sure there’s going to be some shower drain unclogging in your future.


I love the cut and color. As well as the expensive deep-conditioning shampoo and conditioner I bought in an attempt to keep the whole dreadlock thing from ever happening again. And I have to believe (or at least hope) I’m not the first new mom any of this has happened to. And, I suppose, in a not so pleasant way the experience did remind me that even though things are crazy busy for me right now it’s OK and good and necessary to take time for me or else, I expect, more than my hair will end up in tangles.

“Hair brings one’s self-image into focus; it is vanity’s proving ground. Hair is terribly personal, a tangle of mysterious prejudices.” —Shana Alexander