"Dad, I want to cut my hair".
Heather, my 10 year old, is telling me how she plans to rip out my heart and drag it around the back yard. I've tried very hard over the years to keep my personal preferences on hairstyles just that - personal. The fact is that I love long hair. Not for myself - my personal coif has only ever grown straight out from my head until I look like a chia pet. But on women, especially the women who inhabit our home, I think the "Rapunzel" look is great.
My wife has always indulged this preference with the same enthusiasm that I shave. The fact is that I would prefer not to have to wake up and scrape a jagged deadly sliver of metal across my throat, risking cuts, razor burns, and certain death (don't laugh - you've never seen me shave. It is NOT pretty!). But it all comes out even. I love long hair. She hates beards. We each have adjusted.
Our two daughters, have, until now, gone with the flow. Mommy has long hair, so they do, too. And don't talk to me about being a Daddy Despot - I do my share of shampooing, conditioning, brushing, drying, and braiding. I've taken responsibility wherever I could. Which is not to say we haven't had the "haircut" conversation before. When Heather makes new friends, she bounces around the idea of matching her hair to theirs. My greatest fear is that someday she will become best buddies with Sinead O'Connor.
"Dad, are you listening? I said I want to cut my hair.".
In the past, I've considered forbidding her from ever letting scissors touch so much as a strand. My wife has gently reminded me that this would only make her more determined, and we'd probably find her one day with a machete in one hand and half her scalp in the other.
I'm thinking "No problem, honey. Don't let it bother you for a moment that it will send me to an early grave. Don't worry for a second that you'll be throwing away 10 years of happiness for me. I'll get over it. Somehow."
What I usually say is "It's your hair. You are welcome to do whatever you want. It can always grow back if you don't like it."
"Mom?!? Dad isn't listening again."
Debbie shows me an article from the Jewish News. It's talking about people who have cut their hair for "Locks of Love" - an organization which takes donated hair and uses it to create wigs. Those wigs are given to children who have lost their hair while going through chemotherapy. Heather, who can sit on her hair, read the article and wants to participate. Isabelle (the 7 year old who worships the ground upon which her big sister walks) is standing next to her, nodding vehemently.
Thoughts of personal preference, selfishness, parental control, and the crime of missing out on an amazing "life lesson" mingle uncomfortably in my mind.
A week later we are in John Robert's Hair Salon in Solon. Debbie graciously offered me a chance to decline, if I thought it was going to be too hard to watch. But I'm there - video camera in hand. It took me a while to think it through, but the fact is that the gesture the girls are making is too important. I have to give my full support.
When the cutting starts, my enthusiasm surprises me. It's all smiles for everyone. We had read that some people become emotional when their hair is cut, but the kids and my wife are laughing and enjoying themselves. Everyone keeps asking me if I am OK with this, if I have second thoughts. I'm too busy taking video, snapping pictures, and cheering to answer.
The girls have never been in a hair salon in their lives, and they are swept away by the sights, smells, and the pageantry of it all. They want to know if we can get one of the funky hair-washing chairs for our house. When they are told they will not only have their hair cut, but styled as well, they are ready to adopt the stylist on the spot.
My wife seems a bit more subdued, but also happy to have a hair style that doesn't require so much maintenance.
Once it's all done I ask them how it feels, how they feel. "Great!" is the un-ambivalent response.
When we are back in the car, Heather tells me, "You know what, Dad? I'm going to start growing my hair out. That way I can donate it again."
I can't wait.