Pudding Was A Girl
On Friday afternoon, I was trying to hold it together. I was exhausted, and wanted to crawl into bed, but that wasn’t an option. I’d kept Pudding home from school with a cold, but she was just getting more and more hyperactive.
I went to the bathroom, and when I returned to the kitchen, I found some hair that had been snipped. Close by were some kitchen scissors, that had been placed out of reach, but nothing is out of reach to Pudding. It was only a matter of time before she cut her hair again, and that was the time she chose.
At first I was relieved that such a small amount had been cut, but when I picked it up to out it into the rubbish bin, I found lots more. I did not handle it well.
She’d cut the hair above her ear, and It looked like a one-sided mullet. Together with the bits of hair that she’d cut close to the scalp the last time, it looked really bad.
The next day I’d calmed down considerably, but I still hated the hair. The last time she’d cut it, we’d taken her to the hairdresser. Spectrummy Daddy thought that if we established that hair could only be cut in a salon, she’d stop attempting it at home. I’d demanded a pixie cut, but she refused and did her best to fix it up. I didn’t like the “style” with Pudding’s contribution to the procedure still clearly visible.
So on Saturday, I resolved to take matters into my own hands. My friend came over to help (make sure I didn’t go too far), and Pudding got a pixie cut. It really looks adorable. Her eyes seem even larger than before. The bits that she cut blend in much better. It has more texture, but is easier to manage. I love it.
She hates it.
She felt how short I was cutting it at the back, and ran from the chair. I had to finish trimming as she bounced all over the place.
But worse was to come when she looked in the mirror.
“Pudding was a girl.” Over and over. Followed by screaming and crying.
We went out into the garden to calm down, which I hoped would happen quicker without any mirrors around. My friend took this photo, which at once shows how cute her new style is, and how unhappy she is about it.
While Pudding has always been attracted to long hair, I never realized she had made such an association between hair-length and femininity. I thought she just enjoyed the tactile sensation as a sensory seeker. Pudding’s hair came in slowly as a baby, and doesn’t grow quickly now. I didn’t realize that she had this impression that girls must have long hair, and boys’ must be short.
She was still upset later when we went to an event with the consulate community. I mentioned to another friend how upset she was, who told me she’d read recently that girls in kindergarten will already exclude other girls if they don’t have long hair! Like Pudding needs another reason to be excluded- we can’t even get her onto kindergarten.
A couple of days later, and she seems to have settled into her hair. At least, she can look into a mirror without tearing up. We went to the shops to let her pick out new hair accessories, and everybody agrees how gorgeous she looks. It is long enough for her to twirl still, but dries much more quickly (the noise of the hair -dryer is a problem for our girl).
So we thought our problem was a 5 year-old who is a little scissor-happy, but now I wonder at how her self-esteem may be affected. There is a bigger problem that our culture so effectively constructs femininity that hair-length is such a serious matter at such a young age. Then again, should I be pleased that a child on the autism spectrum is sensitive to such matters?
I don’t really have the answers to such questions. I’m just trying to raise two children to be as happy and balanced as possible in a world that isn’t always very accommodating to those who are different. If Pudding feels she needs long hair, then I’m not going to get in the way of that. I just hope she doesn’t self-sabotage when she next feels the urge to cut.
And given how long it is going to take to grow her hair out, maybe she’ll learn there is much more to who she is than her hair, a lesson I once learned myself. Long hair or short, she’ll always be somebody.