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Gender roles and bad hair days

8:11:00 PM DC Daddy's Wine Time 4 Comments Category : , , , , , , , , ,

A couple of weeks ago, I ran into an epic hair tangle. My bi-racial wife, who tirelessly takes on most of the hair brushing with the toddler, had to leave early. Or "on time", as it's usually known.

Maybe she was late... I can't remember but it doesn't matter. Either way, I was left with an unholy mess on top of my daughter's head. As a white guy, who's been shaving his perfectly straight hair for the past sixteen years, the learning curve on hair brushing is steep. 

This unholy mess was the indirect result of a week of sickness, which meant that she’d been staying home, not needing to go out in public. Getting cleaned up and dressed for her regular playgroup fell to the wayside. 

While taking a bath the night or two before her return, however, I noticed how like a bird’s nest her hair looked. I privately hoped my wife would do something about that before she went back to “school”. 

Back to the morning when we were all running late... Well, the toddler wasn't running late because toddlers aren't responsible for being on time. 

My wife ran out the door with a barely audible apology for needing to hurry. Whatever. Super "regular dad"has got this shit.  

Staring at the back of her head, I thought you’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Not one strand of hair was left free and untangled from any other hair. It was like someone had rubbed their hands into her hair for hours, aiming for the poodle effect.

If only I could shave it off…

I started spraying some hair stuff in and teasing out the tangles and occasionally yanking on her hair, earning an “Ow, you’re hurting me!” from the toddler. After furiously working on tiny section for almost 15 minutes (hours in toddler time) and barely making any progress, I started sweating profusely.

I picked up a hat and tried that. Yes, it looked acceptable to me but society would probably disapprove. Then I wondered what the other parents at the group would think when she inevitably took off the hat. She’s 3, right? All the kids are 3ish. Does it matter how a 3 year old's hair looks? Would people balk if I shaved her head? Would CPS come for me for not properly caring for my child’s hair? It’s not like she was filthy or anything.

Thinking back on my own life, I was never one to just follow the rules. I had a Rainbow Bright doll when I was 5 or 6. I wore different colored socks to school because, in my mind, before socks were dyed they were the same color, so underneath they all matched. I even went through a period of going commando. And, pertinent to my current predicament, as a elementary/ junior highschool student, I didn’t brush my hair (I did wash it). It was just hair, right? No one would think ill of me for having perpetually messy hair.

That was until I heard that several parents and maybe one or two of the teachers at my school thought I was a slacker and a drinker (true story). 

Still no one really said anything to me and I was allowed to get away with my disheveled appearance for years on end. Most of us boys were. We rarely got criticized for looking un-presentable. Even when teachers did take notice, it was usually a half-hearted admonishing, perfunctory. Our friends never really gave a shit. Girls would give us a pass, depending on our social status, or just completely ignore us.

We could openly fart, too.

As boys, we were allowed a certain level of grossness, but woe to the girl who came to school looking less than immaculate (whatever the hell that means). Shit would most definitely be talked about her. Shit would be talked about her even if she came to school looking presentable, but said presentation wasn’t the status quo.

Boys didn’t have much of a status quo to live up to when it came to dress and hygiene. From jocks to preppies, to Goths to wannabe whatevers, jeans and t-shirt have always been acceptable for most casual occasions. You could even wear the same thing a few days in a row, so long as it wasn’t too dirty.

Once again staring down at the back of my daughter’s head, I contemplated the inequity of old-fashioned and current gender roles. A few glaring realities immediately became obvious to me: neatly brushing out her hair wasn’t gonna happen but neither was it my time to make a stand against sexist ideologies via my daughter’s tangled hair. Compromise was the only way.

I pulled that shit into a sloppy ponytail, threw some jeans and an ugly t-shirt on her.

Hurray to me- the lazy and frustrated, social justice warrior dad.   



  1. Love it! Invest in a "wet brush". That's its name. Revolutionary for any hair type. Seriously. I have 2 1/2 feet of hair and this brush is the shit. No pulling, super fast, and can be used on wet hair. Mind was blown.