Sunday, July 7, 2013

Hair Envy

Sophia has hair envy. 

We were at her friend Madeline’s house.  I was chatting with Madeline’s mother, while Sophie and Madeline were trying to milk a few more minutes out of their play date, suddenly disappearing into another room when I said things like, “Five more minutes” and “Please get your shoes on.” 

“I’m trying to grow my hair down to my butt,” I overheard Madeline tell Sophia in the adjacent computer room.  Madeline has long, golden locks that are notably longer each time we see her.

Madeline wandered back into the living room to grab some paper and crayons.  Sophie followed her, eyeing the point where Madeline’s tresses ended, in the middle of her back.  She pulled her shoulders up and said, “Well, I have short hair.”

Sophia’s short hair has become the latest point of contention between us.  She has finally given up on campaigning for a sibling and a cat and has moved on to stumping for hair growth. 

“Please mom, please can’t I grow it?  ALL my friends have long hair.”  This is not hyperbole.  All save one do have long hair.  It’s a princess thing. 

“No.  Not a chance.”  I like to be clear.  You open the door a crack and Sophie pushes it open. 

“But why, Mom, why?”

“Sophie, I’ve told you a million times.  Until you let me wash it, dry it and comb it without screaming bloody murder, you will have short hair.”  This is only half of the truth—the other half is that I adore her short hair—the way she looks like a little flapper, how it frames her heart-shaped face and magnifies her eyes.  The bob is as sassy as she is. One day, I imagine I won’t have much say in how she wears her hair, but today, I still have sway. 

“I won’t.  I promise.”

“Well, you can prove that to me by not putting up a fight every morning.” 

“Okay.  I will.”  Sophie says solemnly. 

But the next morning, you would think I was waterboarding her.  “AHHHH!   MOM!  STOP! STOP! YOU’RE HURTING ME!”  I am holding her hair at the root and combing each strand with the world’s widest toothcomb to avoid even a slight tug to her follicles. 

What’s worse, I feel like I’m waterboarding her, I don’t like this any more than she does, but somebody’s got to do it.  Looks like I’ll be able to preserve her as my pixie for a few more months. 

Back in the living room, Madeline did not mean to be taunting Sophie.  But she hit a raw nerve, “I’m going to have hair like Rapunzel.” 

It was just too much for Sophie.  I watched her wince, these words wounding her.

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the discomfort experienced when simultaneously holding two or more conflicting thoughts, beliefs, values or emotional reactions.  For example: “I am stuck with short hair.” and “I desperately want prototypical princess hair.”  We are motivated to reduce this dissonance by altering existing thoughts, adding new ones to create a consistent belief system, or by reducing the importance of any one of the dissonant elements. 

Madeline’s words still hanging in the air, Sophia’s eyes suddenly widened, as they always do when she’s about to share a revelation. 

“Well, I have hair like Rapunzel after she cut her hair.”  She shook out her sassy little bob for added effect. 

Dissonance resolved. 

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