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Sherri Richards, Published December 03 2011

Richards: Donating locks worth the risk of ‘mom hair’

Over the past three days, the SheSays section has featured stories of hair, illustrating the power it has in shaping self-identity and even expressing faith.

The series was inspired by a power struggle of sorts with my own hair, as I debated cutting it the past few months.

During both my pregnancies, in 2008 and again this year, I let my hair grow out. Those pregnancy hormones did crazy thing to my body, but amazing things for my hair. The longest layers nearly reach the middle of my back.

As my now 3-year-old daughter brushes out my hair with a pink, plastic Barbie-sized brush, she tells me my hair is like “Tangled” – an animated adaptation of “Rapunzel” and her new favorite movie. In this version, Rapunzel’s 70-foot long mane has magical healing powers. Eve tells me she wants hair like mine, too.

At a high school graduation party this spring, I noticed a clique of teen girls, all willowy thin, all wearing variations of the same short sundress, and all sporting long, loose locks like mine. “Who am I kidding?” I suddenly thought. “I’m too old to have the same hair as a teenage girl.”

I told myself I should get it cut, but didn’t. Now Baby Owen’s chubby hands have started grasping and pulling on my long strands. Plus, I’m shedding like crazy, as most women do postpartum. My husband disgustedly pulled one of my foot-long strands out of his casserole the other night, reason enough to sport a shorter ‘do.

Still, I’ve hesitated to get it cut, relishing the compliments I get on my mane, and mainly because I recall the words of a beautiful, younger, Brazilian friend.

I met Thai, a college buddy’s wife, four years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter. In her charming accent, she immediately complimented my long, wavy hair, and noted she was glad that, even though I was pregnant, I didn’t have “mom hair.” You know, short and practical.

Three months after Eve was born, I cut off all my hair, donating two ponytails to Locks of Love, an organization that gives human hair wigs to kids who’ve lost their hair for medical reasons. Eve’s little hands had discovered the strands, and I was going back to work. I needed something more practical, something short.

Thai’s comment stuck with me, though, after that and several more haircuts. “Mom hair.” Whenever the word “mom” is used as an adjective, it’s not good. It indicates something is unsexy or dated. See: Mom jeans.

This time around, having entered my 30s, I didn’t want the equivalent of mom jeans on my head.

Then I interviewed Sally Larson, whose daughter Sophie began losing her hair as a toddler. Sophie recently received a human hair wig from Locks of Love, a story we shared in Friday’s paper.

Hearing how that wig has helped Sophie feel more confident and allowed her to curl and style her hair just like other little girls made me realize that my hair does have special powers, like “Tangled.” It has the power to help.

To help a child like Sophie who doesn’t have hair of her own.

I’ve decided to again donate my hair to Locks of Love. I’ll happily have “mom hair” if that’s the end result.

Besides, I’m pretty sure my daily haphazard ponytail screams “mom” more than any short hairdo.