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The Curly Pixie Cut

I have extremely thick and tight curls. If you’re familiar with curl types, my hair is undeniably 3B. For most of my life, I’ve usually worn it at long and medium lengths and periodically, I will decide to cut it all off for a dramatic change. The last time I did that was December 2019. It wasn’t an impulsive decision. I spent a few weeks flipping through photographs of other curly-haired women before I made my decision and got myself a curly pixie cut. A pixie cut is a brave choice and not everyone can pull it off. Not all face shapes complement the cut. Even though Andy’s initial response was that I resembled his look back in high school, I was pleased with my new ‘do.

Fast forward to February 2021 and my hair has now grown into a curly bob. On good (hair) days, my hair looks like a side-parted curly 1920’s flapper or even a 1950’s curly bob. On bad (hair) days, my hair looks like a curly, frizzed 1980’s housewife.

Both of my daughters are blessed with what Ned Flanders affectionately calls “the devil’s curly hair.” Maggie’s hair is exactly like mine. It’s the same shade and texture. Hazel’s hair is curly, but her curls are more like loose waves. If I comb out her hair upside down, she can easily pull off Texas big hair, as in the higher the hair, the closer to God.

Not all, but most children tend to look fairly androgynous until they begin to mature physically. Usually, people can distinguish a girl child from a boy child based on hair and clothing. A pixie cut can look feminine on an adult woman, but on a child, it can make a girl look like a boy. Despite this, I am seriously considering getting Maggie’s hair trimmed as short as a pixie cut.

This is not a stylistic choice. This is not a statement about gender identity or politics. The reasons I want to cut her hair off are entirely practical.

Maggie struggles with sensory processing input. What this means is her senses can easily be overloaded or underloaded depending on which sense and the nature of the stimuli. For most children, detangling hair is an unpleasant but bearable process. For Maggie, it is simply torturous. Her tight curls are already prone to tangles because of her texture, but because of how she processes the tactile sensations of her hair being combed (which is exclusively in a bath loaded with conditioner), she becomes extremely distressed. This problem is common in children with developmental delays and autism. Her brain gets overwhelmed and overloaded with the sensation. What makes it worse is her wearing her seizure helmet all day, and especially worse on days when she will frequently and dramatically rip it off her head and chuck it to the ground. Her hair gets incredibly tangled on those days.

Maggie is not a “normal” kid. She loves water play and the sensation of water flowing from the faucet, but that’s not enough to make her tolerate the hair washing and detangling. If I do it daily or every other day, she will not voluntarily bathe. If I skip multiple days and just keep bath time fun with toys and water play, her hair becomes too tangled to get through a combing when it shouldn’t be pushed off another day, even if her hair is loaded with conditioner. I want to cut off her hair so she can enjoy bath times. Getting upset in the evenings instigates night seizures, too. In other words, I’m choosing hygiene over style.

I don’t care if Maggie looks like a boy. I don’t think she cares whether she looks like a boy or even has any concept of gender. Hazel does. At two, Hazel wants to dress in the girliest of outfits, will regularly raid my scarves and other accessories to play dress up, rejects clothing that seems boyish, and is my Fancy Nancy. I would never consider cutting Hazel’s hair even if her hair got as difficult to detangle as Maggie’s. Maggie doesn’t give a hoot what she’s wearing as long as she’s comfortable, nor does she care what her hair looks like.

No matter what, Maggie will stand out. Her helmet hides her hair anyways. In a few weeks, she will be wearing braces on her feet to address toe walking. She wears a pillow backpack in case of drops. She’s nonverbal, does not understand social cues, and does not know how to play and socialize like other children. She is very slowly making gains in numerous areas, but dealing with her hair has become a daily setback at bath time.


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