A Question of Pink

In the bath last night, Abby was playing with her Polly Pocket mermaids, and called to me as I was buried in homework at the kitchen table (the kitchen table is five feet from the bathroom- that’s how we roll in Little House).

“Mom! I want pink hair like my Polly mermaid and like Marissa…”

Looking up from my paper on leitmotifs in musical theater and film, I can see her in the tub, bubbles piled to her shoulders and her prized Polly in her hand hanging over the edge of the tub and dripping into a pool on the floor. Tread carefully…

I have found, as I get more experience at this parenting thing, some of my knee-jerk reactions are just that- reactions that I have assumed to be mine, but are actually holdovers of childhood and beyond that belonged to someone else, but that I assumed as my own. Reactionary decisions and reasoning that don’t come from my own thought out points-of-view are something I wish to leave behind me, and I caught myself from blurting out “No, you can’t have pink hair, you’re five!”.

Because the truth is? I don’t really care. Despite what some people might think, I cannot believe haircolor (or length on boys) really has any bearing on the character of the person. Not only is Polly Mermaid beautiful with her long pink locks, so is my best friend Mo with her short choppy hot pink spikes. How could I possibly have any credibility if I were to tell my daughter that pink hair was unacceptable? It might be unusual. It might require maintenance to look good. It might not be to everyone’s taste. But the truth is, for all of Abby’s life, a woman I love- who is like a second mother to her- has pink hair.

To Abby, pink hair is normal.

I also cannot fall back on the platitude of ‘little girls don’t get to dye their hair’ because she’s seen Mira with pink ponytails more than once, and Mo’s boys with blue locks repeatedly. So what do I say? And really, how do I really feel about it?

It kind of shocking to look at yourself and realize something you thought you believed isn’t really true at all. Especially if you realize that what you are caring about is perceptions about you, and the kind of mother you are. I have insisted my boys keep their hair short, in military cuts- mostly because I prefer the way it looks. But they’ve been bugging me to let it grow for the summer. My reluctance was not based on any real reasoning- it was based on a holdover from my own childhood that boys with shaggy hair had bad mothers. It was based on snippy comments and not wanting to be judged. So my perceptions of what my children should look like was actually based on my own desire to appear as what I had been told was a good mother.

Do I really think my parenting is tied to the length or color of my kids’ hair? No. I don’t. Am I going to go buy some Splat Raspberry and give Abby some hot pink locks? No, I’m not. But once she is old enough to manage  and maintain it herself, will I freak out and demand she conform? No. I won’t. I’ll put some gloves on and call Mo and have her talk me through how to do it right. Because if my girl is gonna have pink hair, she’s gonna rock the pink hair.

21 thoughts on “A Question of Pink

  1. I totally agree – I sometimes find myself blurting out the “mormon” standards when really, I feel completely the opposite. Now I am in the tough place of trying to come to terms with where things are my feelings and where they are things I was told or the “way things are done” and how I explain the difference to my kids, who are wondering why I have changed my tune. It is a tricky thing but I feel like character is all in how you act and not how you dress (basic modesty assumed) or how your hair looks. I am still trying to figure it all out!

  2. I can’t really think of any holdovers from my childhood that I’ve had to rethink. I’m very lax with my kids–when my daughter wanted pink hair I was stoked. My youngest son actually had his hair in a mohawk because his dad wanted him to. Haha. So appearance stuff has never been an issue for us. I’m trying to think what has been and I’m drawing a blank.

  3. I find myself blurting out something like that occasionally, too, though not as often as I would have originally thought. I can’t wait to see Abby with pink hair someday. I don’t have major issued with hair styles or general clothing styles either even though I do have preferences for my own personal style but that’s based on what I like, not on what is “acceptable.” Besides, it’s just hair. It will grow out and can be changed so easily, it’s not a battle I ever intend on picking.

  4. I would have to telll my daughter she would have to wait- atleast until I get my hair done! It’s been over two years and I’m dying (haha!) to cut and color my hair! I couldn’t pull of s spunky color, wish I could though…

  5. I say you’re totally right to let her do it when she’s a little older! I had a big chunk of my bangs dyed pink in high school and it was so much fun! I wasn’t a rebellious kid or anything so it was fun to be a nice Mormon girl with magenta hair :) I’d do it now except I don’t really want the sweet old matrons at the temple to give me funny looks! p.s. has anyone had colorful hair and gone to the temple? I’d really like to do it again but I don’t know what the protocol is…

    • @catherine- My sister often rocks a funky hot pink style to the temple, I think it is fine…can’t say you won’t get a few looks from the sweeties there but if you have pink hair thats to be expected, right?

  6. I hesitate to even comment, but this is something my stomach gets tied in knots over so here I go.

    I agree, that my child’s choice of hair color will never be a big deal. That said, I wonder if Heavenly Father does care. I don’t care what people in my ward or neighborhood think, I care what God thinks. I know, in the grand scheme of things coloring hair pink is so minor, but he cares about minor things. (Coffee anyone?) If I presented my precious child with the gift of a body and then they wanted to change all of the things I made especially for them, how would I feel?

    This issue especially sparks for me when I have a leadership calling. I’ve always wanted to get a henna tatoo, but when the counsel came out against tatoos and I got a youth leadership calling I felt that I should be above reproach in my example. It might not be a big deal to have a temporary tatoo, but maybe it does? I’d hate to ever be a bad example to someone, when I’m working so hard to be a positive influence in the world.

    Add to this the fact that I’m taking BYU classes online and sign that ecclesiastical endorsement every year. Those standards are very conservative.

    • Jendoop, thanks for speaking up- you’re my friend and your pov is always welcome. I suspect there are a great many (probably most, the blogernacle not being a real representation of the church as a whole) mormons who feel like you do. It’s not wrong.

      What I do think is we care about some of this stuff far more than the Lord does. I know mormons who look like they could be GA wives, and mormons like Mo who have pink hair and tattoos- we each have our ministry and calling on the earth. Some people, especially outside our own communities, wouldn’t be open to the gospel message from an ultra-conservative mormon, but might have their world rocked that a woman CAN actually have tattoos and be a faithful member of this church and a follower of Christ. Because really, the Gospel IS for everyone.

      I think it’s impossible for us to really have the perspective on what will effect or influence someone. So we check ourselves with the Lord, and follow the promptings of the spirit. Who knows, maybe those henna tattoss you like so much will open up a conversation that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

      Leap. It’s not as far as we sometimes think it is. And the love of the Lord is always far, far greater that what we can comprehend. <3

      • Thanks for understanding Tracy. To me the larger issue of this is what is important – accepting everyone into the household of faith, no matter their hair color, tattoo, or number of holes in their skin (or vice versa, you and Mo would let me tag along to the tattoo parlor, right?).

        Leaving room for our differences of opinion in how to live the gospel is a frequent underlying theme in many bloggernacle posts. And that’s good, because I need the frequent reminders to keep my mind and heart open.

      • Of course you could come with us. ;) I think our biggest problems as human beings lie in when we think the conclusions we have come to for ourselves are the same and only ones the Lord would come to. I think the Lord is far, far more expansive in his love than we are.

  7. I love it and I agree. I also think that it takes some of the rebellion out of it when you have a teenager that wants to dye their hair magenta or get a mohawk and you say, “Sure! Let me help you do it right so that you don’t destroy your hair!” In our family, both mom and dad have tattoos and piercings (dad’s have endured multiple infections and had to be taken out, but his ears WERE pierced), and we’ve both experimented with colorful hair. In our wedding pictures, I had burgundy hair and he had blonde hair at the temple, and at the reception the next day, we both had black hair. (Long story).

    I have a couple of ground rules, though: No piercing of anything that has a muscle. It’s just plain stupid from an infectious disease standpoint. No tattoos until you’re at least 18, and Mom the microbiologist has to approve the infection control at the tattoo parlor. As long as you live under my roof, your tattoo artist will use disposable ink and needles and have an autoclave on site!

    For a long time I worried about what other people thought about me, my tattoo, my piercings, and my weird hair at church. One day the thought came to me that I need to be at church just the way I am so that other people — investigators, members who need strengthening, etc. can see me and my husband there with our somewhat liberal appearance and feel comfortable.

  8. I am about 49-51 on this. 49% of me says who the freak cares? But I buy it, I really do. And because I do, the 51% of says I have to continually tell myself ” I know not save the Lord commanded me.” Do I care that anyone has pink hair or a tattoo or talks to them self in three part harmony? Nope, don’t care. But I do know, for me, it will be the little things that come between the Lord and myself. I doubt I’ll ever murder anyone, be convicted of a felony, or drug run in Mexico, but the little things are what I will be tried with. So I do, because I buy it.

    In our ward my husband is Bishop. His second counselor had a very long pony tail for the first three weeks he was called to the Bishopric. No one, not even within the stake, advised he should cut it, but after three weeks he did. On his own he came to the conclusion that the hair didn’t matter – either direction- so, until he gets released he will be a shorty McCleancut out of respect for the Lord’s call and trust. It’s not a worthiness issue but rather a respect issue.

    As far as the temple, well, in our area, we went just last week with the youth for baptisms and were told quite firmly that “No one, not even the leaders, will be allowed in the font with hair dye – of any kind.” There were a few people who were politely led to just confirmations. We were given no explanation, so we told the kids and adults that perhaps it has to do with staining the tiles or perhaps it was just a test of our obedience, who knew? The point is, we were asked not to, so we didn’t. Sometimes things don’t make sense. Sometimes they are ridiculous and separating. But in the long run it gets down to “I know not save the Lord commanded me.”

    Now is there anything written anywhere about pink hair-especially on a three year old? Nope. But there is a perplexing statement in the Strength of Youth: “All should avoid extremes in clothing, appearance, and hairstyle.” Is pink hair “an extreme”? I guess that’s a judgement call or personal preference. At some point we do need to take a stand and say form this point on this is the standard. Whether that comes at 6 or 60 is a personal choice.

    • Smee, it’s good to see you! It’s been a while. Thanks for your comment. I suspect there are a great many people who feel and think as you do.

      The thing is, for me- I deign not speak for anyone else- I tend to not worry so much about the Lord micromanaging my physical world- standards and styes have changed and are constantly changing. It’s the quality of the love I have for my brother’s and sisters that matters, and my adherence to Christ’s teachings. I know you know that.

      The thing about taking a stand is, the line moves all the time- even in our own conservative culture. Like Scarehaircare says below- her grandma was going to hell for wearing pants. That was someone taking a stance. Our garments used to go from our ankles to writs… women couldn’t wear makeup… etc… those things are fluid. Following the sermon on the mount? A constant. :)

  9. In the early ’30’s my grandmother was told she would be “going to hell in a handbasket” for wearing the first pants her small neighborhood in Midvale Utah had ever seen on a woman. Same thing when she was the first to wear mascara. (Unfortunately, the mascara was not the greatest quality and her eyelashes permanently fell out. Tongues wagged that it was her punishment.) She used to tell me these stories with a twinkle in her eye. Pants and mascara certainly did not affect her standing in the church. Why should pink hair now?

  10. Grandma always laughed about it and admonished her granddaughters to buy the best mascara they could afford. Not sure if she bought that stuff from a local drug store or a traveling salesman. :) She didn’t have the good advice from her own ‘Mo’ on what was best to buy.

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