The Mama Daughter Dynamic

There are two things I have grappled with most of my life.

One: I have always had hair angst. If it is long, I want it short. If it is short, I can’t wait for it to grow out. And, I have always wanted bangs. That thick fringe that sets off your eyes or the side swept bangs that frame your face.

The second, and one that is most shocking, is I have always typically done the complete opposite of what my Mama has wanted me to do. Pretty much every big decision – from marrying the first husband to not going to law school– has been the polar opposite of what she has wanted and demanded of me.

Both – the bangs and the Mama – have given me fits throughout my life.

And the horror of both is that Mama has always tried to dictate what she thinks I should do with my hair.

There was nothing quite like going to the salon as a teenage girl, with dreams of how you wanted your hair only to have your mother standing behind the chair telling the stylist, “Just give her a perm. And she’s growing out her bangs, so don’t cut them again.”

“I don’t know why I can’t do what I want to my hair,” I would protest.

“Because I know better,” she said.

In a moment of desperation, I once cut my own bangs the night before going to a school competition at the state level.

I think I placed out of pity.

“Why did you do that to your hair?” she asked me.
“You wouldn’t let me get bangs. I needed bangs!”

“You didn’t need that!”

I had cut them so short and unevenly, they were a jagged line about an inch below my hairline and would curl up like corkscrew pasta. It was a wretched mess and there was no way to fix it.

Granny took me to get a pair of shoes.

“Shoes?” I asked. I never turned down shoes but thought it was an odd outing.

“There’s nothing we can do with your hair, but you may as well have some cute shoes as a consolation prize.”

Of course, this probably set me up with the belief that when all goes wrong, buy shoes.

Mama just used this as a multi-purpose example of what goes wrong when I don’t listen to her.

She never lets me live down anything, either, so for the longest anytime I didn’t heed her warnings, she would remind me: “Don’t let this be another cutting your own bangs incident.”

Mama has been quite outspoken and vocal about all my mistakes.

“I don’t know why you married your first husband,” she said one day. “I never could stand him.”
“Maybe if you had, I wouldn’t have,” I replied dryly.

Granny snorted at this comment. In all of her infinite wisdom, Granny never uttered one bad word about my first husband while we were dating or married. She waited until the divorce was final before she expressed her utter disdain of him.

“Well, Jean, you knew how we felt about her daddy, and you married him anyway. Reckon that’s the only thing the old gal got that was like you,” Granny stated.

Mama reminded me every chance she got about what a mistake I had made by marrying him. She recited every time she had warned me and had been right.

I did like I always had and tuned her out.

“You aren’t listening because you know I am right!” she would say.

She urged me to go to law school and I didn’t.

Every time I have complained about my career – or lack thereof – her immediate response has been: “Well, if you had gone on to law school like I told you, you would have had a better career. But you don’t listen to me. Even when I am telling you something that will help you.”

“Where’s the fun in that?” I asked. “You would have absolutely nothing to hold over my head.”

Granny once told me to not pay her any attention.

“She ain’t never listened to me so I don’t know why she expects you to listen to her,” she said. “Bobby listens to me; Cole will listen to you. That’s what a son does. But a daughter is made to not listen to her mother.”

Maybe she was right.

I was needing a change recently, tired of my chin length bangs and sent Mama a photo I found of the hair I wanted with soft, long bangs.

 “Cute!” she texted back.

I called her the day of the appointment. “What do you think about that cut I sent you?”

“I thought it was precious! You would look so pretty with your hair cut like that!”

“Really?” Did she see something different than the one I had sent?


“You saw the photo of Emma Stone, right? With bangs?”

“I don’t know who Emma Stone is, but I saw the girl with the red hair and bangs and loved it. Are you getting your hair that color, too, or just the bangs?”

“Just the bangs.” What was going on? She always fussed about me coloring my hair.

“Well, it will look good on you. I can’t wait to see it.”

“So, you think I should get bangs?”

“It’s your hair. You should get what you want, and I think that will be adorable. So, if you want it, get it!”

I walked into the salon in shock. Had we finally, after 46 years of existence, turned a corner?

And then it hit me: she was reverse psychology-ing me.

Not only did she reverse psychology me; it worked.

I didn’t get the bangs I wanted, but I will.

Even if I have to cut them myself.

The whole she-bang predicament

Men, I’m gonna go ahead and warn you – you may not be able to relate to this.

Or maybe you will; some men do stress over this matter and perhaps a few should.

But it involves hair. Particularly, bangs or no bangs.

I decided a few months ago, I needed a change.

My rear wasn’t seeming to get any smaller (thank you, cheesecake and wine) so I decided I should change the hair style I had been sporting for a number of years.

The side part, with the long bang that was supposed to end at some point on the side of my face to give me the illusion of having cheekbones and a thinner face than what I really have.

Hey, I have one of those weird shaped faces that has been described as square, oval, completely round, and triangle.

At this point, I feel like a Bobble-head who doesn’t know how to describe my head shape other than “watermelon large.”

So I decided I needed a change and bangs would be a nice one.

They could cover my forehead wrinkles, as well as a multitude of over-plucking sins. I maybe should add I have some type of hair obsession disorder that needs its own DSM-5 classification.

Would another cut/color/style look better on me than what I currently have, and would it look good the day after I leave the salon?

Back to my latest obsession-bangs. Bangs were my style of choice as a teen into my mid-twenties, heavy and thick falling to my brow.

I had people tell me I looked like Shannen Doherty from her “Beverly Hills, 90210” days. Not a bad comparison, mind you, until you are asked if you are as horrible as Brenda Walsh.

Somewhere post-college graduation, I decided to grow the bangs out, after a horrible short bob made me realize how round my head actually is.

Then, several years ago, on my first visit to a new stylist, I told her I wanted bangs. She obliged. It never occurred to me that the barely noticeable waviness to my hair would cause my bangs to curl up when dry, making the bangs far shorter than they appeared when wet. I ended up with severely short bangs that made me look like Nancy from “Lil Abner.”

It was maybe the first time I cried over my hair.

It did not help that during a Monday morning meeting, my boss kept interrupting to ask me if I had that done to my hair on purpose, had I paid for it, and how long would it take for my hair to become normal again.

He meant it in semi-jest, but I cried again later.

It was so bad, even Mama didn’t offer her derogatory two cents she usually does about my hair.

So I swore never again would I sport bangs.

Until a few months ago. I decided they were the change I needed.

And they have been the boil on my forehead ever since.

I just knew Mama would hate them, but instead she told me I looked like Abby Scuito – all I needed was pigtails – so she was fine with my new ‘do.

I didn’t even have the righteous self-rebellion of being able to justify my choice by declaring to my mother it was my hair and I could have bangs if I wanted to.

No, for once, she stole my thunder and said my new bangs were, “absolutely adorable.”

Just how every 40-something wants to be described.

My hair obsession has been worsened by the fact I have several anti-bang factors working against me. I have a widow’s peak; I have several cowlicks; my hair has just enough curl that when it’s humid, the under layer will kink and curl through the top layer making me look like I am turning into a she-devil.

They are a commitment I was reminded of when telling my stylist maybe I should just let them grow out.

“It will take almost a year,” I was told.

And there is only so many ways you can wear in-between bangs without sticking some kind of hair clip in there that makes you look like you are 5.

Part of my hair dysmorphia now includes seeing photos of people with styles sans bangs I covet. All one length, center parts, long flowing tresses – my hair could look like that, couldn’t it?

“Oh, the problems you have,” Lamar said as I grimaced in the mirror, pulling on my bangs.

When his hair gets on his nerves, he takes his clippers and buzzes his head down to the scalp, leaving just a fine layer of fuzziness.

I just didn’t feel like I looked like myself.

To prove my point, I ran into one of Cole’s former teachers the other day and she almost didn’t recognize me.

Sure, I had a new color – I was now a deep mahogany with blonde highlights, but the bangs had completely changed my appearance. Maybe the bangs aren’t me.

I told all of this to Lamar, who said nothing. He just frowned and waited until an appropriate time to turn back to the TV.

Men may not understand or have any sympathy about this, but women probably do. The struggle of how to fix our hair, whether to cut, color or perm it. It was a never ending battle.

I wasn’t sure what to do exactly, but I was pretty sure I was going to grow out my bangs, even if it did take a year.

Just in time to cut them again.