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Feb 25 2014

I Find Myself Defending Teachers at the Hair Salon (and Everywhere Else!)

By at 3:58 pm

hair-salon

The next time someone asks me what I do for a living, I plan to say that I’m a dental hygienist. Maybe a carpet salesman. A baker? Hmm… that’s an idea. Who doesn’t love cookies? It’s too bad that I’m a terrible liar.

I was mid-haircut the last time the question was posed to me. “I’m a guidance counselor,” I said, with a smile. I glanced around the salon and waited for the inevitable commentary to come. That train is never late.

“Well, you scored an easy gig!”

“Teachers have such nice hours. It’s like working part-time!”

“You have your own office, right?” Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 3 2013

My Preschool Daughter’s Buzz Cut

By at 11:47 am

hair clipperLast autumn, nestled near my preschool daughter’s scalp and obscured by her thick hair, were lice. Our immediate desire was to rid her–and the household–of the pesky critters. Out came the clippers. Her hair was buzzed short enough to glimpse her scalp.

From birth, she’s been admired for her dark hair, which never fell away. Instead, it grew fast, first curly, and then it pitched itself right down her slight toddler back. More recently (when the formerly equally longhaired brother got lice, then a buzz cut) she sported a sassy bob. Post-buzz, she may have had less hair than at any time in her entire life. It shouldn’t have surprised me that the sudden buzz cut revealed how primary a role her hair played in people’s perception of her. What surprised me more was her own reaction to her self-perception. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 6 2012

My Daughter’s Black/Jewish Hair

By at 10:47 am
little girl getting haircut

Who's excited for a haircut?

From the instant the sonogram technician said, “It’s a girl,” (and, for the record, after two sons, I didn’t believe it; I waited till the doctor came in to confirm), my mantra had been, “Hope she likes boys’ clothes, and short hairstyles, ‘cause that’s all I’ve got.”

Well, she’s almost 5 years old now. And guess what? She likes neither.

My daughter will give in to wearing her brothers’ hand-me-downs once in a while, jeans and sweaters with rocket-ships on them—because rocket-ships are cool. But, most of the time, it’s pink, pink, and more pink. Pink dresses, pink coats, pink underwear, and pink tights. (Luckily, she has a cousin with similar tastes, who’s six months older–and two sizes larger.)

Then there’s the hair.

My daughter has one Jewish parent and one Black parent. Ergo, my daughter has Black/Jewish hair.

Yay.

For the first year of their respective lives, all three of my children had unbelievably straight, ebony hair. (In fact, when we sent out a photo of my newborn middle son, a friend responded, “What an adorable Asian baby you’ve got there.”)

And then, right as the first candle got blown out on the birthday cake, a single curl sprung up over one ear. Then over the other ear. The two tufts stuck straight out, devil-horn style, until they got too long and wavy and proceeded to droop downward. At that point, all three of my kids had themselves a nice set of payes. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 16 2011

Fred’s First Haircut

By at 2:43 pm

I wasn’t raised religious, and part of the fun of taking on observance as an adult (referred to as being a “Baalat Teshuvah or “Owner of the Return”) is you can pick fun customs that appeal to you even if it’s not in your family’s traditions to celebrate them.

Case in point: the upsherin, the ceremonial waiting for a full three years to cut a child’s hair. The upsherin is typically practiced among Jews who also wear black hats and kippahs all the time, and start their children in cheder (religious school) at 3. We are not black hat Jews, my husband does not wear a kippah, and we homeschool and have no cheder in our community.

However, the custom of waiting three years to cut hair evokes the Biblical proscription of waiting three years after a tree is planted before we take its fruit. Our children are like little trees, growing and developing, and needing time to just be before we start molding them and harvesting them, as it were.

At Fred’s upsherin, we hosted a few of his friends, a few family friends with kids our older son’s age, and our parents and my uncle. We also included a few family friends who don’t have kids but consider Fred one of the neatest and sweetest small people around.

The menu was vegan pizza, blueberries, raisins, and carrots and celery with pesto and guacamole dips– Fred’s favorite foods. We then sat Fred down in a tiny chair and his older brother Miles led us all in singing the Hebrew alphabet, a nod to the start of Fred’s Jewish learning.

I took Fred’s golden hair in my hand and snipped a small piece of hair off. We lifted him up in his tiny chair and sang “Siman Tov Mazel Tov.” As the joyous song ended, Fred’s lower lip started to tremble and he erupted in peals of overwhelmed crying. Fred is supremely sensitive to too much attention, and this clearly was exactly that.

I wasn’t sure if he would make another appearance at his party after his hysterics, but he recovered quickly in my arms. Moments later, he blew out candles on his cupcake, ate half (God love him, he doesn’t really have a sweet tooth) and he handed out party favors to his friends (sets of beautiful marbles complete with shooters) and whispered “done done done” in my ear over and over until everyone left.

Fred and I then went to the local kids’ barbershop with big brother Miles escorting us. Fred patiently sat in the ridiculous police car-shaped chair and the hair stylist said to me, “What do you want?” I pointed to Miles and said, “Just like this. 1950’s boy. Think Ricky Nelson.” Realizing how young she was, I said, “Think James Dean.” Realizing yet again how young she was, I was about to say, “Think Luke Perry,” but she stopped me with her gasp.

She said, “Why would you do that to her?”

She thought Fred was a girl and I was asking for a boy haircut for “her.” Oy. Welcome to my life for the past several years.

Fred now looks like his big brother and he loves it. His cheeks look 800 times chubbier now, his eyes 7,000 times bluer. And we didn’t think it was possible to find him cuter with short hair than we did with long, but it is indeed possible.

That night of Fred’s birthday, as he nursed in the darkness of slumber (we are in the process of child-led weaning and he likes to lead slowly), his chunky fingers reached out for the tips of his hair which used to cascade down the pillow. In his sleepy consciousness, I watched him reel his hand towards his head until his fingertips caressed the spiky inch long blond that now is Fred’s hair.

And now we will mold him. We will teach him his alef-beys, and he will learn the Shema, and he will learn about the myriad commandments, rituals, and customs which we are passing down to him. We will mold him gently but also consistently, and we will never lose sight of the fact that for his first three years, he was a wild and free growing tree.

And now that tree will bear its fruit.

Mar 16 2011

Interviews with Interesting Jews: Cozy Friedman

By at 12:30 pm

Cozy Friedman is all about hair. Kid’s hair, that is. With three salons that are more akin to FAO Schwartz than Vidal Sassoon, the “So Cozy Hair Care for Children” product line, and her book, Cozy’s Complete Guide to Girls’ Hair, she is the authority on cool cuts for kids. We’ve talked to her about the popular ‘dos for kids today, the key to experiencing a kid-friendly haircut, and that dreaded Jewish friz.

How did you get into hair, and why did you decide to focus on kids’ cuts?

A friend of mine was telling me about a terrible experience she’d had taking her nephew to an “adult” salon for a haircut. He was terrified and ended up being asked to leave after he started crying. When I asked her why she wouldn’t have taken him to a place for kids, I was struck by her response–such a place didn’t exist. It kind of seemed like a no-brainer from there–parents were in need of a place that they could bring their kids for a haircut where they would feel welcome, not like a nuisance. I was so sure that this was so desperately needed, I quit my job and went to barber school. The rest is history!

What are some of the common problems that Jewish girls have with their hair?

Many Jewish girls (Eastern European descendants in general) have curly or wavy hair.  This hair type is the most misunderstood, meaning girls don’t always understand the proper way to manage their hair.  They often end up with frizzy, tangled locks and assume that they just don’t have “good” hair.

Orthodox Jews often participate in a ritual called upsheren, where a boy gets his first haircut at age three. What age do you recommend going in for the first haircut?

It really should be done on a case by case basis. There are boys, like you mention, who don’t come in for their first haircut until three for religious reasons, and there are some little boys who are much younger, coming in to get their heads almost completely shaved. Different heritages have different customs. It’s really a personal decision that the parents should be making, based on their culture and the child’s hair. Every child’s hair grows at different speeds, just like some kids walk and talk earlier than others.

Cozy and her sons.

What’s the most popular cut these days? I read that last year all the boys were asking you for Justin Bieber dos.

The Justin Bieber craze is everywhere! Although boys don’t like to ask for it by name (let alone admit that they want to look like Justin!), we had so many boys coming into the salon asking for our stylists to recreate the Bieber look. He recently cut his hair shorter, and believe it or not, I can already see the trend shifting. It seems like young boys are moving away from the long shaggy look.

Do you have tips for parents with adopted children from different ethnicities that might have very different hair types than their own?

Yes, patience!  When it comes to parents dealing with their child’s hair, it can be seriously traumatizing, regardless of ethnicity. I have really curly hair, and when I was growing up, no one ever told me that you’re not supposed to brush curly hair, because it turns into a giant “frizzball”. That’s why I included a section in my new book about hair texture and type, as a kind of guide for confused parents. If you take the time to learn what works and what doesn’t work for your child, everyone will be happy!

How do you calm down a child who is afraid of getting a hair cut?

In one word–DISTRATION! At Cozy’s Cuts for Kids Salons, our whole philosophy is rooted in the idea of making something that is scary for a child actually an enjoyable experience. All of our salons are also toy stores, the seats that the kids sit in are designed in fun shapes like airplanes and cars, and we even have someone on staff whose sole job it is to entertain the kids if they’re upset. It’s all about distracting the child and creating a positive experience.

Is there a certain age that you’ve noticed girls start to get more self-conscious about their hair?

YES!  So much so that I actually have a name for it–I call it The Barbie Syndrome. All of a sudden at age 7, many girls want to grow their hair as long as possible, just like Barbie. Typically, their hair becomes a big focus for them around that age. By age 10, many girls are starting to look at options to “improve’ their hair, although I don’t really see many that are using chemicals yet (straighteners, color, etc.) until their teenage years.

After earning her barber’s license, Cozy opened the doors to her first salon on Madison Avenue in New York City. Fifteen years, three salons, and two kids later, Cozy continues to provide stress-free cuts for New York kids. In response to client demand, Cozy has also created So Cozy Hair Care For Children, the first-ever “designer” line of hair care products created exclusively for kids. In February 2011, Cozy released her debut book, Cozy’s Complete Guide to Girl’s Hair. Visit her website at www.cozycutsforkids.com.

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