The Rich Culture That Surrounds Our Hair
The One-Year Latin Haircut Rule
My three boys automatically get a back-to-school haircut the week before school starts. I don’t think too much about it, we time it just so; that way it’s not too long but not too fresh. One week softens the razor-sharp edges but it still looks neat and trim for the first day.
Just getting end of summer haircuts, that’s pretty much all I think about when I think of cutting my children’s hair. But that’s because after spending almost my entire life in this country, I’ve become Americanized.
To my Colombian mother and grandmother, ah – there was no such thing as “just getting a haircut.” As soon as my children began to lose their baby hair and the new toddler hair would start to show, my mother would make me promise, “Remember! You have to wait until he is one year, until he has his first birthday, to cut his hair. You cannot cut his hair before then. No.”
There is a Colombian wives’ tale that my mother, and especially my Abuela, would demand as grounds for kidnapping my child, should I try to go against it. It was that a child’s haircut could not happen before their primer cumpleaños.
The fear-based reasoning behind that caveat is this: You will somehow damage what is in the child’s head if you cut his hair before he is one year old.
As a child, I’d hear this number one piece of advice given out to any new mother who would bring their baby to our house to visit. Remember! Do not cut his hair until he is one! No lo hagas!
And these young moms listened, as young moms have been listening to the wiser moms for centuries. Do not cut your baby’s hair. Yet.
I never paid attention to that heed and thought it was silly. When my first son was born he was the first baby in the family in over 13 years. My mother was infatuated and would find a reason to see him at least once a day. One afternoon, I packed my son up, and invited my mother along on our errands.
We buckled little 10-month-old Alex into the car, my mother sitting in the back next to him like she was the President’s bodyguard. I, in the front, alone, like I was driving Miss Daisy.
I pulled into our first stop. My son’s bangs had just gone past the length of his eyebrows and I could tell they were starting to bother him. All I needed was a quick trim to get them out of his eyes. My mother didn’t pay attention to where we were going and followed us out of the car. We walked into the children’s hair salon and they took us back right away, my mother coming along.
“I’ll hold him in my lap,” I said to the 18-year-old looking stylist, “It’s his first time!” My mother’s eyes began to widen and I heard her gasp as the realization hit her of where we were and why.
“QUÉ?! Qué estás haciendo?!” What?! What are you doing?!
“Getting his hair cut, mother. It’s getting in his eyes.” And then it occurred to me. He was only 10-months-old. Oh my holy of holies! THE ONE YEAR RULE!
She was gonna blow.
What followed was a torrent of Spanish warnings, finger waggings, hands folded in pleading prayer, tears spent in request to get her hijo out of that silla! NOW! Take him out! Ay Dios Mio!
Well, you don’t have to hit me in the head with a 2×4. I knew the action had to be quick. I apologized to the poor frozen-in-shock of a young girl. Ripping off the smock that was around me, then around my baby, I tossed both on the chair.
“I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry,” I tried to explain to the bewildered stylist. “My baby is only 10-months-old. He’s not 1 yet. I can’t do this. It’s bad … I’m sorry.”
With the baby on my hip, I grabbed my wailing, crazed mother by the arm and pulled her out of the front door. But not before the entire salon had gotten a good, solid glimpse of my bi-cultural life.
You choose your battles wisely. You honor what you should, and let go that which is inconsequential. My son could go two months longer with those bangs. But I could not endure what I shudder to think would happen to my mother if I ever cut my son’s curls before his primer cumpleanos.
Seriously. Even right now, the shivers of what almost was.
What cultural tales do you have about hair in your family?