Monday, December 29, 2008

Perfectly happy

So I’m trying (belatedly) to read the new Siri Hustvedt novel, but the baby book on the table is so much more suited to my bite-size concentration span at the moment. The section on Post-natal depression (always a cheerful breakfast read) in Kidwrangling mentions that “expecting things to be perfect” is a personality trait that can predispose you towards developing PND. There are a million other factors too, of course. The main one is having a baby.

Those of you who have seen my house will understand that I am already okay with things not being perfect. But what about expecting your children to be perfect?

There’s a short story that I’ve always loved, though I can’t remember for the life of me who wrote it or what it was called. It was about a perfect little girl who never misbehaved and never lost her temper. This level of perfection naturally caught the attention of and annoyed the devil, who became determined to make her crack it (I can’t remember if there was some deal where he got her soul if she lost her rag, or if it was a slow week in hell and he just needed a new project). He made everything go wrong for her. I especially remember he made her dolls fall in the mud and get stepped on by horses. But every time this little girl pulled a Pollyanna on him and didn’t lose her temper. Eventually the devil hit upon a long-term plan, which worked a treat and made this little-girl-now-woman absolutely furious.

He gave her a perfect husband.

He gave her a perfect house.

……..And he gave her a “fair-to-middling” child.

I love it. It’s such an evil little story. And I love the idea that the best way to piss off a perfect person is to give them something that everyone else would be quite happy with.

Although maybe not, as according to the tv, most parents these days require their children to become Prime Minister. These little tackers are either going to have to share the role or become leaders of different countries, because there just isn’t enough Prime Ministership to go round that many kids. Paul and I recently watched “Life at One”, a production about child development that follows a bunch of kids and their parents from birth (they’re up to “Life at Three” now). When the parents were asked what they wanted for their children, a scary amount of them said they wanted their child to be “healthy”, “confident” and “leaders”.

Paul and I look at each other in horror. “I don’t want to be a confident leader,” I said. “Neither do I,” says Paul. Is anyone going to mention that they’d like their child to be “happy”? Nope. Or maybe “happy” is supposed to be an exclusive result of combining those other three terms.

I want most for my child to be happy. Healthy is good too. If being a confident leader makes him happy, I can deal with that. But if we all give birth to confident leaders, the amount of public speaking competitions in high school will soon reach critical mass, and might distract from the importance of sporting events.


Here’s to shy children.

Here’s to children who quietly hold their own opinions.

Here’s to children who quietly hold no opinions at all.

Here’s to children who say “I don’t know” in answer to every question they’re asked, because it’s easier or they’re embarrassed or they can’t be bothered.

Here’s to children who, to quote Tripod, aren’t ahead of the pack. They’re just with the pack. Towards the back.

Here’s to children who don’t know what they want to be when they grow up, and still don’t know when they are grown up.

Here’s to easy-going children.

Here’s to children who do what they think they want to do (which may even involve enrolling in a course that doesn’t take full advantage of their VCE score).

Here’s to them changing their minds and doing something completely different.

And here’s to fair-to-middling children. May they piss off perfectionists and give the devil his due.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Oh, Jo, how could you? Your one beauty." - How to sell your hair

"...and she came walking in with a very queer expression of countenance, for there was a mixture of fun and fear, satisfaction and regret in it, which puzzled the family as much as did the roll of bills she laid before her mother, saying with a little choke in her voice, 'That's my contribution toward making Father comfortable and bringing him home!'

'My dear, where did you get it? Twenty-five dollars! Jo, I hope you haven't done anything rash?'

'No, it's mine honestly. I didn't beg, borrow or steal it. I earned it, and I don't think you'll blame me, for I only sold what was my own.

As she spoke, Jo took off her bonnet, and a general outcry arose, for all her abundant hair was cut short.

'Your hair! Your beautiful hair!' 'Oh, Jo, how could you? Your one beauty.'"

- Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

Given that I am a) lazy and b) tight, I only have a haircut every 3 or 4 years, and when I do I sell it to a wigmaker. I'm a hair farm. Pretty much everyone brings up Little Women when I say I sell my hair, so that's the tenuous bookish link for this blog entry.

Since I'm supposedly giving birth in about 2 weeks, it seemed a good time for a haircut. Firstly, I wanted to take advantage of 'pregnancy hair' (thicker and more of it), and secondly, it's one less thing to wash baby spew out of. Also, after 3.5 years of growing it from here:

To here:

I was a bit sick of it. When I turned over in bed at night it practically strangled me.

So how do you sell your hair?

Firstly, you can't sell loose hair (otherwise hairdressers would make a fortune from what they sweep off the floor). The hair shaft has a direction, and wigmakers need all your hairs pointing in the same direction to use them. Also, loose hair turns into a matted furball within about 20 seconds.

So when you go to get your hair cut, first get the hairdresser to put it into four tight ponytails and cut them off above the rubber band, leaving a fair bit of hair (at least 5cm) sticking out past the top of the bands so they don't slide off.

It's bizarre how much resistance you can get from hairdressers at this point. Seriously, what do they care how many ponytails it's put into? I had to bargain to get mine put into two ponytails (he had his heart set on one - this is how you end up with the rubber band slipping off and all your hair landing on the floor, which is how I lost about a quarter of my hair last time). They're also a bit slapdash with the rubber band fastening, so you might need to carefully adjust the ponytails a bit when you get home. Here is my product, after I'd tidied things up a bit:

Then you take it to a wigmaker. There's quite a few around, I rang around the ones in the Yellow Pages about 4 years ago, asked if they buy hair and roughly what they pay and picked the one who gave the best price. Since then I've been selling mine each time to:

C. Harms - A Better Wigmaker
Suite 512 (Level 5)
125 Swanston Street
Melbourne (next to the HiFi Bar)
Ph. 9650 4484

She's open Tues-Thurs 8am-4pm, and makes wigs solely for cancer patients, which is kind of nice.

So what do you get? It depends on the length, weight, colour and quality of your hair. The ponytails generally need to be at least 25cm to be of use to a wigmaker. I've got what is hilariously termed 'virgin hair', which means it's never been dyed or heat-treated (straightened or permed or other such things that damage hair). You get more money for virgin hair, though you can still sell dyed/treated hair to some wigmakers. The wigmaker will weigh and measure your hair and make you an offer (C. Harms writes you out a cheque to cash then you go round the corner to the ANZ and cash it in).

I got $100 for those two ponytails above, I think they were about 40cm long. So I don't exactly get enough to bring Father home from the war with, but it pays for my haircut and it's better than letting it go to waste on the cutting room floor. Apparently you can also sell your hair online at places like The Hair Trader, but they're generally American, are advertisement-based (eBay-style), boast curiously high prices and I've got no idea if they're legit. I prefer just handing it over to a person.

And now I start again from here!