Dude Looks Like a Lady – in Reverse

I’m still recovering from shingles, so I wasn’t able to draft a new post, but I wrote this one for Patch last June before I had Very VERY busy mom up & running. Hopefully I’ll be well enough to upload something new by next week.

Mary Belle, with her goofy brother Jake

My 10-year old daughter Mary Belle is as cute as a button – that is if you consider a button to be vastly more adorable than any other clothing fastener. She has a face full of freckles, an eternal smile, and an animated personality that can start anyone’s day over on a better foot.

When she was 8 years old, Mary Belle had long golden locks that I kept in check with daily shampooing, detangler and buckets of clips, hair ties and pins that resembled everything from Hello Kitty to the cast of High School Musical. But at the 2009 Colfax World Fair Silent Auction I won a gift certificate for a free haircut from Serenity Hair Salon in Sherman Oaks, and Mary Belle decided that she wanted those locks chopped.

Bryan Gee, owner of Serenity, was hesitant. He probably felt the wrath of buyer’s remorse (or rather haircut remorse) from customers who thought that having a haircut like Halle Berry would be cute on them too (probably not). Bryan cut Mary Belle’s tresses into an attractive shoulder-length style, but Mary Belle told him to keep going. And like the Energizer Bunny, he kept going. And going… and going.

Mary Belle with Bryan Gee, owner of Serenity Hair Salon

Now, two years later, Mary Belle refuses to go to any other hairdresser than Bryan – an excellent return on your money for any business considering making silent auction donations. Her golden locks don’t see the sun long enough to become golden, and her hair doesn’t ever grow long enough to become locks. It’s reminiscent of Mia Farrow’s famous doo from Rosemary’s Baby, or more recently, Harry Potter’s Emma Watson’s newest close-cropped haircut.

If she was just a few years older and wore a bit of makeup and a perky little pushup bra, Mary Belle might be considered to be as sexy and womanly as Halle, Emma or Mia. But at just 10 and a half years and a currently pre-pubescent stage, she is often mistaken for a boy.

This was Mary Belle’s second year of Cotillion – a kind of debutante ball for 9 to 13-year olds in which the boys outnumber the girls nearly two to one. Basically it allows short boys to dance with girls whose bosoms are sprouting at their eye level, and teaches kids how to eat a cookie without looking like it’s their last meal on earth. Mary Belle spent the first five classes of the six-week session aglow in her dress, low heels, white gloves and cute little headbands. For the sixth session, Cotillion had a Cruise Ship theme and the children were allowed to have their choice of costume. Mary Belle wore her standard summer fare – water shoes, swim trunks and a UV swim shirt.

Mary Belle approached the hostess who told her, “You need to check in at the boys’ line.”

I stealthfully pursued one of the Cotillion helpers, passed him a twenty, and whispered, “My daughter’s the one who looks like a boy. I know you’re short on young men, but can you make sure the host doesn’t make her ask a girl to dance?”

It’s true.

Well, not the part about the twenty, but the rest of it is true.

Ruby & Mary Belle

Mary Belle’s friend Ruby, who resembles Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, encounters the same experiences on a daily basis. Ruby’s mom Pam tells me how strangers call Ruby “Son” or “Buddy,” and give her disapproving looks whenever she enters the ladies room. Mary Belle tends to get “Fella” or “Dude,” and is usually so busy checking herself out in the bathroom mirror that she doesn’t notice the disapproving looks.

Today a substitute janitor at school mistook them for boys, and when Mary Belle told him that they were indeed girls, the janitor walked away, chuckling, “You’re just pulling my leg.”

A week ago, I took Mary Belle and Ruby, as well as their girly-girl friends Violet and Joelle dress shopping for 5th grade graduation at Forever 21. The four girls pranced into the dressing room with their frocks in hand. The sales gal gave Violet and Joelle their rooms, then turned to Mary Belle and Ruby and asked, “You’re trying on dresses?”

I think she suspected that they were on some kind of pre-teen double date and the kids with the short hairdos were just holding the selections for their girlfriends who were training their mates early to be sherpas and valets.

Mary Belle, who already possesses more self-esteem than people six times her age, could care less if strangers mistake her for a boy. She just likes her hair short.

There is nothing more entertaining than watching the faces of adults as they realize their mistake. It begins with a haughty sneer, followed by surprised disbelief, a slow, stunned state of confusion, and ends with utter embarrassment and shame. It’s kind of a gender identity shock and awe. But it’s also frequently accompanied by the look, “I wouldn’t being going through all this humiliation if you would just keep your hair long like a normal girl.”

Perhaps it’s payback for all the times I’ve seen adorable girls with long flowing hair on the playground and commented to their parents how beautiful their daughters were, only to have them curtly inform me, “He’s a boy!”

Well if they wanted people to think he was a boy, they should cut his hair.


Filed under Humor, Parenting

4 responses to “Dude Looks Like a Lady – in Reverse

  1. Oh I can relate. Once in high school, at age 14, I went to pick up my mom at her hairdresser. It was the 70’s, i was wearing jeans and a ratty jacket. I asked for my mom and the receptionist yelled “Kay your son is here”. I was mortified. I finally got breasts and that made all the difference. Look at my picture – I had long curly blonde hair for years and now I’m back to the same cut as your daughter. It’s too easy and life’s too short. Tell your daughter that she, and her friend, are adorable. They will have plenty of time to look more girly girls if they choose to. Or not. Enjoy being 10.

  2. This was Mary Belle’s second year of Cotillion – a kind of debutante ball for 9 to 13-year olds in which the boys outnumber the girls nearly two to one. Basically it allows short boys to dance with girls whose bosoms are sprouting at their eye level, and teaches kids how to eat a cookie without looking like it’s their last meal on earth.

    Uncontrollable laughter on my part! My daughter was in Cotillion and I often thought the same thing. I dared not speak it to the other mom’s for fear of retaliation. Only knew the boy’s moms’.
    Anyway, thanks for the wonderful laughter. ps Daughter had long hair until 2 years ago. They cut of 29 inches and sent it to Locks of Love.

  3. Great story! I love the confidence your daughter has. Years ago when my son was in Grade 4, he and his friends decided they wanted to grow their hair long. It lasted for about a year, during which time many people thought he was a girl. The gender mix up didn’t bother him in the least. He’s now in Grade 11 and has a buzz cut. Go figure!

  4. I love that your daughter’s name is so girly! Good thing it’s not Pat, or Terry, or Shawn. She’s a doll! You are obviously an awesome mother to let her be who she wants to be. Bravo to you both!

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