Friday, January 19, 2024


Someone on Facebook asked what kinds of non-food things people anxiously chewed on as a kid, and it triggered a fast, steep rabbit hole of rude awakening.

My answer to the question was, "My hair."
When I was a kid, I used to tug a lock of hair across my cheek, and chew/suck on it out of the corner of my mouth.
I didn't think anything of it at the time. Some kids chewed their fingernails; I chewed my hair. Tomato tomahto.

So tonight as I was thinking back on that habit, remembering the wet crunchy sensation of it, I wondered what got me to stop doing it.
And I'm pretty sure I stopped because my mom convinced me to get the latest new hairstyle called "the shag". It was the way some popular model wore her hair, wouldn't I like that? A popular model? Why wouldn't I want that? Sounds great! What a cool mom I have!
I'm certain, today, that Mom was just trying to get my hair short enough that it couldn't reach my mouth. 
It was an effective tactic. I remember the disappointment that first time I tried to tug a lock of hair and found it wouldn't reach my teeth.

It was an awful hair style for my face. I spent all of grade school and middle school being mistaken for a boy. In 4th grade, a girl from another school once cornered me, told me I was cute and that she wanted to be my girlfriend. When I told her *I* was a girl, she said, "No, you're not!" I had to find someone to confirm to her that I was not a boy.

Effing awful haircut.
Effing messed with my confidence and self esteem during the most awkward decade of my life.
And why?
Because I had a harmless coping mechanism that wasn't socially acceptable. 

As my breasts developed, it became even worse because people couldn't process seeing a boy head on a girl body. Adults asked me to my face if I was a boy or a girl. Or, they'd ask my friends right there in front of me, because they thought it would be rude to ask me. Standing right there. Adults would.

After high school, I followed a 20-year pattern of growing my hair out and suddenly cutting it short. Each time I cut it, I hated it, and I swore I would never do it again. 
But I did.
The last time it happened I was in my 40's. My boss at the radio station where I worked was not a good manager, and that translated into a poor work environment for me. While venting to The Husband about how frustrated I felt, I pointed at my recently trimmed head and cried, "Just LOOK what it made me do to myself!"

And that really was the last time, because ^that statement right ^there helped me realize something.
Each radical haircut was coordinated with a stressful life event. Things like the end of a relationship, a new college semester, or changing jobs.

The pattern is so obvious now: 
Experience stress, cut my hair.
Experience stress, cut my hair.
Experience stress, cut my hair.
Changing my hairstyle was something I felt I had control over when I didn't have control over other things.

And today, after thinking about what non-food thing I chewed on as a child, I now see where this pattern started:
As a child, I'd experience stress, and when I'd self-comfort with a little hair chewing, I'd suddenly have to get my hair cut short.

Unwittingly, stress events came to equal, "Hey, it's about time for a fresh, new, short hair style, dontcha think?" 

I don't blame Mom. She didn't know this is how things would develop. She wasn't being malicious or mean; she was being a mother who did her best with the training she had, which every parent knows is no training at all.

This all has gotten me spiraling, dwelling on how the self-comforting thumb sucking and self-comforting security blanket were taken from me, too. 
Dammit, parents. A child's coping mechanism isn't the problem you need to solve. 😔


Btw, you guys, I started seeing a therapist a few months ago.

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