Splitting hairs

My hair. Ugh. I am sooo not a girly girl when it comes to hair and make-up. Even though I’m sure there are people who are horrified or at least disdainful of my decision not to wear make-up, that’s just who I am. The few times that I have had make-up on I felt fake.

And then there’s my hair. Again, I know for a fact some women think I should “use product.” These women are usually employed in salons, so I know that they are as motivated by profit as they are by concern for my hair’s well-being or my personal appearance. Sorry ladies, I’m going to be a wash-and-go girl for life. Sure, it has been fun to have my hair colored and styled. I won a makeover before Philip was born and was really pleased with the results. But, not only am I too lazy to maintain a regimen for my hair, I’m also a cheapskate.

Which is why, during today’s lunch break, I was sitting in a chair at one of those salon chains. $5.99 for a haircut? How can I resist?! My hair hasn’t been quite long enough to keep up in a ponytail or short enough to maintain any pizzazz. I know, I know. The skillful use of hair product could solve that for me. The key word in that sentence is skillful.

So, there I sat as the hairdresser wielded scissors around my head. And I began to panic.

Oh no, oh no! I was thinking. This is going to look awful. She’s not cutting off enough.  At this rate, no one will even know that I got a haircut. Wait, I think it’s enough, but not in the right places. Now everyone will notice my hair because it will look that bad.

These thoughts were racing through my brain, but I sat still. It was a good thing, because my hair would not have been attractive if I had made the stylist stop at that moment. By letting her continue, I ended up with the haircut that I was hoping for. My head feels lighter, the hair isn’t bothering my neck, the cold wind isn’t blowing long strands into my eyes and mouth, plus my hair is short enough for warmer temperatures.

There was one thing I was right about as I imagined the worse mid-trim: no one noticed the haircut. None of my coworkers said anything after lunch, but I guess that means I didn’t look like a freak show. I told my husband in advance because he is oblivious to that kind of thing, so he doesn’t count.

Back at the salon, once I had stopped fretting over how my haircut would turn out, I had time to sit and think while the snip, snip, snipping continued. I thought about Philip’s hair.


I’ve been trying to cut his hair for close to two weeks. Unlike me, Philip doesn’t sit still for a hair cut. The last time I trimmed Philip’s hair was shortly before Christmas. I waited until he was asleep and then took the scissors to his hair as quietly as possible. Fortunately, he was completely zonked out, so I was able to be thorough. I was even lucky enough that he turned his head from one side to the other without waking so that I could actually cut both sides.

Prior to the holiday haircut, Peter and I had taken Philip to the barbershop for the first (and so far only) time back in July. The barber gave Philip a nice cut considering the circumstances. Unfortunately, the circumstances involved me holding Philip in my lap with his arms pinned down while Peter tried to hold his head still. Philip has gone back to the shop since then to watch his daddy get a haircut and does not seem to be traumatized by the place. Still, I just didn’t think we wanted to repeat that experience.

Haircuts weren’t always like this. I can’t remember how old Philip was when I cut his hair for the first time. I remember the incident because Peter was less than thrilled that I had done so without much fanfare. I think he had envisioned making an occasion of it, maybe even taking Philip to a barber at that time. I couldn’t undo it, so he just had to accept it.

For that first haircut, I simply snipped off the longest hairs while Philip took a bath. He was busy playing in the water and didn’t notice. When he did notice, he turned to look out of curiosity.

This strategy worked for a while, but then things changed. Soon, Philip was pushing the scissors away. Instead of being curious about what I was doing, Philip appeared to be physically uncomfortable. My efforts thwarted, Philip’s hair just kept getting longer. That’s when I first gave Philip a haircut while he was sleeping.

Lately, trying to cut Philip’s hair during his nap or right when he falls asleep for the night has not worked, either. The hardest place to trim is right around his ears. Apparently, touching his ears can be enough to disrupt his sleep. So, I’ve gone back to trying to cut Philip’s hair in the bathtub.

In the tub, prepping for a trim

As I wrote above, the current haircut has been a couple of weeks in the making. The first night, Philip squirmed out of reach. I am amazed at the peripheral vision that kid has.

In addition to his keen sense that I am nearing his head, I believe he is hyper alert to the sound of the scissors. What seems like a relatively quiet sound of “snip” to me must be like the roar of a chain saw to Philip. I suspect this since there have been times that I have missed, snipping the air and not Philip’s head. Despite not actually making physical contact with him, Philip cringed and spun around to look at the looming scissors.

I miss a lot since I get nervous holding a pointy object next to Philip’s almost constantly moving head. I worry that I might poke, scratch or cut Philip. I guess that an actual injury would make the whole process even more difficult.

I’ve recently written about how Philip is a sensory seeker. In the case of haircuts, however,  he is a sensory avoider. He doesn’t like to hear the scissors. He doesn’t like the feel of his hair being cut or of the severed hair falling on his skin. He doesn’t like my hands being in proximity of his head.

In my usual pig-headed manner, I keep bringing the scissors to the bathtub. I’ve cut what I can and stopped when Philip becomes the artful dodger or starts crying. It seems like my perseverance might be paying off. Last night and tonight, I was able to cut around Philip’s ears. I didn’t get as much as I wanted to, but I think it will be enough to last a few months.

The (mostly) finished product. It ain’t pretty, but it should be functional.

5 thoughts on “Splitting hairs

  1. I feel like having dejavue again reading your post on cutting Phillip’s hair. Yeah you did it and it looks great. I remember reading a post on Facebook Carly Fleishman’s website about hair and how it feels to folks with Autism. She is now 16 and was so happy to finally “be able” to go to stylist and get her hair coloured for the first time. She said that the sensory for her for years felt like torture. She imagined that cutting her hair equaled pain plus the head area is very sensory to touch. She said she thinks its harder for boys because girls at a young age HAVE to have their hair styled…pinned, tied up etc and so they have to used to it. She recommends routinely getting the child used to having their head touched all around and get them used to the feel of the hair and brush in her hair. She said the feel of a blow dryer once they get used to the sound is wonderful for a lot of people on the spectrum because it feels good on the head. The things we have to do or what? 🙂


    1. Thanks for sharing that. I can only imagine how Philip is thinking or feeling, so it is always helpful to hear these things directly from someone with autism. It makes me think about how I can either help or hurt the situation.


      1. I’ve been following “Carly” on Facebook and Twitter. She regularly posts there and answers questions from parents about Autism. She is completely non-verbal and uses a computer and iPad to communicate. She is so feisty and is changing how professionals deal with people on the spectrum. She has just come out with a book with her father about her amazing story.


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