The Hairy Hair-Raising Humiliation

How to Handle Hair Tangles & Clump Critters  #funny #hair #tangles #kids #humor

So then…my 9-year-old daughter Chloe lets loose a shriek so piercing, it could wake the dead two towns over. She thrashes about, SCREAMING and WAILING.

And all because of me.

What am I doing?

Waterboarding? No.

Chopping off limbs? No.

Evil torture? No.

I am

Oh sure, we’ve all been there. The tears, the sensitive scalp.

But this child has THE MOST delicate skull flesh – and THE MOST tangled hair – and THE MOST stubborn insistence that we brush out that frikkity-frik hair before she goes to bed.

So every other night, after her shower, I have to spend 60 to 90 minutes painstakingly combing out her twisted, snarled, knotted hair that just so happens to reach the all the way down her back.

Funny - Hairy Hair-Raising Long Hair
And after trying every possible remedy – including brushing the hair BEFORE the shower – baby shampoo – buckets of conditioner – detangling spray – and one time, even VEGETABLE OIL

I am quite ready to throw a hat on it and call it a day.

Or shave her head.

But she will have none of it.

She adores her long hair and she wants it brushed out. How can Mommy not accomplish that?

But, oh my god, that caterwauling and carrying on! The screaming and shouting and crying!

It’s a wonder my neighbors haven’t called Children’s Services on me.

Chloe alternates between “please brush it, Mom” and “YOU’RE KILLING MEEEEE!!!”

Armed only with a Goody comb and brush, I’m treated like the Marquis de Sade with a trunkful of torture tools!

Well, tonight I’m exhausted. It’s way past her bedtime and I’ve only detangled the two sides near her face. There is a huge nasty horrifying clump of hair in the middle that is refusing to budge.

“Chloe, we have to call it a night. You have the big music program tomorrow and you need your sleep.”

“Nooooo, Mom! We’re gonna be on stage! I have to wear my hair in braaaaaaids!

Now imagine that same conversation repeated about 83 times, amidst brushing attempts and tears (including mine).

Finally, when I’m about to commit Hari-Kari with the sharp end of the comb, I announce that she MUST go to bed and we’ll figure it out in the morning. She reluctantly goes to sleep.

The next morning, the clump is only worse – matted and horrifying and ENORMOUS. It seems to have grown in the night, eating other people’s hair until it’s a bloated, writhing mess.

After several attempts and lots of howling, I finally make her two braids with the combed hair – and I stick some pins and clips in the nest of hair in the back to form a sort of snarly bun.

She’s distressed, of course, but we have to get to school.

From the front, she looks like an adorable country girl with braids, white shirt and jeans.

Funny - Hairy Hair-Raising Braids
But in the back… it’s not a sweet little ballet bun – it’s not even a hip Jersey Shore “bump” – it’s more like a huge mangy critter has attached itself to her head and won’t let go!

So if she can just always stay facing forward today – just don’t turn to the side – just back out of each room gracefully — then no one will see the beehive rat’s nest in the back.

At the music program, I deliberately sit with parents I don’t know – so that if Chloe DOES turn to the side on stage, I can pretend I have no idea whose child that is. I’ll just shake my head with the other spectators and “tsk tsk” at the inept mother who sent her child out like that!

Well, of COURSE, the music program involves hand motions, enthusiastic singing, and stand-up/sit-down/sway-to-the-SIDE actions – and there is her mangy critter bopping and waving and swaying on the back of her head. IT HAS A LIFE OF ITS OWN!  And it is BOOGYING!

Funny - Hairy Hair-Raising Clump Critter
I am mortified, but I soldier through, trying to enjoy the music — and calculating how I’m going to afford special effects to digitally remove the offending “Fur Beast” in the video footage I’m shooting.

After the program, the parents all greet their kids in the courtyard with kisses and congratulations. I consider grabbing some random kid with normal hair for a hug and pretending they’re mine.

But there they are – Chloe and the Clump. I give her a big hug and a kiss, tell her she did a fabulous job and that I loved the show.

She tells me how much fun she had and grabs a cookie from the snack table.

“But Mom, I have to tell you – all day LONG, the kids were asking me about my hair.”


I wince. “Really?”

“Yeah, the kids kept saying, ‘What IS that?’ and ‘What’s in your hair?’”

(more hair)

“Oh, sorry, honey, we’ll try to detangle it tonight.”

She bites the cookie and says, “One girl kept saying it looks like a rat’s nest — and another boy said it looks like a RAT – and he started PETTING it.”

“He DID not!” I protest.

“Oh, yes, he did, Mom. He PETTED my hair rat!!”


OK, so I guess our make-shift Clump Critter did not escape detection after all.

But perhaps it can be the new class pet?

— Darcy Perdu

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(Any tales of tangled tresses out there? Have you ever fallen a bit short in the hair/outfit/costume department when sending your kid to school or camp ? Share your embarrassing stories — surely I’m not the only mom who’s used the line: “Huh, who? That’s not MY kid, nope, what, huh?”)

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66 replies on “The Hairy Hair-Raising Humiliation

  1. HA HA HA! Petting her hair is hilarious! I am impressed with how long her hair is…and it is beautiful!-Ashley

  2. Judy said:

    To make the hair manageable–get a wide tooth comb and when Chloe rinses shampoo and conditioner out of her hair, do so with the comb. Then don’t wad it into a towel rub at it afterward!!

    I was that kid with the rat’s nest clump and enough hair on her head for 3 people. Like you, my mom would comb and detangle it. Unlike Chloe I didn’t have a sensitive scalp.

    What happened is I never learned to brush/comb my own hair so one day at age 12 my mom declared I was old enough to do my own hair and walked away. It got worse and worse because I had no idea what to do. The mail carrier took pity on my and gave me a bunch of junk mail samples of conditioner and suggested the wide tooth comb bit. She saved me from a lifetime of ridicule!

    Also, when my hair was that long I would slop it into quickie braids before bed so it wouldn’t get more tangled up in my sleep.

    Or cut it off. (I had to finally chop my hair. Apparently it was attacking my husband while we were sleeping.)

    • Ha! Judy, such a funny visual thinking of your hair attacking your husband while you’re sleeping!
      And thank goodness for your mail-carrier/hair-savior!

  3. Oh my goodness! I have fine hair, so I’ve never had much of a problem. My daughter, on the other hand, has curly hair, so that will be a new one for me. Maybe if you keep your daughter’s hair tied up all day it will help? Hmmmm. I doubt it. ;)
    Dani Ryan recently posted..Not all moments need to be enjoyedMy Profile

    • you’re right, tying it up doesn’t seem to help much — and don’t even get me started on swimming season when the chlorine joins the fun! eeeeyikes!

  4. Are you using a padded brush? It seems to make a difference with my nieces’ hair and scalps when I bought them cushioned brushes instead of ones with bristles mounted on hard surfaces.

    • I agree — the padded brushes are much better, so those have helped a little bit
      honestly, I think the best idea is a hat! :o)

  5. Lexi said:

    Use a wide-tooth comb and comb it while the conditioner is in her hair. This method works best if the conditioner has had time to sit on the hair for a few minutes. Then put her head under the faucet for 3-4 seconds to get the conditioner and water running down her hair. This is when you comb it. The knots come out much easier when the conditioner is still in her hair acting as a thick lubricant. Works like a charm. I still comb my hair every day in the shower when I have conditioner in it. Then, once I rinse it out, I comb it again before putting it in a towel. Not only does it save your poor aching scalp, but it doesn’t damage your hair. Good luck!

  6. omg Darcy! lol Okay first off you NEVER use a comb on a child’s hair or on any badly tangled hair, second you need to separate the hair into a few sections that way you can use one hand to grip the hair bunch tightly and begin brushing the ends and move your way up. Take it from me, my mother use to tell me “beauty is pain!” I’ve been a licensed cosmetologist for over 6 years now and I can honestly say NO IT’S NOT! It’s all in how you brush it! Also, the rats nest is best BRUSHED not combed, in the shower while the conditioner is still on it. Buy a brush like this or like this If you are still having trouble with her hair go to my site and shoot me a quick email. Seriously, you don’t want your kid walking around looking homeless… even if it is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. You are such a clown… lol

    • Veronica, I should have known to turn to you for all my beauty needs and tutorials! Thanks for the links — you’re awesome!

      • No problem! After years of torture at the hands of my mother lol I have learned to be really good at getting out knots without hurting people. I often get compliments on how soft-handed I am. Most of my clients tell me “you know you can tug and pull all you want” and I usually just laugh and reply “the knots are already gone”

  7. Julie said:

    When my daughter was small (with the LONG hair) she would want me to comb it in the mornings- not Grandpa. When my dad saw me brush it out the first time his response was “You’re not combing her hair, you’re petting her” Apparently I was much gentler than Grandpa. (Possibly because I do so love long hair)

    I imagine you have tried about everything but my suggestion is the wide tooth comb and start at the bottom, working your way up.

    She does have a beautiful head of hair!

  8. I have extremely thin, short hair but when I was little (and had hair like Chloe’s), I used a detangler by Treseme and it worked wonders!
    Ashlee recently posted..Teen Mom Turns Mommy BloggerMy Profile

  9. Chloe has beautiful hair. I had tangly hair, as well, but mine was not thick and beautiful. I didn’t comb it at all. I just let it clump up. Gave it a little volume. Not nearly enough to make me look like a person with normal hair. Thank God it wasn’t quite the 80s.

    • I love that attitude — “ah, let it go — clumping adds volume!” I support that philosophy!

  10. OMG that picture of her from the front where she’s smiling so proud is adorable…and even better WHEN YOU SEE THE BACK OF IT! I’m sorry….I’m dying here.

    Having a 12 yo with very long and very thick hair, I’m sorta familiar, especially after a day swimming in the lake. She now just puts in in a giant bun on top of her head to swim. I’m sure you’ve tried everything, but what seems to work for us is for her NOT TO BRUSH IT OUT BEFORE BED (when it’s wet). Somehow it’s easier to brush dry in the morning. Good Luck! And btw – she does have a gorgeous head of hair!
    You’re my favorite today. recently posted..…And Then My Worlds Collided, And It Was Good.My Profile

    • ha! yep, that SIDE view is a killer!
      cool idea NOT to brush it before bed…worth a try!

  11. April said:

    I am glad to hear I am not the only Mom with a rat’s nest-headed daughter. Emily also has super tangly hair and of course, a super sensitive scalp. I can barely touch the brush to her head and it’s “OWWWWWWWW”. I joke that ‘Al’ is a boyfriend she’s always calling for. She did finally decide to cut her hair shorter; it’s to her shoulders but that hasn’t helped to tame it any more. oh, and fuzz. She also constantly has carpet fuzz in her hair. That adds to the fun of de-tangling.

    • yikes! I’d hoped that short hair = no more tangles!
      maybe I can convince my daughter to get a buzz cut!

  12. Our youngest daughter had the perfectly straight hair one normal associates with Cherokee Indians, but only the top layer. The underneath of the back of her hair, from ear to ear, was very curly. Try combing that out in a hurry in the morning. By the time I’d get one side done, the other side would have mysteriously tangled itself up again. Beat me.

    • that’s hysterical! I love that it mysteriously tangles all over again before you even finish!

      It’s like that San Francisco bridge that is so huge, when the painting company starts painting it on one side, by the time they make it all the way to the other side, it’s time to paint the bridge again!

  13. molly said:

    Sounds crazy, but forget the shampoo and conditioner. Try a tablespoon of baking soda to two cups water as shampoo; massage gently into scalp. Follow with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a cup of water to condition. (Or double quantities for Chloes’s long hair.) Rinse. Brush while wet with wide-tooth plastic brush. Try this a few times and you will start to suspect it’s the conditioner that’s causing the terrible tangles.

    • wow, I never heard of this remedy! very clever!

  14. Shelly said:

    Have you ever tried products geared more for African/Americans? Most of them are designed to deal with the problems you are having.

    • haven’t tried that — thanks, that might work!

  15. I feel her pain – literally! I have extremely thick, wavy hair and my Mom referred to the knots as rat’s nests all the time! Shhhh! Don’t tell her it doesn’t get better…I still have conversations like in this post…with myself. And have perfected incorporating the nest into a messy bun. Please, oh please, never let the messy bun go out of style.

    • Ha! I tell her all the time that super models routinely wear “messy buns” when they’re photographed at airports flitting between Milan and Paris! Messy buns are chic!

    • believe me, I’m tempted! but it grows back so fast anyway — in fact, she has TWICE, count ’em – TWICE donated her hair to Locks of Love to make wigs for children with cancer. Each time she donated about 11″ which is awesome and she is a sweetie pie – but then it grows long again, which she loves, and we wrestle with the Hair Rat! Ha!

  16. Kim S said:

    Try the “Wet Brush” Saw one at the beauty shop and bought it to try. AMAZING!! So cool I bought my neice one too! (I am not advertising either) Got to Amazon and order one today!! Under ten bucks but worth 50! You’ll thank me later—I promise!!

  17. Ann said:

    Cut hair evenly to all one length.

    Only the scalp needs shampooing unless you’ve been near fried food or smoke.

    Only rinse from the forehead back, let the water wash DOWN the hair down your back… never lean forward under the shower and let the water wash UP the hair. Wash, condition and rinse with COLD water for shine but only ever DOWN the hair.

    Take a handful of hair in your fist and only then start to comb or brush starting at the bottom. Once that section is smooth you can work higher but always press against the scalp to prevent pulling. Put a covered elastic band at the end of the hair to hold it while you do the next section.

    • sounds like you have some experience in this area! thanks for the ideas!

  18. Caitlin said:

    The Gerbil has hair that’s a lot like Chloe’s, and her mom wants to keep it long and girly -as does the Gerbil, but getting her to brush it is quite the ordeal. We found this brush called the Tangle Teazer (you can buy it at Sally or Ulta), and it has made a world of difference! We still use conditioner and a detangler, but this brush doesn’t yank or snag, and it even helps with those morning rat’s nest snarls.

    • and I love the alliterative name — Tangle Teazer! Thanks for the tip!

  19. OK I am literally laughing out loud now! I can relate to every single part of this post! I had long hair and my mom would torture me. Then there was the screaming. The knots. Although I wanted to cut mine and my mom wouldn’t let me.
    And then when you said you left the bun in back I was horrified for her, I had no idea where you were going, but PETTING THE RAT???
    Man! I’m rolling!
    Jen recently posted..Dear Babysitter, Special Needs is Not All Sweetness and LightMy Profile

  20. Amy said:

    I have curly hair – which dry brushing can be a pain the the butt…I found that spraying it with the Aveeno naturals leave in conditioner after a shower, combing with a large tooth comb – and then twisting it into a bun before I go to bed help to keep it untangled by morning.

    • thanks for the tip! putting it into a bun before sleeping sounds like a good idea too!

  21. BrendaF said:

    I think you should have wrapped the braids around the lump!

    • NOW you’re talkin’ girl! That would have been a BRILLIANT camouflage maneuver! Wish I had thought of that!

      • BrendaF said:

        Remember this for future reference, lol!

    • BrendaF said:

      Try using a hair pick to get through it first, going gradually from the bottom and working upwards in short downward strokes.

    • ah yes, the mullet — business in the front and party in the back!
      her hairstyle was more like country in the front and hostage situation in the back!
      buzz cut is the way to go!

  22. Kate Stensrud said:

    Only condition it, quit using shampoo – just use the conditioner

  23. It didn’t look all that bad but you probably could make up a goofy story that would possibly make the other kids more sympathetic. You could say you found a tiny orphaned homeless o’possum and Chloe is going to keep him in her hair so she can care for him for a while. This is just for you. Don’t let her read it.
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    • Ah, yes, the old “I’m just fostering this tiny orphaned o’possum in my hair” excuse! Ha! Love it!

  24. Claire said:

    This might sound a little odd and old-fashioned, but in the 18th and 19th centuries women and girls wore sleeping caps to protect their hair as they slept and keep it from tangling. Children were sometimes told that fairies came in the night to tangle their hair if it wasn’t put under a cap. Might be worth the try for Chloe. Also, take this from someone with difficult hair: The hair-dryer is not your friend. Another thing is to make sure she’s put conditioner on the underside of her hair where it’s most likely to get tangled and worked it in well. This helped me when my favorite fleece jacket was giving me a much unwanted and random dread in the back of my hair where it rubbed.

    • ha! “random dread!” we’ve had a few of those too! never heard of the cap idea — worth a try!

  25. Girl, I feel your pain! Hair rat ha ha! ( I am laughing with you I swear!) I used to comb K’s hair 2x a week because it was such a huge, screamy, tear-filled hassle. What kind of mom only combs their kid’s hair every so often? The kind who doesn’t want the neighbors calling CPS that’s who! I am not proud of it but there it is. I discovered by accident an easier technique though before she began brushing her own hair. Using the comb vertically (rather than horizontally combing from top to bottom) to slice knots in half works pretty well. I’m not saying combing sessions are tear-free and/or easy but they are less painful for both of us!
    Jen A. recently posted..Another PieceMy Profile

    • trying the comb vertically is a new one on me — I’ll give it a whirl
      sometimes if the knots are VERY snarly, I’ve been known to make a judicious snip or two with small scissors (shh, don’t tell anyone!)

  26. Kat Caldwell said:

    I swear I just look at my daughter with the hairbrush and she started screaming! She’s 11 and as I brush she tilts her head back further and further until she’s bent in half and I’m on the floor brushing! Luckily she has decided to have it cut short next week – now to convince her sister she should too lol

    • ha! yes, their diversionary maneuvers are hilarious and frustrating!

  27. Too bad you write funny tales. If you were a pro at hair raising tales, it would have made things easy!

    Hey wait, where is that airline pilot co-passenger when you need him?
    Stupidosaur recently posted..Looking For A GirlfriendMy Profile

  28. It appears your daughter has tons of hair. Here are some approaches. First go through it with an Afro-pick. Always comb when wet. Get a brush with fewer bristles and that has bristles with the little ball on the end of each. Hold the clump firmly as you brush through. Still a little iffy when you do the closer to the scalp part. Leave-in conditioner. Thinning shears. (Not a garden tool.) but it will make hair “appear” thicker as it gives it loft. And, court of last resort, cut unless she promises to brush through herself. Did I mention the comb with fat teeth? Hope one or a combo works for you. I am always embarrassed when I get my hair cut because the floor is covered with so much hair.
    Virginia Llorca recently posted..IDEALSMy Profile

    • Thanks for the great tips, Virginia! Leave-in conditioner sounds really good.

  29. Melodie said:

    No kids here, but I used to be the little girl who howled when Mom brushed my hair because she persisted in using one of those ridiculous little kid hair brushes that’s all bristle to brush my waist-length hair until I was 9.

    One day I’d had enough and went and got it all chopped off into a bob.

    But the damage had been done. I was terrified of hair brushing and refused to let my Mom come anywhere near me with a comb and begged her to let me do it myself because I was ‘old enough’. She relented.

    Three months later and I still haven’t brushed my hair. Not once. My Dad comes over to take me out to dinner, takes one look at me and plunks me down at the kitchen table with comb in hand.

    15 minutes later after a good deal of caterwauling, thrashing, and actual tears my Dad says ‘fuck it’, gets the scissors and cuts out the tangled mat at the base of my skull that refuses to come out.

    Instant relief, and my Dad manages to brush it all in a way that hides the missing hair chunk both from the world and my Mom. 10 years later and I still don’t think she knows that happened.

    My Dad is a goddamn saint.

    • ha! what an awesome story! and an awesome Dad!