If I were a poet, I might render it thusly: Hair, hair everywhere/ But here's the one God-bless/ I'm not the only father/ Whose daughter's hair's a mess/ I'm not the only fumbler/ Whose pigtails droop to bits/ The other Dads admit it/ They're just as much the pits!
After I crooned the blues two weeks ago about my inability to cope with my nearly-3-year-old daughter's hair, more than 30 people (mostly Dads) wrote in to commiserate. I don't think I've ever been so glad to receive any letters. Misery has always loved company, but there's no misery quite as awful as a daughter sitting in a Dad's lap and wriggling like a demented porpoise while he tries to make (and keep together) a ponytail.
You know you don't know what you're doing, and she knows, and you know she knows. But admit defeat? Never! So you struggle to finish, as she struggles to escape the ravages of this Mad Monster with a brush. All the while you're wishing you were on a fishing trip to Vladivostok.
But many Dads say it all gets better with practice. "Just stay at it," writes Arnold Liebman of Columbia. "You learned to drive, didn't you?" (Actually, some would dispute that, Arnold).
"Distract her," suggests Harvey McMahon of Burke. "Give her a book to read, and she won't notice all the tugs on all the tangles."
Sounds good, Harvey. But as soon as Emily Levey sees me coming toward her with a brush or a barrette, she runs the other way. We may well be past the point where distraction is possible.
Steve Hutt of Gaithersburg was a true realist. "My daughters are 4 and 7," he writes, "and I still can't brush, barrette, tie, wash, dry, deknot their hair." I fear that the same will be true of Emily and me as the years go on, Steve.
The Moms out there were unswervingly optimistic -- and unswervingly full of hints.
First, there was the Twist-Tie Brigade, consisting of Adele Stephenson of Bladensburg, Mary Baker of Herndon, "Grandma Nicholson" of Silver Spring and Myfanwy B. Cochran, also of Silver Spring. Having trouble making pigtails or pony tails, Dad? These women suggest holding the tails together with those twist-ties that you use to seal plastic garbage sacks.
Next: the Creme Rinse Crew. Use Hair-So-New, urges Jane Jackson of Silver Spring. Try "No More Tangles," says Mrs. Donald Mayhew of Bowie.
Then there's the Shampoo Bunch. Use two capfuls of Johnson's Baby Shampoo each time you wash your daughter's hair, and "you'll never hear a scream again," says Adele McGinniss of Bowie. Meanwhile, Hope Robbins of Potomac says that Strawberry Shortcake Shampoo may be the answer. I shudder to think that there is such a product, but at this point, I'll try anything.
The most surprising responses came from The Peanut Butter Partisans. According to Susan Deatherage of Columbia (and several others), if your daughter gets gum stuck in her hair, smearing peanut butter onto the wad will dislodge it.
I'm still mucho skeptical about this one. Besides, I can't imagine Emily sitting still for Skippy if she won't sit still for a couple of swipes with a brush. But the P.B. Partisans say the creamy brown stuff never fails -- so I report that for what it's worth.
Finally, a touching yarn from Sandy Bradshaw of Laurel: The story of how her Dad rescued her hair on her wedding day.
"The hairdresser made my hair look so fake that I was in tears," Sandy says. Her father told her to wash it; he'd style it for her. Which he did. Sandy calls it "one of my best memories; also my Dad's."
Sandy's Dad would never have had such confidence if he hadn't learned the ropes years earlier. For all struggling Dads-of-daughters, the message is clear.