petite anglaise

September 17, 2007


Filed under: Tadpole rearing, Tadpole says — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:31 pm

Tadpole and I are making our way home from “daddy’s house”. We make excruciatingly slow progress, as she insists on pulling her Miffy wheelie weekend bag along herself rather than letting me carry it. My eyes are riveted on the pavement ahead so that I can give advance warning should we encounter anything unsavoury left behind by a pigeon, dog or human.

Grinding to a halt at a pedestrian crossing, Tadpole suddenly becomes very excited at the sight of a teenage girl across the road.

“Wow! Look mummy! That girl has really red hair! Absolutely exactly the same red colour as the Little Mermaid!”

I take my eyes off the traffic lights for a moment and obediently take a look. The girl in question, striding away on the opposite pavement, has dyed her hair an unnaturally deep red, a cross between the claret colour so often favoured by Parisian café owners when choosing their awnings and my own crimson bedclothes. Uncannily similar to Tadpole’s Little Mermaid doll’s dishevelled mane. A colour which looks better, in my humble opinion, on fabric than on hair.

“Oh look, the green man!” I say, changing the subject and grabbing Tadpole’s free hand.

Later that evening, as I pull a wide-toothed comb through her damp ringlets (amusingly called “anglaises in her father tongue), I make the mistake of doing my thinking aloud. “We really must go to see a hairdresser sometime,” I say. “If we cut your hair just a little bit, then it will grow thicker, and longer.” I’ve been saying this for the past two years, ever since Tadpole’s hair finally deigned to begin growing in earnest, but somehow we’ve never got round to it.

“Mummy?” says Tadpole, turning to face me, her brow furrowed, “when you go to the see the hairdresser, sometimes the hairdresser puts some colour, doesn’t he?”

“Well, yes,” I admit. “I sometimes make it a little bit blonder, because it used to be light like yours, but now it’s darker…” I can almost see the cartoon lightbulb flickering to life above my daughter’s head, and have a sudden inkling of what is coming next.

“So when I go to see the hairdresser, can he make my hair a different colour too? Because I would like to have really really red hair like Ariel’s!”

I pause, wondering how to respond, then a phrase falls from my lips which somehow I never expected to find myself using quite so soon. “Not until you are at least sixteen years old, young lady! Your hair is very pretty just the way it is!”

“But mummy,” protests Tadpole with a sullen pout I find eerily familiar. “Sixteen years old is in a long long long time.”

Combing duty over, I pull myself to my feet and lead the way through into the bedroom.

“Hell yes,” I mutter under my breath.


  1. Red ringlets are the best! Good for her.
    As a child I wanted them so badly. Obviously at 35 I still can’t give this up.
    Oh and one funny thing, my red curls got me to diagnose a color blind little girl, every time I dyed my hair (bright red), she would greet me with some uncanny:
    “Oh no, you’ve put more green on your head. Yuck!”

    Comment by Bennett — September 17, 2007 @ 1:00 pm

  2. …and when she’s gone, you’ll wish she was back.

    On a practical note, if she continues to ask for pretty-coloured hair(and I guess Tadpole will forget about it by tomorrow), you can always try the party dyes which wash out at in one.

    Comment by Moses — September 17, 2007 @ 1:17 pm

  3. My niece has this amazingly gorgeous shade of naturally red hair (from her mother, my sister), a shade which no dye technology known to mankind can replicate. Believe me, I’ve asked the professionals. I must content myself with the knowledge that she will someday be a famous actress, and she’s walking the “red” carpet I can bask in the reflected glory of saying: “See that famous actress with that stunning mane of NATURAL red hair? That’s MY niece!” Being the brunette-dyed-auburn that I am, no one will ever believe me.

    Comment by The Bold Soul — September 17, 2007 @ 1:35 pm

  4. Really, the best excuse ever for highlights is that it “used to be” lighter. Why, when I was a wee one, my hair was almost white! The dark blonde highlights I treat myself to now are just a modest nod to the shining blonde I once was.

    Comment by BlondebutBright — September 17, 2007 @ 1:35 pm

  5. P.S. I meant to add that my sister now dyes HER hair to try to get to closer to her daughter’s as her hair has also darkened with time. [sigh]

    Comment by The Bold Soul — September 17, 2007 @ 1:36 pm

  6. #2, I have a better solution: If she continues to ask, the answer can continue to be “no.”

    I shudder at the play cosmetics sets that are around in the U.S. and at some of the clothes people put on their little girls (surely because the children whined enough that parents gave in). I don’t understand making a child look like a mini hooker even temporarily.

    Comment by Passante — September 17, 2007 @ 1:47 pm

  7. She’s so cute. :-)
    I was going to make the same suggestion than Moses, but you may want to use it as a last ressource.

    Comment by Anna — September 17, 2007 @ 1:51 pm

  8. Sounds like Tadpole has hair similar to the Bambina’s: dark blonde ringlets, getting longer, looser and more tangled by the day. But I don’t dare cut the Bambina’s hair ’cause I’m afraid that those baby ringlets won’t come back…

    Comment by Caroline in Rome — September 17, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

  9. Ha! I’m a natural blonde and wanted to have red hair when I was 8 or 9 years old. My mom was a hairdresser and had a closet full of those “rinses’ for old ladies–you know, the kind that “wash right out”… She told me not to do it, but I was determined.

    The thing about fine, curly blonde hair is that it’s porous. It stains, even if the stuff is supposed to rince out. I wasn’t exactly red any more, but sort of Dorito-colored. It took the summer sun a couple of months to bleach out the traces of orange.

    Comment by suzanne — September 17, 2007 @ 2:03 pm

  10. I waited till I was old enough to go to the store on my own. Then I locked myself in the bathroom and dyed MY hair red. It’s still red, and now it’s fifteen years later and I’m twenty-six. Interestingly, I chose red b/c my hair was blond when I was little then changed to brown when I was ten (like you, it seems?)… so I didn’t feel connected to any hair color, and red seemed the way to go.

    You may be in for an uphill battle, my friend…

    Comment by Rachel — September 17, 2007 @ 2:09 pm

  11. Awwww, tadpole cuteness!

    I really really liked this one…keep up the great work and another “hell no” to the crimson ringlets!

    Comment by Mlle Smith in France — September 17, 2007 @ 2:11 pm

  12. get a wig from a dressing up shop!

    Comment by beck — September 17, 2007 @ 2:28 pm

  13. See what happens when you turn 35, you turn into your parents!

    Comment by Craig — September 17, 2007 @ 2:29 pm

  14. I take it that by now you’ve told her that hair dyes only WORK on adults hair…

    Comment by tinylondon — September 17, 2007 @ 2:51 pm

  15. Petite, if she is anything like my little blondie, she will not forget your comment. My sweet girl has turned her hair golden, redredred, deep brunette (for Paris), ashy blonde, and platinum in the last year. Back when she was a bitty girl, I told her she could color her hair when she could drive herself to the salon. All those colors, and she’s not quite seventeen. No probably would have served me much better. ;)

    Comment by Kaycie — September 17, 2007 @ 2:59 pm

  16. My daughter (now 14) has hair the color of new penny. Well, that only makes sense to the Americans, doesn’t it. Her hair is a coppery color which will streak blonde in the summer sun. It is incredible hair, thick and wavy and generating comments from strangers daily since she was about, well, Tadpole’s age. She hates it. She wanted to match me, a normal brunette. Then she wanted hot pink, for years. I told her that when she hit high school she could do watch she wanted. It’s just hair, right? It grows back. She has BLEACHED it. The bottom is a strawberry blonde but the top is a garish, brassy orange. Like…like…I don’t know what it’s like. It’s not human. I cried. But she loves it. Of course, being a red head, her hair is fragile at the best of times and now it feels like straw. It’s going to break and fall off and she’ll be bald. I don’t care…at least that horrible color will go away more quickly, right?

    Oh, and she plucked her eyebrows. She got carried away and one of them starts in the MIDDLE OF HER EYE, I swear it.

    And the teal eyeliner caked on? The mascara that just keeps getting added to as the week goes on?

    These are not habits she got from me, let’s just say. And it’s not for lack of advice from allcorners, either.

    Comment by JoAnne — September 17, 2007 @ 3:09 pm

  17. Tadpole, bless her little ringlets, is just letting her French side shine on through. From tomato to aubergine, scarlet to scorched, French women have the full palette of red hair dyes well and truly covered. Maybe some less attractive examples of red-hairiness would help? I can think of Ronald Macdonald and Mick Hucknall to start you off. But can’t think of any females…you can’t really describe Nicole Kidman as ugly, can you? Hmmmm.

    Mya x

    Comment by Mya — September 17, 2007 @ 3:46 pm

  18. Lovey, just be thankful she hasn’t asked (yet) to get her nostril pierced…

    Comment by Antipo Déesse — September 17, 2007 @ 3:56 pm

  19. Whenever I mention an activity any time in advance, whether it’s months or even years, my 5 year old boy will always say “how many sleeps is that”, with his favorite big number at the moment being sixty-four hundred.

    Comment by Richard Ringrose — September 17, 2007 @ 4:25 pm

  20. Becky beat me to the wig suggestion. Children love dressing up – but if she wanted to go to school wearing it . . . . .

    Comment by sablonneuse — September 17, 2007 @ 4:58 pm

  21. I too had a head full of golden blond curls in my youth which turned to a dull, uninteresting brown by my teenage years at which point I began dying my hair blond. I never looked back and now, many years later, I am a redhead and have been for years. I am one of those who will die with my hair dyed unless I can’t get out of bed or something.

    Comment by Linda — September 17, 2007 @ 5:26 pm

  22. Oh my. This posting, as well as many of the comments left here, makes me shiver. Not in delight. My mother screamed and railed and made my life miserable regarding hair colour – I bleached my hair at age 13 and I think she almost disowned me at that point. (It has been red, blonde, black, pink, purple and blue, mohawked, shaved, dreadlocked, etc… even up until these days, in my 30s. I have also had streaks of grey – natural – since I was 17).

    It’s HAIR. And, it’s Tadpole’s HAIR. Not yours. Children are not property. I can understand you wanting to let her wait until her teen years, but there might be a day when she comes home with a pierced lip and a shaved head and a tattoo that she didn’t ask your permission for, and she’s still gonna be your little girl.

    You can say no all you like, but she WILL defy you. Hair is nothing. Are you instilling values, morals, right vs. wrong, respect, etc.? Those of us with bright red hair and bright blue hair and bleached hair and grey roots hair can still have successful careers and successful personal lives, even if our mamas don’t like the way we choose to present ourselves to the world. How about celebrating Tadpole’s instinct for individual expression?

    Comment by french panic — September 17, 2007 @ 5:55 pm

  23. I certainly wasn’t passing judgement on people who choose to colour their hair …

    Come on french panic, she’s four years old! When she is old enough to make the decision (and pay for the trip to the hairdressers with her pocket money) then fine. But right now, if I gave into her whim to look like the Little Mermaid tomorrow, I’d end up cutting off her hand on Thursday so she could be Captain Hook…

    Comment by petite — September 17, 2007 @ 6:01 pm

  24. I remember that stage with my kids. There are all sorts of things queuing up for doing “when you are 16”: colouring the hair, having piercings wherever you like, staying out much later, buying the clothes your mum hates. However when they get to 13, the whining begins in earnest, “but everyone else does”, and it’s really hard to maintain. And if they have enough money, they do it anyway. See my blog about the famous nose piercing episode.

    Comment by varske — September 17, 2007 @ 6:17 pm

  25. Just stumbled upon your site through Google! I’d never seen it before. The title really caught my eye. I’m a New Zealander, I’ve been living in Paris for five months. I’ll have to buy your book!

    All the best,

    Comment by Edward Yardley — September 17, 2007 @ 6:23 pm

  26. ha. recently went from blonde to red myself, don’t tell tadpole! (after first going red at, ahem, 16)

    Comment by maitresse — September 17, 2007 @ 6:54 pm

  27. I dyed my hair bright red with henna when I was 17. Very bad move as henna cannot be dyed over or bleached out. Ask me, I tried. After 3 or 4 years of being a feisty redhead I wanted to be blonde again and bleached it. I ended up pink and had to cut it all off and dye it red until all the remaining henna had grown out. Disaster! :-) Now I’m a happy bottleblonde at 32.

    Comment by Londongrrl — September 17, 2007 @ 7:45 pm

  28. Just had to tell you – was at the doctors rooms on friday, picked up the South African version of Cosmopolitan (October 2007 – no idea why it’s already out) read an article about ‘online dusting’ i.e. the practice of ‘cleaning up’ your online profile, i.e. deleting possibly incriminating (head over toilet bowl type) photos off your facebook and myspace profiles etc, and googling yourself to see what a prospective employer might see – and then whammo – there you were! The picture of you (leaning against the pillar) from that article, your name and all about petite anglaise etc. They were very positive about you having won your tribunal thingy – but i just thought I’d let you know that such word has reached our humble shores down here. Now I guess I just have to wait to catch your book on our shelves – I hope it won’t be too long :)

    Comment by Valkyrie — September 17, 2007 @ 8:50 pm

  29. Tactfully handled. Tadpole has a long time to wait.

    Comment by Jean-Luc Picard — September 17, 2007 @ 8:56 pm

  30. Ahhh redheads! One one major weakness in life excepting Guinness. Actually I really like auburn haired filles. There is something about auburn hair that drives me–well not crazy but.. :-)

    Dreams in Seattle about Paris and Tuscany and wishes I were there with a long-legged auburn haired lovely.


    Comment by Beau — September 17, 2007 @ 9:23 pm

  31. Interesting thread this one! It seems like Tadpole just wants to express her creativity in a visual form, rather than a verbal form like, well, you know who.

    As children tend to always do the opposite of what their parents want, play the opposites game. Tell her you’re going to dye your hair red, then you will be the little mermaid and she will have to be someone else!

    Although they may think you are:- (a) a crazy person, or, (b) an attention seeker at the book launch, which may not be a bad idea afterall.

    Comment by Steve... — September 17, 2007 @ 9:23 pm

  32. mais oui! of course she is only 4 – I totally get that. I say go with what an earlier poster said and get the wash out stuff if you aren’t able to convince her that dye doesn’t work on 4 year old hair.

    I just meant that starting her off with promises of “when you are 16…” can lead to a whack of trouble. What if she is an immature 16? Or a very mature 12?

    This just brought back all sorts of nastiness I have had with my mom over the years, and I apologize for my freakout. When I shaved my head, it was too short. Now that I have very long hair, it’s too long. And I have also moved all the way across the country from her…coincidence? Maybe. Maybe I just got tired of my mom’s constant commentary about how I should be dressing. How she wanted me to look. Never mind about all those degrees and the hot husband… it all comes back to hair. But that’s my problem, not yours or tadpole’s (yet!) (insert cheeky winky emoticon HERE to convey cheeky winky behaviour)

    ps. I like your blog.

    Comment by french panic — September 17, 2007 @ 9:38 pm

  33. He he.

    Guess who was never allowed long hair as a child and now wears it along enough to sit on?

    Comment by petite — September 17, 2007 @ 9:52 pm

  34. Ladies, there is no such thing as hair that is too long on a woman. :-)

    Comment by Beau — September 17, 2007 @ 10:24 pm

  35. Hair dying can be dangerously addictive. Wigs are much simpler to repent from.

    Comment by sassy — September 17, 2007 @ 10:26 pm

  36. I agree completely that you should NOT let such a small girl colour her hair. You could however hunt down a red wig for her. Do they have fancy dress shops in Paris? If the red curls thing becomes an issue, then you could just get her a wig.

    Comment by Peggy — September 17, 2007 @ 10:49 pm

  37. Issues french panic…..serious issues

    Comment by bfastboy — September 17, 2007 @ 11:00 pm

  38. Beware of the wash out stuff, Petite. I put it on my little blonde daughter at about Tadpole’s age so that she could be Ariel at Halloween. It didn’t come out completely for months and she looked like I’d let her die her hair a pinky orange color. It’s dangerous to put that stuff on fragile blonde hair!

    Comment by Kaycie — September 17, 2007 @ 11:38 pm

  39. The “when you’re [whatever age]” approach can backfire.

    I saw one of my neighbors with a dog back in the early summer. I said I hadn’t realized she wanted a dog.

    “I don’t,” was the response.

    Apparently when her daughter was approaching her fourth birthday, she lobbied for a dog. Her mother said no, she was too young. Kid, being no fool, said then could have one when she was older? Her mother said rather vaguely that she supposed so. “When?” was the next question. My neighbor said, “Oh … when you’re 12,” assuming the child would forget, and promptly forgot about it herself.

    The child didn’t forget though. As her 12th birthday loomed, she was asked what she wanted. “Well I’m getting the dog, of course,” said our little memory bank.

    And since it had been promised, there was nothing for it but to get the dog.

    Comment by Passante — September 18, 2007 @ 1:46 am

  40. There is something wonderful about red heads, but I would make her wait awhile too.

    Comment by Mad William — September 18, 2007 @ 4:02 am

  41. I truly appreciate the porous, staining nature of blonde hair from when my little tadpole think-alike smeared a whole lipstick into his hair just before Christmas – Ariel eat your heart out – it was auburn until New year despite numerous washes.

    Comment by Fi0na — September 18, 2007 @ 7:40 am

  42. Who’d be a redhead? Sunburn on even very unlikely days, kids at school tease you, you can never tan (and spray-on just looks STUPID), you’re a magnet for drunks and other loonies; and _everyone_ comments on it.

    Stay blonde, Tadpole, sunburn HURTS!!

    (yes, I know dyed red doesn’t cause sunburn, but does she?). I’d buy the wig.

    My little one’s a Closet Blonde. I started bleaching her hair in early high school, when it got darker and greasier; the bleach helped the teenage greasiness. In Year 11 she decided to go dark instead, and her school marks went up. She’s staying a brunette until she gets a job, when she’s planning to go expensive blonde with streaks :-).

    Comment by Anne — September 19, 2007 @ 2:06 am

  43. I was allowed to dye my hair at age 13… but I dyed it exactely the same color I already had (brown) and did it for the shine. But please, don’t make the same mistake my parents did:

    Me, jokingly: “Mom? How would I look with blue hair?”
    My mother, laughing: “Haha, like you would dare!”

    Next day, I had shiney blue locks… and a blue forehead… and blue ears… and a blue bathroom plus about 6 ruined towels. ;)

    Comment by Miss Q — September 19, 2007 @ 5:26 pm

  44. It may seem like a long time til she’s 16, but (and I don’t want to sound like an old granny type here) it will fly by sadly….

    In eight years or so she’ll satrt negortiating. It goes very quickly!

    Comment by Sally Lomax — September 20, 2007 @ 3:48 pm

  45. Not applicable to Tadpole but ladies when you dye your hair do collars and cuffs match?

    Comment by Jobrag — September 23, 2007 @ 7:20 am

  46. I’m commenting here cos I arrived too late to comment on the “Prude” post…

    It was this bit, it made me giggle:

    “I am now in the possession of a glow in the dark bottom.”

    I thought you had a glow in your “dark bottom”, which I took as some kind of euphemism for pubic hair. I was just trying to work out why your bottom-half prudery should have caused your dark bottom to glow, when I realised my mistake.

    Comment by Clare — September 24, 2007 @ 3:32 pm

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