For most of my life I have had long hair and my two young sons did as well. My sons’ long hair owed partly to the fact that my mother-in-law said that in Ecuador no one cuts their kids’ hair before three years old so my wife insisted that we do the same out of deference to her heritage but also because she didn’t want anyone to cut her baby’s hair. My sons grew into little toddler hippies and everything was grand. Their mother loved it, of course, and other mothers were also very fond of running their fingers through my boys’ hair when given the opportunity to ‘ooh and aah’ their adoration. The other people who loved their long hair were liberal hippy types who identified in the hairstyle an avocation of bohemian ideals. Several times people came up to me and told me how cool they thought it was that my kids had long hair as if that epitomized my political philosophy. Not that I don’t believe in bohemian ways, but I’m not the type to wear things on my sleeve and it did make me a little uncomfortable to think people believe I’m forcing an ideology on my kids. Not that I won’t do this anyway on account of being their dad, but I just don’t believe in parents indoctrinating their kids into something they are not developmentally ready for like a hairstyle that is part of some political message. This was my own hang up, but as for everyone else, long hair never posed much of a problem until my boys got to grade school.
As they got older the biggest problem the boys faced was the constant question amongst children whether they were a boy or a girl. It seemed slightly crazy to my wife and I how many people thought they were girls just because of their hair but when I though about it objectively I could see why people made that mistake. The truth of the matter is that in addition to the long hair my boys are pretty with their sweet dimples and easy smiles. While they were younger this gender confusion bothered my wife and I more than it bothered my kids but as they got older it started to bother them more and more.
Once my oldest son was on the ball field riding his bike and a few older kids rode up around him and started asking him if he was a boy or a girl. When he said he was a boy they said they didn’t believe him and they asked why he had long hair and he told them it was just how he liked it. I was proud of him for keeping his cool and talking to them rationally while at the same time my anger was growing and I was ready to get them away from my son who was six at the time. One of the boys kept needling him and telling him he looked like a girl and that he would have to prove it to them if he really wanted them to believe he was not a girl. Considering the only way to do that and the increasing tenor of fright that was overtaking my son’s face I couldn’t hold back any longer and I walked up with a lot of bluster and told those kids to stay away from my kid and stop acting stupid and thinking anyone with long hair had to be a girl – I pointed to my own long hair as testament to that fact and waited for anyone of the nine year olds to challenge my manhood. Even after this incident and many lesser gender confusions, Aurelio still wanted to keep his long hair. He has always had a contrarian streak in him and I have to admit I am proud of that trait.
Another problem that got worse over time as my boys got bigger and their hair grew thicker and longer was the fact that they did not take good care of it. Like most boys, they do not get great satisfaction out of brushing their hair to a lustrous sheen. Aurelio, my oldest, liked the way his hair looked best when it was knotty and tangled and puffy and nearly impossible to get a comb through. Aurelio petitioned us to allow him to grow dreads more than once but my wife was steadfastly against that idea and I was also not willing to let things go to that extreme. I kept thinking of what smells might emanate from that head of his if he swore off washing his hair. The times when we did need to get a comb through his scalp became a half an hour ordeal full of tears. My youngest son had hair as fine as silk but somehow a nasty knot would develop overnight on the back of his head and he dreaded me having to comb it out in the morning so that it didn’t appear as if a nest was being built there. Despite all the pain of putting a comb through their head my boys still did not want to cut their hair but I was starting to think that would be the best thing for everyone involved as I was tired of getting grief for trying to take care of them.
Over the last year I really started encouraging Aurelio to cut his hair and make his life easier but he refused, often emotionally. His most common answer to my asking him was that he would cut his hair when I cut mine. Who could argue with that? I really had no standing to tell him to cut his hair when I had long hair myself. I tried to explain to him that I was old and I was afraid my hair was going to turn gray or just fall out any day now and that I was going to wait for that to happen before I cut my hair. I do not plan on going two-tone with brown hair and gray roots. He pointed out that I already have gray hairs and our conversations usually ended with him promising to take care of his hair better and me telling him I’ll try to lay off telling him to cut his hair.
Finally, this summer, things came to a ‘head.’ I had to get the old clippers out and gave both my boys a buzz. Now I’m the only long haired freak left in the family!
My kids look totally conventional now, did I really ask for this? Well, they can always grow it back.