Monday, July 14, 2008

A hairy situation

It's very strange indeed to send your child away for a week and have him returned with a new haircut. A haircut that is exactly the same as his father's, that makes him look exactly like his father, so every time you speak to him, as you're getting used to it, you have to concentrate hard not to hear his father in his voice.

You don't speak about it, but when your husband nonchalantly offers to give your son a buzz cut, you know that he is thinking the same thing.

And a couple of weeks ago, when your friends and your mother-in-law were remarking admiringly on his shaggy mane, you received an email from his father that said 'Time for a haircut!' When you replied that he looks fantastic, you were informed that there was no way he was sending him up to his parents on the Gold Coast 'looking like that' and had to have an argument behind the closed door of your study that afternoon while your son and his little brother kicked the footy around the lounge room.

Your son's father said 'no son of mine is walking around looking like a rock star!' and you said ' ' in such a way that he laughed at you and called you a child, because he knew what you were thinking. And what you were thinking was that you LIKE him looking like a rock star. And you said that he always gets his way, because he always gets all your son's hair chopped off when he's got him safely at his house, and you never get to have him looking the way you would choose. And you argued like this for far longer than was sensible. Secretly, you reflected that you will let your son get his ear pierced and have tattoos when he is a teenager and his father will not be able to do anything about it. (Well, maybe not tattoos.)

Life's hard enough for him as it is, you thought, without stupid haircuts. 'Life's hard enough for him as it is,' said your son's father, 'without stupid haircuts.' And he meant something quite different, even if you were thinking in the same words. You meant that kids already judge him as a bit odd anyway, with the Asperger's, and that a faintly cool haircut couldn't hurt in evening up the stakes. He meant that teachers already judge him as a bit odd anyway, with the Asperger's, and a nerdboy haircut couldn't hurt in evening up the stakes.

You were also thinking of your own childhood, when your mum plaited your hair in two braids and made you wear a skivvy and a navy pinafore to school, with white knee socks and navy Mary Janes. While the other kids wore tight denim jeans or skirts and striped polo shirts and sneakers. And that it really would have helped if, instead of sending you to school as Nerd Barbie, she'd given you sneakers and jeans and bought you an AC/DC album. (You wrote 'I love AC/DC' on your pencilcase because everyone else did, but you didn't even know what it meant.)

'You're just thinking of your own childhood and your mum making you wear those crazy outfits,' said your son's father, and because it was true you couldn't help laughing, and then you both sighed and agreed to a compromise - that you would take him to get a haircut before it was time for your son's father to take send him to the Gold Coast to stay with his parents. And that it would be neater, but still long.

On the way home from the barber's, you realised that the haircut you'd kind of instructed him on hadn't quite worked out. That it was a bit bizarre. That he looked like he had stepped out of a 1970s clothing catalogue (if you didn't look at his clothes) or run away from The Partridge Family. And your son's father, who had just pulled up at the kerb, fell about laughing as he assured you he would get it fixed up.

So, a week later, your son came back to you looking like he always does after a haircut - exactly like a smaller version of his dad, not at all what you would choose. And you feel disconcertingly like the balance has been tipped and that he's his dad's son, and you are borrowing him. The feeling doesn't last long, and you know it's irrational. But it's the cost of compromise, of co-parenting, along with the impossible dreams to move to New York, or to live in a coastal town, or send your son to an alternative hippy school, or to go back to Adelaide and live near your family.

And you have to admit that the result of your attempt at getting his hair cut was almost as anachronistic as your mum's dressing you up in a pinafore and Mary Janes.

Still. When he had long hair, they said that he looked more like you.


Penni said...

Oh Ariel. boohoo. I'm all sore hearted now.

I have bad post-traumatic haircut disorder. Even though most of the haircuts I've had in my adult life have been good, all the ones I had until I was eighteen were shockers. As a result, when Fred, whose hair is almost a permanent bird's best, cries and carries on about getting her hair cut, I just have to drop it, even though I am convinced the haircuts I will micromanage as a parent will be far superior to the hedgetrims I had to deal with. And, oh god, the perms, the fringes.

1988+13 year old was never going to be pretty.

Helen said...

Now I am starting to think I must be stalking you, because I am going through the exact same thing with the boychild. He's always looked OK with short haircuts, but lately he's asserted his will to grow it long. But. With the curls and all, he's going to look like Napoleon Dynamite. He rather likes that idea, but nuh - uh!

So I want to lose the 'fro, but I don't want the mullet or the bogan short-all-over with rat tail at the back cut either.

I'm thinking of taking him to the friendly Fresh haircutters and asking them if they can treat him as a Challenge.

Ariel said...

Penni: Oh yes, I had some terrible haircuts, too. The fringes!!! That awful 80s spiky fringe with lots of gel and mousse and then your hair moussed up into koala ears at the side of your face! Bad looks, in those days. But even by the standard of the time, mine were pretty awful.

F's hair looks much better this afternoon than it did yes, btw. I must be adjusting.

Helen: Ha, that's funny! Fresh ... are they on Anderson? I like that idea. Surely any hairdresser worth their salt would like the idea of making a new generation look hip. Surely they all have their own traumatic haircuts of the past to avenge? I saw Boychild walking to school today (passed him on my bike) and I have to say I think his hair is looking pretty good right now. In fact I cast a sad, nostalgic look at his long hair. But I guess you have to plan ahead.

Elsewhere007 said...

nice use of the second person.