Saturday, July 03, 2010

"Gimme a Head of Hair, Long Beautiful Hair..."

So Ethan's going to have to hold off on his Broadway debut in HAIR for a little bit (he's not really in that picture, by the way.) Yesterday, we got his hair cut.

All right, stop clutching your pearls in horror. It's not like we shaved it off or anything. Just a trim. I had no idea that so many people felt such investment in Ethan's hair until I posted an update on Facebook about being disappointed that the kid's hair salon was closed the first time we tried to get it cut, last week. I quickly had a half a dozen comments, ranging from "oh, no I like his hair the way it is!" to "DON'T DO IT!" One person even warned me that Ethan's very essence might be somehow epically harmed by my attempts to tame his locks--"Think of Samson!!"

At the same time, I've had people, mostly random strangers (some of them kids Ethan's age), let me know loud & clear that my kid's hair is "too long" or that he, I kid you not, "looks like a girl like that." Because, please, let's be sure to indoctrinate our kids into society's acceptable gender roles, including physical appearance, early enough that they learn to always deny that voice inside of themselves that might tell them to be a little "different". Let's make sure that our little boys know that looking "like a girl" is a bad thing, something to be avoided at all costs. Otherwise, G-d forbid, some day they might not fit into the cookie cutter image of what "boy" looks like in the eyes of every other person who's been indoctrinated into believing that long hair = girl.

And I get it. I get that, as a mother, one of my main jobs should be, as much as I can, to protect him from being made fun of by his peers. Aside from scary illnesses, nothing is worse for me as a parent than the fear (and knowledge) that someday someone's going to make fun of my kid for something--if it's not his hair, it will be something else. Kids are brutal to each other in one form or another and I have no illusions that my kid will somehow be able to escape the very harsh experience of being the brunt of someone's meanness at some point. And as a mom, I should be doing everything I can to protect him from that. Shouldn't I?

BUT. At the same time, I don't want to be the one who clips his wings (or, if we're going to continue w/ the Samson metaphor, I don't want to be the one who cuts his hair). I don't want Ethan growing up feeling that I was the one who told him "you can't." Nor do I want to be the parent who instills in her child a belief that conforming to society's expectation is more important than being true to oneself. "You can't have long hair. What will people think?" "You can't wear a princess dress. What will people think?" "You can't wear any of mommy's toe nail polish when she's doing her own nails. What will people think?" I want Ethan to grow up knowing and believing, that, above all else, what HE thinks & who he is, is by far more important than what "they" think.

Ohdeargod, Sarah--IT'S A HAIRCUT! I know. I tend to overanalyze, yes? And I realize that not all of this parenting-existential angst has to be wrapped up in one haircut. But, being a woman and only having had the experience of every being a girl, being the mother of a boy, especially one who is not a rough & tumble, stereotypical "boy," raises some interesting challenges for me. I feel like, had I given birth to a daughter, this gender identity stuff would be so much easier. Tom boy, girlie girl, whatever--society is much more willing these days, ironically, to embrace a girl whose expresses herself in more "boyish" ways. Look at Shiloh Jolie Pitt:

That's her, in between Angelina & Zahara. With the exception of a few nasty tabloids who clutch their pearls in horror that Shiloh's hair isn't long & she isn't decked out in dresses & toddler high heels, like Suri Cruise, most people I've talked to think "good for her! Little girls can be whatever they want to be!" (which doesn't mean I don't realize that girls will face criticism for all kinds of choices they make, but these days, there seems to be more acceptance for girls when they push against the barriers of gender.)

But when Kate Hudson was photographed with her son Ryder:

people all but fainted dead away, as their comfortable limits of what's "boy" and what's "girl" were challenged by Ryder's never-been-trimmed locks. Because in our society, while we've made so many advances to equalize the genders, little boys can not be whatever they want to be, if what they want to be can be construed as, in any way, shape or form, "girly."

For us, the decision to trim Ethan's hair this week was about his own comfort. It was in his eyes. All over the back of his neck. It's summer time & hot. I started asking him a week ago how he felt about getting it cut--remember, he wants it long because when it's long, he feels "Beatle-ish," which is basically the biggest part of his identity right now, so cutting it is a big deal to him. After talking about it a bit, he agreed that we should trim it a bit so that he's more comfortable for the summer--and then we'll let it grow out again in the fall, as long as he wants it (I think he's probably going for a John Lennon, circa mid-70's look, as he's grown tired of the mod mop top look).

So off to the salon we went...(note: one of my favorite parts of these pictures is the tween girl in the background whose thrown herself down at the shampoo station, i-Something in hand, lolling around as she waited for her little brother who was in the chair next to Ethan. Every few minutes she heaved a melodramatic "omg, I am so bored, you are KILLING me" sigh--she was fabulous).

I'm fortunate that I have a child who is perfectly happy in the haircutter's seat, even if he's only there 3 times a year.

okay...he's a little nervous. But mostly happy.

A bit of a before & after...

earlier in June *sob*

this morning (please not Beatles Guitar Hero...)
He's pretty happy with it (perhaps mostly because it meant he got a lollipop from the salon), so we're happy with it. And I am comforting myself, as I so often do after I get my own hair cut, with the knowledge that it will grow. Right?


gringa said...

Long hair, short hair, he's adorable anyway. Things actually have changed. We have male security guards in our building who keep their hair in a braided pony tail. Nothing girlie about them. Why not?

Becca said...

Looks more comfortable... Even long hair needs a trim once in a while!

You can do whatever you want, Ethan!

Neil said...

This is a tough one. I like the long hair on him a lot. BUT, some of the strangers have a point. I think it is great to fight stereotypes, but why bother with it right now and have to deal with it. For now, I think you are expected to go with the norm, which in 2010 is short hair for boys. When he becomes 17 and wants to put a earring in his nose, then it is up to him to go find a new identity.

sarah said...

Neil, I see what you're saying; I guess my concern stems from the fact that HE is the one who wants his hair long, not necessarily me. So does a mom let her child have his way, knowing he's going to face some people who are judgy about his having long hair? Or do I keep it cut short to protect him from that, but end up forcing him to conform when he's 4?

I overthink silly things. I know.

Mama Bub said...

We get the same comments about Benjamin's hair. He's had four hair cuts in three years and it continues to grow back. Amazing how that works. I think the longer hair on boys is very in right now and if it's what he wants, then I wouldn't fight it unless you really DON'T like it, which it doesn't sound like is the case. The way I see it, we'll be battling with them for so long about so many things, hair should be the least of it, regardless of what everyone else thinks.

Amy said...

To play total devil's advocate here... if he wanted to eat nothing but candy for dinner, and you made him eat a balanced meal, would you feel you were stifling his choices? We all make parenting choices based on what we think is best for our kids and for us. No one should judge about that. If you like long hair and so does he, then leave it. But if he feels bad when people say he looks like a girl, I would ask him how he feels about that and if he would rather cut it.

(I think it looks way better after the trim simply because you can see his cute little face!)