There are days when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and think, hmm, not bad. And there days when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror while I’m scrubbing piss off the toilet seat or scraping crusty toothpaste off the bathroom counter and think, ACK! You actually went out in public looking like that!
Usually, it’s the latter.
But nothing can cause me to jump in shock at my suburban mom frumpiness like a bad haircut. Fortunately, I have a stylist who works some kind of magic with my hair every three months, and it looks amazing for about 12 hours, but believe me, I’ve had my fair share of bad haircuts. Haven’t we all? In fact, the Haircut From Hell is a typical rite of passage for most children, and parents will at some point deal with the unintended surprise haircut after their 4-year-old gets a little ambitious with the scissors.
With two sons and no daughters, however, I assumed I would escape the Haircut From Hell angst and the tears that come as a result. Well, no such luck.
A few years ago, I took my oldest son to Hair Cuttery for his biannual trim. He likes his hair on the longer side, and I’m lazy, so we can only muster the emotional and physical energy to undergo this chore two times a year.
He moans and complains, and I remind him that he can have his hair as long or short as he wants, but he needs to practice good personal hygiene. That means getting your hair cut every now and then, trimming up those split ends.
After sitting down in the chair, he and I both immediately launch into the just a trim speech with the hair dresser. I took my younger son to another chair across the salon and sat next to him while he got a trim too. A few minutes later the stylist whispers to me, “I don’t think he likes it.”
Of course, he doesn’t like it. He never likes getting his hair cut, I think, but when I went over to him, I saw that he was crying. Not just crying, but sobbing. He was visibly upset.
When the stylist stepped away to answer the phone, he hissed, “Just a trim! We told her just a trim!”
He hiccupped and sobbed and moaned. He was having a full-blown emotional breakdown right there in the middle of Hair Cuttery. And what’s worse, I understood why he was so upset. She had chopped off most of his golden, wavy locks. This was certainly not a trim by any stretch. I wanted to cry too.
He cried big, fat elephant tears while she finished cutting his hair, and he sobbed the entire car ride home.
“I know it sucks,” I said. “But we’ve all been there, buddy.”
“NO. NO ONE HAS EVER HAD A HAIRCUT THIS AWFUL. I WANT MY OLD HAIR BACK!”
“Sure, we have. We’ve all had a bad haircut at one time or another. I know I have — that’s for sure.”
“NO. NOTHING THIS BAD. YOU’RE LYING, MOM.”
“Well, it’s not like you lost a limb or something,” I offered, hoping it would put things in perspective. It didn’t.
When we got home, he ran up the stairs, pulled his hood over his head, and hid in his bedroom. One of his friends arrived a few minutes later, but he wouldn’t even come out to greet him.
“No! I don’t want him to see me! I don’t want anyone to see me. I’m never going to school again!”
“I think he needs some time,” I whispered to his friend through the door.
My husband came in and tried to console Jackson, by offering a few jokes from his follicle-challenged (i.e., bald man) perspective. But, ultimately, it was that simple, tried-and-true advice uttered since the beginning of time that brought my son out from under his hood: “It’ll grow back.”
I wish I could say that was the last time tears were shed over my son’s hair. But I would be lying, because about a year and a half later, my I-love-my-long-wavy-locks son decided he wanted a shorter ‘do.
Yes, he grew it all back, then decided on his own that he’d like it cut off.
“Are you sure? Are you really sure?” I asked him again and again, fearful that he would end up in tears again.
“Yes, I’m sure,” he answered every time. Two days later, after he had sufficiently convinced me that he definitely wanted a major cut, we went back to that same Hair Cuttery where he had wept 18 months earlier. The stylist cut off about 6 to 8 inches, with his wavy tendrils slowly forming a mountain of fuzz on the floor.
I stared at the heap of hair shorn from his head, and looked back at him. In a flash, I saw the child he had been transforming into, the tween he was becoming. Who was this person? Where is the little boy he was, and what kind of man would he eventually grow into? He looks so grown up. Where did my baby go? Here I was having an existential crisis in the middle of a freaking Hair Cuttery. I felt the tears sting my eyes and looked back down at the floor.
I wanted to paste his curly mane back on his head and keep things the way they had been. I wanted to freeze time — or maybe even go back in time — to the way things had been before. But I couldn’t, and he couldn’t either.
I looked up, afraid that some salty water might leak from my eyes when I did, but the beaming smile on his face dried them right up.
“I love it!” he exclaimed. “I absolutely love it, Mom!”
If he’s happy, I’m happy, I thought. Of course, he looked handsome. He always looks handsome.
As we move into this new terrain of tweendom (and before long, the teen years — AGH!), I will sometimes need to guide the way, and other times, I’ll need to follow his lead. So I pasted a smile on my face and said, “I’m so glad you like it. It looks great.”
Even if I was thinking to myself, it’ll grow back.