When I was pregnant and went through new mom orientation, I was let down. They forgot to add a ton of stuff to the syllabus. As a result, I had no idea my decision not to give my son a haircut would leave so many people’s panties in a bunch. I am not being dramatic. You’d be shocked by the interactions I’ve had with people because of my son’s hair.
Family, friends, and random folks have all blessed me with the gift of unsolicited advice on my son’s hair. Boys’ hair gets so many opinions that it is damn near political. To return the favor, I’m going to give you some unsolicited advice. Here is some shit I’m sick of hearing:
1. “Aw, your daughter is so cute!”
I get it, at this age, the typical appearance cues of gender are basically nonexistent. At two, my son doesn’t have a mustache or the same muscular physique as his father. Truthfully, he just looks like a person. But why do people only say “she is so cute” on the days he is decked out in his camo and daddy’s little man shirt?
2. “I said it because he looks like a girl.” (The rebuttal)
It never stops there. When I correct strangers, they almost always respond with: “I thought he was a girl because he’s so beautiful.” Okay… I’m not sure what that means. Boys can be beautiful just like girls. I actually tell him he is beautiful quite regularly. I don’t understand how people can look past the gendered implications of color schemes and phrases, but not take it a step further and contemplate a world where boys can be called “beautiful” and have long hair.
3. “Can I touch it?”
Our children aren’t pets. Don’t ever ask to pet a child’s hair regardless of texture. Unless you wanna deal with my inner Black Panther.
And I’m not the only one who feels this way too. “It really shocked me the first time someone just reached out and touched his hair. Now I’m just angry and sad that he feels it necessary to put his hands over it in case they do,” explained Nikki, the mom of a curly-haired redhead boy. She said she’s shocked at the number of people asking to touch it.
4. “He would look like a big boy with a haircut.”
He is two — he’s not gonna look like a big boy no matter what he does. You know why? Because he’s a toddler. Toddlers have chubby faces and bodies that are halfway between baby and big boy. I don’t need to speed up the process. Next thing I know you’ll be asking if he pays his portion of the water bill.
5. Any joke about a secret haircut.
There have been times some of my loved ones have asked what would happen if I allowed them to babysit and came back to his hair being cut. That’s easy. I’d throat-punch you! Until my son is old enough to make decisions for himself, his father and I are the gatekeepers of his appearance. It isn’t funny to make jokes about disobeying what we have decided for our child. It’s a pretty good way to lose your babysitting privileges.
6. “When will he get a haircut?”
Ummm, when will you pay your overdue parking tickets? How long is it before you get that spinach out of your teeth? You don’t like awkward questions about your personal business, do you? The same goes for my son’s hair.
My son’s hair is groomed regularly, and he looks equally as put together as any other two years old. Giving unwanted comments on my son’s hair is just as invasive as me asking about someone’s weight or style of dress. It isn’t anyone else’s business.
7. “You’re gonna let a child decide when to cut their hair?!”
A critical aspect of authoritative parenting is giving your children the freedom to making reasonable decisions for themselves. Letting them make choices about their appearance is no different. For moms of boys with long hair, as long as it works for our sons, it works for us.
“[Our plan is] not cut it off until and unless he wants it,” says Nikki. “We aren’t even allowed to say the word haircut with him. We have to say trim (at his insistence) to keep it healthy and the curl intact. Despite the attention, it brings him he loves his hair and his curls. So if he’s happy, we’re happy.”
I don’t want American expectations of male beauty to dictate my son’s gender expression. As long as I am maintaining my son’s hair and there are no signs of neglect, I don’t need suggestions. Parents of long-haired boys don’t need your opinions — we got this.