Monday, October 10, 2011

And then I shaved his head.

When Max was a baby, we called him Goldilocks. He had a head full of shining blonde ringlets, and we had no intention of cutting them. He never mentioned it either, until one day when he was about 3 years old, and he came up to me and said "Mama, I want to cut my haiw."

"You do?" I said with surprise. "Your beautiful hair? Why?"

He looked at me, his impossibly blue eyes fringed with thick black lashes. "Because, mama. People think I'm a giwl."

I wanted to punch that damn supermarket cashier in the throat. The day before, she had laughingly said that it was time to cut his hair, because he didn't want to look like a girl. He had looked at her, agast. "I am NOT a GIWL." He was indignant. "I AM A MAX."

I had grinned at him, and turned to her triumphantly. "I am pretty sure Max can set them straight." I smiled at her sympathetically, for being so conservative and narrow-minded as to believe that anyone would think my son was a girl just because he didn't have a crew cut.

But now, the tables were turned, and I was left holding the tablecloth. "You really want to cut your hair?" I was devastated - mostly because I suffer from some serious hair envy. Everyone in this house has gorgeous hair, except me. Max and Lucy are both blessed with an abundance of soft blonde curls. Sam has beautiful black hair which had been long glossy ringlets until Max was a baby. And then his curls had formed some sort of horrible dreadlock borne of a few forgotten Cheerios and some rice cereal (which is, by the way, like cement when it dries) and he had shaved all of his hair off, vowing to grow it back when Max stopped eating with his hands.

Anyway, when Max wandered in rocking his pullups and a muddy t-shirt, telling me he needed a haircut, I was faced with a vexing problem. I loved Max's hair. And I didn't want to cut it. But if he wanted it cut, was it really such a big deal? What was I going to do - forbid him from cutting it?

No. No I was not.

So Sam took him along the next time he went to the barber, and they both got their hair cut. No pictures, no video, but the barber did remember to send me home a few ringlets. As Max rounded the corner into my room that day, holding the baggie of curls aloft, the wind was knocked out of me. My baby boy looked like a man. A very little, stubby-legged man. It was eerie.

I hated it.

I got over it eventually, of course. Got used to the short hair. I didn't like it, but I had fun with it. Mohawks, fauxhawks, skater bangs, flock of seagulls - whatever I could manage with clippers and a pair of nail scissors, basically.

When Lucy was born, Sam grew his beautiful hair long again. "Your hair is beautiful!" people would exclaim. Once I watched him get fully accosted by a woman at Home Depot ("You can do it. We can help" indeed. She was going to just help her damn self until I walked up carrying a squirming toddler and a chainsaw) who ran her fingers through his hair while "helping" him at the customer service desk. Eventually Max got tired of hearing about how gorgeous his father's hair was, and what a shame it was that Max didn't grow his hair long too. Last year, he decided that maybe he would give long hair a try. Oh happy day! He didn't remember having long hair, so for him it was a big surprise when a thick head full of shining blonde ringlets grew in. Lots of em. It was like wearing a helmet. A sweaty, blonde helmet. Huh. Hadn't really factored in the pre-teen sweaty factor. Not as enchanting as I had remembered from his toddler days, that's for sure.

For months now, he has been marching around dripping with sweat, his curls flopping in his eyes, his hair just a few inches shy of a ponytail. He is always tossing his head around as though he's mid-seizure, and you couldn't see those beautiful blue eyes with all of that hair in his face. I hate to say it, but he looked like a slob, and always seemed hot and annoyed by all of those curls he had on his head. I bought massive amounts of conditioner, and he amassed a collection of hats. I lived in fear of The Uku, which is just no way to live at all. Finally, I gave him an ultimatum: Put your hair up, or cut your hair off. I was sick of looking at it, sick of inspecting it, and sick of buying Fabio over there, all of the necessary hair products. And then one terrible, dark day, I realized that I sounded like someone's mom. From 1962.

What the hell was wrong with me? I had to stop, I had to get over this June Cleaver bullshit.

Easier said than done. They had a point. I am here to tell you, mothers in the mid-1960s must have been drinking heavily. Because I had to chant a mantra to myself some days, just to keep from losing my mind. It's just hair. It's fine. I'm fine. He looks fine. And then I developed a twitch: he would toss his hair, and I would wince. But dammit, I was not going to say anything. Okay, maybe I said something.

Little did I know, we were both getting sick of the hair hanging in his face.

"Shave it off, mom." he announced today. Was he calling my bluff?

Damn. Was he saying this because he thought that was what I wanted? I didn't want to shave it off. But I really wanted to shave it off. I was a woman on the brink of madness.

"Think about it for a while." Sam advised him after catching a quick glimpse at the look on my face. "We can talk about it at lunchtime." Max rolled his eyes. I went and dug out the clippers. Just in case.
After a few hours that were spent in the mid-day sun gardening, they trooped back inside for lunch. "So dude, what' it gonna be?" Sam asked as he made them sandwiches.

"I'm ready to get rid of it." Max replied.

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