To cut or not to cut, that is the question.
I’ve always been a fan of long hair on boys. I give two enthusiastic thumbs up to the “man bun.” My late husband, Justin Ayers, kept his hair long for the entirety of our 17-year relationship. I used to joke, “I’ll shave my head if you ever cut your hair” (I was only bluffing). So naturally, in an effort to pay tribute to Justin, I’ve decided to let our son, Jax, wear long locks just like his daddy. It’s generally accepted for boys to have long hair today, right?
In the last decade, we’ve seen Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson cast as the Tooth Fairy, the NFL hire its first official female referee (Sarah Thomas), and Hillary Clinton become the first female presidential candidate nominated by a major party. But the disgusted reactions that strangers have to my son’s long hair leads me to wonder if we’ve actually come as far as we think.
Jax gets mistaken for a girl every single day. It’s annoying, but I see why. His hair comes to his shoulders, he’s very pretty (I call him dollface), and he occasionally wears dresses. OK, I’m just kidding about the dresses. Truth be told, he couldn’t be more “boy,” and I’m pretty particular about how I dress him: classic Chucks, band tees, hoodies, skinny jeans or cargo-style shorts (no basketball shorts), and the occasional man bun. He quite possibly has the most cutting-edge style I’ve seen on a 2-year-old boy. But it doesn’t matter how many “Wild Boy” or “Macho Man” tees I put him in — people only seem to notice his hair.
When Jax was a baby and people would call him a her or say “she’s so pretty,” I’d just smile and let it go. They were complimenting my child, after all, and I didn’t want to make them feel bad. But now that he’s older, I find it necessary to correct them, since he now understands the difference between boys and girls. What’s worse is the utter rudeness I’ve received from strangers who seem outraged by his hair.
Over the holidays we took a vacation at Disney World. It was a blast and Jax was over the moon. But I actually left the so-called happiest place on earth in a funk. I felt defeated after having to defend my son’s long hair starting on day one. I was adjusting Jax’s bun when a woman paraded by with her large entourage of adults and kids. She was leading her pack in a rush (everyone is in a hurry at Disney) when all of the sudden she came to a screeching halt. “THAT is not a boy,” she said in disgust while pointing her finger at us.
I was so caught off guard that I was at a loss for words, but the woman sitting beside me spoke up. “Are you serious, lady?” she hollered back. The lady whipped her head back around and proceeded to go on her merry way. “Don’t ever cut his hair,” said my defender. “Can you believe the nerve of some people?”
The judgment didn’t end there. Not even 15 minutes later, a restaurant hostess looked at me like I was nuts when I informed her “my son” would need a high chair. And the following day, I was snubbed by an elderly woman who rolled her eyes after she overheard me telling someone else Jax was a boy. I felt like I had traveled back in time. Before same-sex marriage was legal or before women could vote.
I was now on the defense and determined to make sure every stranger we met knew Jax was a boy. I started going out of my way to say his name in sentences, I stopped dressing him in any questionable colors like teal, peach, and yellow, and I even started saying to restaurant servers, “My SON will have a milk please.”
Perhaps my defensiveness reached a new level while attending a 3-year-old’s birthday party. Upon seeing Jax’s hair in a bun, a little boy turned to me and and said, “That’s a boy?” I replied, “Yes, boys can have long hair too, you know.” He protested, “Nuh-uh, only girls should have long hair!”
I’d had it! Over the next five minutes, I proceeded to argue with a 7-year-old boy and attempt to educate him about why our society was so twisted. Once I finished my little tirade, I smiled and thought to myself, “I sure told him!” Then I looked up and noticed my friend had been watching from across the room, seemingly baffled by my behavior. I had let a 7-year-old child get under my skin. I realized that I was now the one with the attitude.
While I am disappointed that I let my defensiveness get the better of me, I still believe that it is our differences that make us unique, not our similarities. What a boring world it would be if everyone had the same haircut. I mean, is my son’s long hair really more offensive than bringing back the bowl cut?
Image Source: Melanie Resch Photography