Mama Said: Why is a haircut hell for little boys?
Emily Martin asks why it’s so hard for mothers to watch their little boys get haircuts?
“I’m taking Boy to the barber’s,” I say to my friend who replies intuitively and without missing a beat, “Oh no!” And that’s it. That is exactly it. There is something about a little boy having a haircut that’s just brutal, and everyone knows it. The snipping away of his softness. The shearing off of his innocence. The leaving of just his hard, cold little head against the bitter winds. Like a duckling in a freezing pond with just a few stubby feathers. Spiky little bristles remaining and the baby boy left without any armour to fend off all the unfairness and cruelty life might throw. It’s heart-rending and dramatic, yes. But every mother feels this.
Can’t we just let our little boys grow their hair long? Can’t we leave it to fall into their eyes? Can’t we maybe just pin it out of the way with a little clip? Or stuff it into a hat? We know the answer in our hearts is no, not really. Not for long anyway. Our little men need a trim at least twice a year if they are to compete with all those other cold, hard-headed men.
It’s worse for me because my boy has the loveliest hair of any boy who ever lived. Sorry if you believe it’s your boy who holds this title, but I’m here to tell you no, it’s my boy actually. His Dad is a red head (well he was… not any more… no hair could burn as brightly or as orange for very long and it promptly fell out, exhausted, when he was about 25). And my hair is brown (with bleach). But Boy came as a surprise, topped with white flowing
feathers. He has the blondest hair you’ve ever seen. His sister made up a song about him a few years ago called “the fluffiest and the whitest” and I intend to play the video on his 18th birthday in front of all their friends. Because that’s the sort of mother I am. People always say with delight, “Oh my GOD he’s so BLONDE!” and I just smile proudly and stroke him like he’s a pedigree prize-winning cat. “Yes,” I say, “I know.”
But after about eight months, it starts to grow into a mullet at the back. And no one wants to be Pat Sharp’s mother. It starts looking like that Lego hair that you snap on to a figurine. And it goes into his eyes and tickles his nose. And I can’t be there 24 hours a day to lovingly sweep it from his face. I can’t! A few times as a toddler he had a little trim at grandma’s house where she gave him a modern twist on the traditional 1980s haircut many of us are famous for. But this time, I decided to man-up and get it sorted at the barber’s.
And so, with trepidation and a lump in my throat, I took him to the barber’s shop. The one I’ve walked past a million times and wondered how it works. No appointment necessary. What is this lawless place? Up the stairs we went and into a waiting room of men sitting silently in their various stages of Pat Sharp and Lego. My sweet little lad took a seat to the zzzing sound of the clippers and looked at me to check it was all going to be OK. I smiled. I hoped so.
When it was our turn the barber had to sit him on a booster seat to make him high enough. “Wow, little buddy, you’re so blonde!” he exclaimed, as a silent tear rolled down my cheek. I suggested that maybe he could keep it long on the top and short at the sides. “Sure, yep no problem,” the barber said, but we both knew that barber’s only do one thing and that’s get the hair off the head and onto the floor, with clippers.
Anyway, we got over it. Boy feels very smart and grown up with his big-boy haircut and he likes the way it feels when he runs his hand up the bristles. And it’ll grow back, right?
A few weeks later I got my hair done, too. Not at the barber’s. It was my 40th birthday at Christmas and I’ve always wanted to be blonder, so as I sat in the chair waiting for the bleach to soak in I sent some pictures of my tin-foil wrapped head to my mother who was babysitting. “He doesn’t like it,” came the reply. “He’s sobbing and said he likes you the way you are.”
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