Saving the World One Teen at a Time - Column on Parenting Tweens and Teens

The Dreaded Buzz Cut.

by Abby Margolis Newman

 

Two days ago, my 11-year-old son, Henry, got his first buzz cut, and I cried my eyes out about it. "It's just hair," my husband said in an attempt to console me, "it'll grow back." I know this, and yet I feel devastated by this loss. What's going on here?

 

The youngest of three brothers, Henry has never liked his hair. First of all, it's red, and in the post-"South Park" era of denigrating so-called "Gingers," it's already tough in 21st-century America to be red-haired and therefore different. Secondly, his hair has always been wavy - I remember the beautiful red curls he had as a baby, the same curls which are now enshrined in a clear Ziploc bag clipped into his baby book, a remnant of his first haircut. (I'm afraid to look at them for fear it'll send me right over the edge again.) Henry has always wished for straight hair, darker skin, fewer freckles. When you're a tween, the last thing you want is to stand out in any way.

 

Occasionally, when expressing his annoyance about his hair acting uncooperatively, he'd ask about getting a buzz cut (a few of his friends had already done it). I always said no, then veered to another topic. To me, buzz cuts (the "crew cuts" of my youth) have such strong negative connotations: they're militaristic. They make me think of Nazis, of mean ex-marines (think Chris Cooper in "American Beauty"), of bullies. The thought of Henry, my sweet-natured baby, with a buzz cut was just too jarring - like cognitive dissonance, it just felt wrong.

 

Then in June, for the second year in a row, Henry was voted onto the baseball "All-Stars" team in our California town. My friend Lisa called me a few days ago and said, "I didn't want you to be blindsided by this news, so I thought I'd warn you: all the boys on the team are getting buzz cuts tomorrow. I guess it's a 'team spirit' thing." And sure enough, Henry came home from practice that day, bursting with the buzz-cut news, begging me to say yes. Even though I knew the inevitable conclusion to this story, I said I'd need to think about it.

 

How could I say no? But at the same time, I was completely panicked at the idea. My older two boys are 15 and 16 - so Henry's the only one I have left who willingly snuggles with me on the couch, letting me run my fingers through his amazingly gorgeous and soft red hair. How could I just give that up? I realize this may sound like a twisted maternal take on the Biblical story of Samson (the guy who lost all his strength when his hair was cut) - as if I feared his childhood would float away with his cropped locks, but... yeah. That's exactly how I felt.

 

Needless to say, I said yes. One of the baseball Coach/Dads had a "Free All-Stars Buzz Cut" session at his house the following afternoon. I brought Henry over, but didn't have the nerve to actually stay and watch. Afterwards, I heard from my friend Karen, the wife of the Coach/Dad/Barber, that Henry's hair was so thick and there was so much of it, it fell like a furious snowstorm around his shoulders.

 

beansgm
08.03.10

While I'm the ginger haired MOM, my little boy didn't get my color or my curls... but at age 6 he got his first buzz cut - much to my dreaded suprise... he went to the barber w/ dad and was going to get a Mohawk... something i was actually FINE with... but came home with the buzz... which just broke my heart. And while i was trying to convince my husband that the mohawk would grow out, all logic went out the window when he came home with no hair... it just won't grow back fast enough... The skin-head look makes him look a little less innocent, caring and kind... the mohawk seemed like a right of passage, expression of independence... but for some reason i just can't think of the buzz cut that same way...

katiesmama
07.09.10

I don't have a ginger baby (though my Irish heritage wishes I was redheaded!), but I can assure you it's no easier when your DAUGHTER comes home from the stylist with buzzworthy hair! She wanted it gone, left slightly longer on top for spiking. She'll be 11 in a couple of days, I know it's all downhill from here :(

sme3033
07.09.10

I am sitting here sobbing myself, this hits so close to home. I have three beautiful boys, with gorgeous blond flowing curls that seem to disappear around the age of three, my last baby is 10 months old and every day that passes I cherish; now that I know it goes by oh so quickly. I dread the day that his curls don't return, which will mark his journey off into the great world of school and adventure and leave me without baby kisses and chubby arms to hold. Thank you for your wise words. x

dagmar67
07.06.10

oh - I have a little 'ginger' boy too (although he's only 3) and your story resonated with me to the point of a tear! I too, cried at the first beautiful curly locks that fell when my son got his first haircut. And each time he gets a haircut, he 'grows up' a little more. It's already hard (even though I'm so proud of him) at age 3, I cannot even imagine age 11 ... or 18!

pdlgarza
07.06.10

Wow...this hit close to home. I have (3) boys. Ages 3,4,& 5, and I already sense this cycle happening in our home. I already feel hints of this...My oldest going to full day kinder, my middle going to half day pre-school. My youngest is the only one I still have to literally and figuratively hold onto. Even more like Abby's story...the only one with his virgin baby hair still intact is my youngest (my baby). It's like my security blanket soft and silky and curled upwards at the end perfect for running your fingers through while he cuddles up next to me while we watch movies or read stories. In fact his hair is probably way too long according to conservative standards of my community, probably for my husbands as a matter of fact, but it's hard to let go. The other 2 have shed their baby shells and left me in the dust when it comes to things like baby hair, cuddling, or being asked to be carried or even needing my help. I can't imagine how much harder it'll get over the next 10 years and forward to deal with ever maturing and independent young "men". No shame in my game...with every milestone comes a sense of fulfillment along with a contradictory sense of loss. I'm with you Abby...your story made me cry. I'm going home tonight and cuddling with those boys as long as they'll let me impose myself on them without, well...pissing them off! ;) They WILL cuddle with me and LIKE it! ;)