Saturday, August 16, 2008

When good parents give bad haircuts

When I was in 8th grade, my mother gave me the worst haircut of my life. She had always cut my hair, and I never remember that it was a bad haircut, ever, until then. I had longer hair off and on, alternating with a bob in my elementary years, then a “pixie” starting in sixth grade. I should say that my mom still cuts her own hair, and usually did in those years too, so it wasn’t like there was a double standard. It was low-maintenance all around.

In retrospect, her life wasn’t that great when she gave me The Haircut. Her second marriage was breaking up and it was ugly. I’m sure she was scared, having moved her kids from Michigan to Ohio, and with a new baby, brand new. She just didn’t stop cutting. Then, getting one side short, she had to get the other side shorter. And again, to even up the other side. In the end, it was awful. I remember wanting to die in my sleep so that I didn’t have to go to school the next day.

The cruel boy who usually made my life hell anyway started laughing as soon as I got off the bus. It is god’s pure mercy I don’t remember his name, and can barely see his face, but I can still hear him clearly. “Look, it’s a BOY,” he sneered, his toadies laughing with him like he was funny as Bill Cosby. Tears burned in my eyes as I slinked in to find my locker.

Homeroom was more of the same. Even my best friend, Carol Mohr, made a joke. But the worst was 4th period, Algebra, Miss Sokolick. As the class filtered in and took our seats, she looked over at me and snickered. “Well, Butch, good to see you!” I didn’t know what “Butch” meant to the kids who roared, until Carol explained it. She leaned over and said, “She’s calling you a lesbo!”

Nothing could have been more humiliating. I think as a direct result of The Haircut, I nearly flunked algebra. I just couldn’t get past having been called “Butch” by the teacher, an ugly, bitter, red-head spinster in every pejorative sense of the word. My mother called her on the carpet and complained, and she apologized, which only made things worse. I hate that woman to this day, and hope her life ended lonely, in a sub-standard nursing home that reeked of old urine and death. I hope some maladjusted butch nurse made her life hell, frankly.

That history is why I am so mortified that I gave Benjamin the worst haircut of his life today. Because of his sensory overload issues, even Mr. Rush can be a traumatic experience. He seems to take it better when I clip his hair. I have a good quality electric clippers, and the weather is so nice we’ve been able to sit outside. We can take breaks, drink juice and play in between clips. His hair was way too long so I decided it couldn’t wait today.

So I did it first with the 3/8 inch comb on, and there were tears. I switched to the ¼ and things were much better. I just couldn’t get it even, and that’s when I made my fatal mistake. I took the plastic comb off, and took a swatch out of the front. Then I had to even it up, just like my mom had had to 40 years ago. He looks bald, sort of. Except where he isn’t, because I can’t get the cowlick spots to be as short as the rest. It looks awful.

When he looked in the mirror, he said, “I’m not Benjamin anymore, my hair is gone.” He was smiling when he said it, but all of a sudden I was that too tall, too smart, big toothed, butchy eighth grader. I wanted to cry.

So my improvement on the last generation’s parenting? At least he’s not in 8th grade and he’ll forget about this, if he even knows it’s awful. On the other hand, my life is great and I don’t have an excuse, just that I was over-confident.

Anyway I look at it, it is still a bad haircut, the worst. It may even be worse than my pixie.

Luckily, there’s no Miss Sokolick in his life.

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