Friday, August 5, 2011

"Do what YOU want"

A few months ago, I started lobbying my parents for a radical haircut - I wanted to shave part of my head. Their reaction, of course, was "No way!" I let the idea go at the time, and moved on.

Time passed. I went to sleep-away camp in Georgia, where my friend had the EXACT haircut that my parents had refused to let me get. Seeing her hair made me want my hair like that again, and I started bugging my parents about it when I got home.

My parents brushed off the idea the second time I presented it, but I kept trying. I showed them pictures of others with the haircut I wanted and mentioned it casually in conversation, until they finally realized how much I wanted it.

We sat down to talk and they presented the possible consequences to me - judgment by peers, judgment by adults and authority figures, frustration if I tried to grow it out, and so on. I shared with them my point of view on why I wanted to do it and how I would face the possible outcomes. I let them know that even though I knew what they said had merit, I wanted to do it anyway.

The next day, I went with my dad and sister to have my hair cut. At first, my dad said we would have to compromise on the length - I wanted it short, he and my mom didn't. But right before the stylist started cutting, he told me, "Do what YOU want." And that's just what I did.

Later in the day, we spoke about why he let me get my hair cut shorter than he and my mom wanted. My dad, who now sports a graying ponytail, told me about when he was about my age, and he wanted to grow out his hair. His mom dragged him screaming to get his hair cut, and he realized that by not letting me have my hair cut the way I wanted, he was doing what his mother had done and what he had told himself he would never do to his child. He had become the person he had vowed never to be, and when he realized that he changed his stance.

So thank you, Dad, for letting me express myself. I am "letting my freak flag fly, and I feel like I owe it to someone," as Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young say in their song "Almost Cut My Hair," which influenced my dad in his day.

I hope I grow to be like my dad, and that if I ever deny my child's right of self-expression, I correct myself. I am lucky to have a dad who lets me be the person I want to be.

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