gunfight at the O.K. Corral (aka mamas, sons, and the battle cry)

Last week I took Bear to get her hair trimmed.  I’m not winning any awards in this area – I’ve been known to go an entire year before remembering Bear needs a haircut, and since she isn’t really styling it I just take her to my own hairdresser.  Now, Penny is awesome and does a good cut, but she’s a white gal from Boston who mostly works with senior citizens.  Not exactly a cultural experience for Bear.  Then again, Penny’s scrupulous about getting the haircut right so I guess I could be doing worse.

But I digress.

We popped over after school so Bear could lose those dead ends, and while I was working on my Spanish I met a boy we’ll call Red.

Red’s fourteen years old, in the ninth grade, and his mom had dropped him off for a haircut.  He’s super personable, a trait I probably would have appreciated more if I wasn’t a) exhausted and b) fighting the headache from hell.  We talked about his school, hobbies, struggles, and his three sisters.

Red launched into the story of how his mom tricked him into getting in the car.  When I asked why he said, in typical boy fashion, he just doesn’t like getting his hair cut.  He prefers it long.  Now, I’ve seen boys with seriously long hair, and Red didn’t fall into that category.  His hair was just sort of shaggy on top.  The floppy length that’s popular with a lot of boys right now.

By the time he was called back to the stylist’s chair Red and I were thick as thieves.

Meanwhile, mom had shown up with the three sisters in tow.  Two working on homework, one busy distracting them, and everyone bopping all around the salon despite their mom’s admonitions to stay put.  I’d used up my social reserve for the day so I tucked my head into my flashcards and tried to be invisible.

Then Bear began shooting me oddly intense looks.  Those burning eyeballs designed to laser thoughts into my brain, but my spidey sense was off so I wandered over to check in on her.  Things were looking great, and I could tell she liked where her cut was headed – that’s when I heard the stylist behind me call Red’s mom over to check him.


I’ll hit the pause button for a moment here.  Just a reminder: Red is fourteen.  He’s in ninth grade.  His mother lied about their destination, but he sat in the chair anyway and got his hair trimmed up.  And now the stylist wanted mommy’s approval?


Following universal mom code, I tried to mind my own business while wondering what the hell that woman was thinking.  It’s my personal philosophy that hair is not one of the battles I choose to fight – we’ve got much bigger fish to fry around here – and I get not everyone feels this way.  But dictating hair at fourteen?  Are you freaking kidding me?!

I held the briefest moment of hope that maybe, just maybe, she’d tell him he looked great and off they’d go.  Well, mom pissed on that hope pretty quickly as she told the hairdresser to keep cutting.

Which is how I ended up staring wide eyed at my daughter as this boy – the one who’d spoken with me so confidently for half an hour – morphed in the stylist’s chair.  He was sobbing and arguing as the stylist ignored the brouhaha and finished the cut.  Mom was paying, so that was that, and what started as a “well, okay, if I have to” turned into tears, frustration, and an angry teen storming out the door.

I’d like to think the mom had some logical reason for demanding Red’s hair be cut to her preference, but I couldn’t glean one from their back and forth.  And, just like I don’t want other people to butt into what my kid’s hair looks like, I’m sure a bunch of you are thinking it’s none of my business.

But here’s what I can’t help wondering.  Kids – even teens, with their privileges and responsibilities – have little real control in their lives.  Laws control them, schools dictate to them, parents have rules at home…In a million ways, teens are told what to do and where to go every day.

Is it really so unreasonable for them to want to choose their own hairstyle?

8 thoughts on “gunfight at the O.K. Corral (aka mamas, sons, and the battle cry)

  1. I have always thought the same thing! It’s hair! Who cares?!? The person wearing the hair should care.
    My husband (who I remember hated haircuts as a teen) was all about our boy having short-short hair when he didn’t want short-short hair and I truly do not understand, will never understand. It seemed like a power struggle, as if our son’s hair was a reflection on him personally.Was it a military thing?!? I’ll never get it, I guess.
    I never made him cut it when The Mister was gone. Not once, lol. I let the girls do lots of things with their hair, cause it’s just hair!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed! Thankfully I got hubby on board but I can tell it’s still a conscious effort. Funny, though…I’m so much more careful with Bear’s hair. We’ve never let her get it chemically straightened and I worry about the colors. Her hair is so much more fragile than mine…


  2. By the time I was 14, hair had been a huge issue in our generation for years. My dad would simply say “get a haircut this week” and as long as I did, he was fine. He wasn’t going to turn that into something that would divide us, and he had long since stopped going into the barber with me. Sooner or later, we have to start letting go. Hair, at 14 seems like a great place.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As a stylist of many years, I have the habit of always asking my young clients no matter the age, how they like their hair. Even in some cases the kids are going to have to have mommy’s approval. I think it helps the child to think about what they like for themselves. I guess each person is different but I think it’s go to let the child participate in what they have to walk around with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I absolutely agree! I know some folks who consider my approach a bit hippie-ish, but hair just isn’t where I want to throw down the gauntlet. I’m curious…did you ever run into a situation where parent and child approaches were at odds with one another?


      • Oh my goodness Laura, yes! The daughter told me the way she would like her hair. I didn’t think it was anything wrong with the style and it was age appropriate. The mom was like I wanted it a different way. I was like well she has to wear it and if she doesn’t like it that changes her attitude completely, even while I’m doing her hair. However the mom got her way and saw what I was trying to say, so we don’t have that issue anymore, thankfully.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s a make or break moment right there. The daughter heard someone validate her opinion and respect her right to own her body — and you managed to do it without alienating the mom. Sounds like a good day at the office to me. 😉


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