In praise of a son's long hair

A mother reacts differently when a son returns from college with a head of hair to rival Fabio's mane.

My husband keeps his hair clipped short. He has beautiful thick curly hair, but you would never know it. He cuts the curl right out. He thinks that makes him look professional and well kempt. I think it's a shame.

We have three sons, and until they went off to college, they also wore their hair clipped short. It was mandatory in our household, but it wasn't my rule. My husband favored military hairstyles, and they all abided by his wishes.

But the first thing they all did when they went off to college was grow their hair long. They didn't shape it or trim it. They just grew it. My first son gave up after deciding that the trouble of maintaining shoulder-length hair wasn't worth it.

But my second son, Robby, hasn't cut a single strand of hair in 39 months. It's odd because he was virtually bald during high school – he kept his head shaved to the scalp for wrestling.

As soon as a mere millimeter of fuzz appeared, he would buzz it smooth. He thought his bald head made him look intimidating and fearsome on the wrestling mat. But I thought his hairless head made him look vulnerable and defenseless, like a newly hatched baby bird. Something about seeing the the exposed shape of his skull made me want to protect him from his burly, mop-headed opponents. So I was glad when he came home for the first time sporting a full head of hair.

Now, Robby's hair falls well below his shoulders and in my opinion is absolutely gorgeous. It's thick and shiny and has more body than any one man deserves. In short, his mane makes Fabio's hair look thin and stringy.

My mother and I both have thin, limp, and unruly hair. Like me, she is both proud and fascinated by my son's hair. "What does he do to it to make it so thick and manageable? How does he make it curl just so and hold that way all day?" we query each other as we push our sparse, drooping strands out of our eyes.

When I'm asked how Robby is doing in college or what he's been up to lately, I don't mention anything about school or explain what he did this past summer. Instead, I tell them about the new hairstyle.

"How's Robby doing?" someone at church might ask.

"His hair is really long and thick, and it has a natural wave," I respond without hesitation.

"Uh huh, how interesting," they reply, usually in bewildered tones. "Is he still in school?"

"Doesn't matter," I say gleefully. "His hair is fabulous!"

My husband groans when I compliment my son on his gorgeous mane. He doesn't want me to encourage any more hair growth.

"He's going to have to cut that hair if he wants to get a job," my husband says to me.

But he doesn't say a word about it to Robby. My husband is a smart man. He knows there are all kinds of ways to assert one's independence.

Long, flowing hair is the least of them.

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