Hair, from a different angle

Chickadee is dying for me to cut off all my hair. She says she thinks it will be “cute.” Then again, she also says she thinks I should dye my gray bright pink once I do, and she currently has plans to streak her hair purple, so I’m not sure I’m relying on her for reliable hair advice.

Monkey has no opinions on hair, not really. He dislikes the actual act of having his hair cut—the sitting still! the scratchy little pieces of hair tickling his neck and nose!—but has reached a place where having scraggly hair hanging in his eyes bothers him more, so we generally keep his hair fairly short. I can’t quite get on board with that oh-so-southern thing of just buzzing your boychild’s head as soon as the weather warms up, though, so I kind of hedge my style bets and give him that floppy skater-boy cut that’s longer on top and shorter beneath.

The problem is that I tend to become hyperfocused on minor, inconsequential things because they are slightly less scary to me than larger, actually-important skills. And so we have a Hair Issue.

Monkey’s hair is delicious. Um, not to eat. That would be weird. It is thick and lustrous and has just the right amount of wave. Basically—much like his four-foot-long eyelashes—Monkey’s hair is a complete waste on a boy, much less a boy who cares not one iota about how he looks.

To whit: In the Fall he asked (at his sister’s urging) for a cut requiring a bit of spiking up in the front, and I obliged. Thus began a several-month stint wherein I had to fix his hair for him every morning, because he both detested the consistency of the hair goop AND had no idea how to do it, no matter how many times I tried to show him. As that particular cut grew out, I made a mental note not to repeat it, because as cute as it was, there is always this little voice in the back of my head that loves to point out that the end goal is for Monkey to someday live on his own and not need his mommy to fix his hair, y’know?

So this last cut, the somewhat-floppy-yet-low-maintenance ‘do, seemed ideal. All he has to do is brush it straight back, then allow it to fall back down on either side of his part.

Monkey’s morning routine is to get up, get dressed, come downstairs and have his breakfast, then go back upstairs to brush his hair and teeth.

My morning routine is to get up, make lunches, greet the children as they come in for breakfast, say goodbye to Chickadee as Monkey goes back upstairs, and then when Monkey comes down “all ready” for the day, ask him if he hired a hobo to part his hair for him.

I ask him this because Monkey believes the word “hobo” to be hilarious, and the concept of paying a train-hopping homeless person to assist in his personal grooming even funnier. It is not particularly politically correct and I apologize for that. In my defense, the realization that my 12-year-old can’t seem to figure out how to part his hair in a way that doesn’t make him look homeless is something that makes me prone to fits of terrified giggling and politically incorrect comments.

Yes, I’m aware that Monkey has many years left to figure out the many mysteries of correct hair-parting before one would reasonably expect him to be able to live on his own. Indeed, if he continues to cultivate his signature homeless look, that doesn’t necessarily preclude a productive independent adult life, even—one could say he’s destined to be a great college professor. [Here I feel compelled to mention that Otto doesn’t have any trouble parting his hair, despite his job. Hee.] Nonetheless, it’s easier to obsess over his stubborn inability to perform this simple task than to, say, think about the fact that he screams bloody murder every time he sees a bee, or that we have to remind him to chew with his mouth closed at every single meal.

Back to the hair: I ask if he hired a hobo to part his hair, and he laughs and says that actually, the hobo pays HIM, and then does a terrible job of it, and it never makes much sense, but it always ends with me grabbing a comb out of my purse and fixing his hair. Because I just can’t stand to let him leave the house like that.

Usually Monkey endures all of this with good humor, but I guess he was feeling a little snarky this morning. Actual conversation:

Me: Hold still. I don’t understand what’s so hard about this for you.
Him: I did exactly what you said! I brush it straight back, and then down on either side.
Me: Do you use the edge of the brush to make the part? Because your part was crazy crooked. You need to LOOK IN THE MIRROR and see if it’s at least sort of straight before you brush the hair down on the sides.
Him: Well YOUR HAIR looks ridiculous!
[Here Otto looked up from his breakfast to behold the frozen tableau before him. I had paused mid-brushstroke and Monkey had that “Oh crap, do I backpedal or just keep going?” look as we gaped at him.]
Him: YOU don’t have a straight part! You don’t have a straight ANYTHING! Your hair is all crazy and frizzy!
Me: That’s true, but I’m still in my pajamas and have bedhead. I don’t give you a hard time for having a crooked part when you wake up, but if you wet it and brush it and still look homeless, that’s a problem.

At this point Otto said, “Okay, that’s enough!” as Monkey and I both burst into giggles.

All those things I agonized over when he was little—when he couldn’t figure out how to ride a bike, when just remembering his manners was a major struggle—I had no idea that I would one day find myself oddly fixated on his seeming inability to brush his hair properly. Or that he would be making fun of my hair in retaliation, just like a perfectly normal, snotty tween.

Never a dull moment ’round here, that’s for sure.


  1. Leandra

    Oh please oh please oh please dye your gray pink. I’m dying (no pun intended!) to have pink hair but the job, alas, does not allow. Do it for me, please! LOL

  2. Melanie

    Ummmm, I know this comment section should be reserved for encouraging remarks, like “it will get better as he gets older” but, ummm… My 18 year old aspie, who gave up hair cuts and now sports a beautiful (in a guy way) long wavy main, still doesn’t get the part thing! Most days it falls on it’s own. But sometimes, for dressy occassions, as a nod to Murphy’s law, His hair will just look ridiculous! And I have to step in. hating to be that mom, still combing her 18 year old son’s hair… And it’s even worse when we do go get it trimmed.. and I’m that mom who tells the stylist what to do… While my fully bearded son sits silently in the chair. i’m pretty certain when we leave, they think I”m the overbearing mom type who can’t let go… I say all this to say, I feel your pain…. still…..

  3. Varda (SquashedMom)

    Thank goodness Jake, my autie guy likes his hair short, keeps having hair wars off our plate for now. And while his ADD twin brother Ethan is letting his wavy-curly hair get incredibly long and shaggy right now (think Bob Dylan in 1963) it doesn’t look at all bad. Because both my guys? Allergic to the idea of combs.

    As for you…. a friend of mine has really dark, nearly black hair that has recently been growing with more and more gray mixed in. She thought at her age it would look weird to dye it straight jet black, but wasn’t liking the way the gray looked. Her solution? Dark BLUE dye. So indoors & in low light it looks mostly just like normal dark hair, but when the sun or a spotlight catches it, it has deep blue highlights throughout (the dye mostly takes to the light colored hairs) and she looks just like… SUPERMAN. It’s kinda awesome, and if my hair were darker (instead of this medium brown) I would have considered doing a copycat. Think about it… You too could have SUPERMAN hair!

  4. Daisy

    Oh, this sounds so familiar! “Never a dull moment” is a phrase heard often in my home, too. As for hair, we started getting Amigo buzz cuts when he was five and we haven’t looked back. He walks into Cost Cutters (social interaction opportunity!) and asks for a 1/2 inch buzz cut, and the stylists (who love him) always oblige with a good quality cut. No parts to worry about, no problem styling, no mirrors required. Did I mention mirrors? He’s blind. Mirrors are irrelevant.

  5. Lucinda

    We seem to be having hair issues around here as well. Must be something in the air.

  6. MelissaB

    Have you seen Ashley Judd’s hair in her show Missing? It’s on Hulu if you want to go look. It’s short, but not really short, long enough to do stuff with and short enough to not have to. I think it would look great with your curly hair.

  7. Otto

    For the record, we college professors pay Professional Hobos to part our hair. That’s Monkey’s issue – he’s using an amateur hobo.


  8. meghann @ midgetinvasion

    Out of all my kids, Ryan has the best hair. He’s the only one that inherited my husband’s amazing hair. Like Monkey’s, it’s a beautiful color, thick, and wavy.

    Thankfully, he likes to keep it short. Not buzzed short, but short enough that he can use his fingers to style it if need be. So at least we don’t have to fight that battle. Convincing him to SHOWER and change his clothes on a regular basis, though, is our epic battle. He’d live in the same outfit until it melded to his skin if I let him. Ick.

  9. Megan

    I thought it was only the philosophy department that did that, Otto!

    My son actually does buzz off all his hair in the summer – never knew that was a southern thang – but it’s because a) it’s cahrazy hot here, b) he is entertained by the stunned reactions of his friends who saw him with acres of winter growth the day before and c) he’s all about efficiency these days and bald heads are (apparently) seriously efficient. I’m just happy it’s tidy!

  10. T. Clark

    I feel your pain. My husband has had the same haircut since birth, I believe, and insists that there is a part, but there really isn’t. At all. Luckily, our son’s hair does the same thing and we keep it decently short and let it grow until it gets in his eyes because he doesn’t like haircuts either. And, Lord! the chewing with the mouth open!!! It makes my husband crazy, which in turn makes me crazy as there is near-constant “Close your mouth” at the dinner table. But if that’s the worst thing, then I guess we’re pretty blessed. Good luck with the hair!

  11. Elleana

    I just had to say that I have a 12 year old Aspie who screams bloody murder when he sees a bee, chews with his mouth open, and has his mom style his hair every single morning. I feel like giving you a solidarity fist bump! ;)

  12. genevieve

    I have a non-Aspie 12 year-old who I constantly remind to close his mouth when he chews, so that might just be the age. I have visions of his losing out on a job during the lunch portion of an interview, but I think he’ll get it someday. I assume.

  13. Carrie

    i think we’re the same person. except you’re funnier. come to minneapolis so we can be friends.

  14. Headless Mom

    Oh my word WE HAVE THE SAME PROBLEM. There must be a Hobo-Hair Anonymous group somewhere, right?

  15. Stacy

    My 14 year old step-son can’t figure out how to brush his (long) hair. Like, at all. Forget about a part. He always looks like he just woke up. And he isn’t a aspie or anything. I’d like to say it’s a guy thing, but his 11 year old sister is the same way. And we wouldn’t really care except they both have very long hair (if you want to wear it long, learn how to take care of it!). As long as he can brush his teeth, who cares about the hair!

  16. Erika

    We’re those people who give our boychild the oh-so-southern warm weather head shave. (Not bald, just very, very short.) I love it because it’s the only haircut he gets all year– neurotypical though he may be, sitting still without whining while itchy hair falls all over him is just not one of his strengths. He loves it because he gets to have what he calls “rock star hair” all fall and winter long, and a cool head for baseball season and summer.

  17. Chuck

    I love Otto’s comments.

  18. Katie

    My “normal” 11 year old is entirely clueless about his hair as well and thinks combing the front third of it straight forward is good. I’ve given up the fight – I figure one of these days he will want to impress some girl and then he will care how it looks.

    BTW – he also loves the word hobo!

  19. Chris

    I live in the upper midwest and my now 5 1/2 yr old has had very short hair for the last 3 years. I let it grow a little longer in the winters, but when summer comes so do my clippers and he gets a cut with a #1 comb. Uber short!! I love it! It is great for swimming and I can just rub his entire head with sunscreen. Now that he is almost 6, he is starting to have opinions about his hair and it is right now the longest it has been since he turned 2. If he doesn’t take care of it (comb it) I will buzz it all right back off. At least, that is my threat to him. :)

  20. Jan in Norman, OK

    For several months, one of our professors held his hair off of his face with a clothes pin.

  21. Mandy

    I’m just glad no one is in the hospital or currently acutely ill.

    Plus, I second the Superman hair suggestion.

  22. Kim

    Having actually made it through my ADHD son’s teen years (well almost, he’s 19) the hair thing, the chewing thing ~~ he and all of his “normal” (HA! relative term there) all had the chewing problem around that age. I don’t remember their hair being either particularly well styled or hobo-styled; until the age of 10 or so my son wanted to have his hair buzzed off once school let out for summer and I was always glad to oblige – no haircuts to pay for, no arguing about combing ~ yay! And as for being un-PC – my mother used to threaten to sell us to the gypsies and I have said this to my kids as well – they think it is hilarious and are obviously terrified of my threats (as they well should be!). Up here in northern Minnesota, threatening to sell them to the Swedes or Norwegians might be construed as a valid threat because the kids might have to eat fish soaked in lye (seriously. It is nasty). Maybe THAT should be my threat! If you aren’t good I will make grandma share her lutafisk with you at Christmas ~ oh YEAH!

  23. Tarrant

    Denise is rather fixated on the fact that I have no idea how to part my hair. There is something odd in how I hold a comb/brush as well. I’ve made it to 42. It’s my hair.

  24. Stimey

    My kids’ hair is cah-razy. Well, not Sam’s. His is short enough that he doesn’t have to comb it, but Jack’s and Quinn’s are both in that middle stage between short and long. It’s troublesome.

  25. c

    I want to let my gray grow out, cut my hair short and dye in pink streaks, much to the chagrin of my 13 yo daughtie. She wants long, dark brown hair, like her own. Trade?

  26. mamalang

    My 9 year old son has a mohawk, and he’s had it since he was 5. Four years of mowhawk. Every time he gets his hair cut (which is every 5 weeks or so, that boy’s hair grows fast) I ask if he is ready to try something different and he states an emphatic NO! Then he wiggles and giggles and gripes about the clippers for the 15 minutes my poor saint of a barber cuts his hair. But the nice part is that there is no combing or parting or anything. Wash and go. And he loves it.

    And he continually eats with his mouth open. I’m seriously hoping he outgrows it someday.

  27. Maricris @ SittingAround

    ha,ha, I love the conversation. I have two boys, and their having their haircut every month.

  28. Alice

    OK, so I know this post is now a few weeks old, but I just found a series on growing out gray hair that made me think of you, if you hadn’t seen it yet –

    I’m guessing that hair’s been down at the lower end of the priority list these days, but wherever you are with it, company is almost always a good thing.

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