Yesterday, after going to the Mote Aquarium, I took my older son Oscar to SuperCuts to get a mohawk. Reaction to this shearing among friends and family has been wildly mixed, a nearly 50-50 split between enthusiastic and appalled. I was initially surprised, but upon reflection have a greater understanding of the consternation. Here's the thing: crazy hairstyles and I go way back. I've been doing demented things with my hair since I was old enough to wield a jar of Dippity-Do and a curling iron. In junior high, my desire to resemble a punky Molly Ringwald drove me to use vast quantities of glittery copper-tinted mousse to craft my mane into an asymmetrical, glittery, immobile sculpture. So convinced was I that I was, in reality, a redhead that I resorted to henna and Clairol Nice N' Easy throughout high school to make my follicles align with my deep, inner redheaded soul. I also thought that I should have been named "Audrey" and used to put sweaters on hold at the Danbury Fair Mall's Benetton store under my "real" name, but that's another story.
After I let go of my redheaded alter ego, I spent the better part of a decade shaving, cropping, tinting, growing (my hair grows at the rate of kudzu) and then pruning feet of hair. Because Locks of Love is willing to work with wookiee hair, I have sent them my trimmings more than once. Nowadays, I look... normal. Have had natural-colored hair for as long as my husband has known me, and have sworn off the drugstore dye bottle. But my flirtations with crazy hair have given me more happiness and fun over the years than I can possibly express. If my husband did not have an opinion on these matters, I'd currently be sporting the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo 'do. Hair grows back. It's easy and cheap to change. If you don't work for a multinational corporation with a dress code or live in a Lubavitcher community, you have unlimited freedom to mess around with it. Oscar and Ike have wanted mohawks for years, and were insanely jealous of the one kid in their school who sported one last year. It's summer vacation, and we're several states away from anyone who knows them. It will take approximately five minutes on the back porch for Oscar's dad to shave his shaggy 'hawk down to the level of the rest of his hair, giving him the haircut he normally has (a bristly quarter-inch buzz). Famous mohawks nowadays include Rihanna, David Beckham and at least one of Angelia Jolie's passel. And besides: Oscar looks so freaking cute.
I think, based on nothing at all except personal experience, that kids need an outlet for sartorial self-expression. Oscar can have whatever hairstyle he wants in high school as long as his grades are good. And if it scratches his rebellious itch enough to keep him away from the tattoo parlor, I feel I've succeeded in some small way. I remember the first time I ever saw Cyndi Lauper circa the She's So Unusual album, sporting her half-shaved, half-orange-and-yellow hairstyle and feeling something click in me - like I had spotted my familiar in the pages of People magazine. Oscar has his entire life to wear a suit and tie and a high-and-tight. For the last two weeks of the summer, he is letting his follicular freak flag fly.