This is my youngest son, Isaac:
Yes, that’s right, he’s my son. I am well aware that he is extremely pretty, and has long hair, but he is still very much a little boy (believe me, he mentions his willy even more frequently than I do), and it’s amazing how many people struggle with the concept of a boy having long hair, even in 2018.
Isaac’s hair initially grew beyond what society apparently deems ‘normal’ length about a year ago, because he didn’t want to go to the barbers to have it cut. The more we tried to persuade him that barbers are not scary people you should be fearful of (unlike murderers, tax inspectors, and dentists, for example), the more he refused to listen. It has now got to the point where, if we so much as suggest getting his hair cut (and this is not for the reasons you might imagine), he curls up into a ball like a cornered hedgehog.
The thing is, over the past year, Isaac has moved away from merely being scared of getting his hair cut; and his main reason for not wanting to visit the barber now, is that he simply adores his long hair.
True, he hates getting it tangled or matted (usually with ketchup or ice cream), and in hot weather it can become an unwanted source of additional insulation for him (to the extent he is now often seen in just his pants, with his long hair blowing behind him as he runs); but, generally speaking, he adores his mane, and it is now very much a part of him. In fact, if he did suddenly get his hair chopped, it would be some time before we adapted to his new look.
Isaac is very much an individual and unique little boy, who doesn’t wish to conform to whatever society dictates to be the norm – and I refer here to not only his hair, but also his behaviour in general, which is best described (as I have many times before), as ‘feral’ – so if he wants to have long hair, he is jolly well going to have long hair, and fuck anyone who questions his decision. Truth be told, I admire anyone who has this attitude to life, and only wish I was so dismissive of what people thought of me.
In recent months, now that the weather is warmer, he has decided that he wants to wear his hair up more, and as soon as the ladies at his nursery started putting it in a pony tail, or bunches (and, on one occasion, a French plait – see below), this only encouraged him further. This does not mean he relates more to being a girl, or prefers girly stereotypes (whatever they may be); he merely loves his hair to bits (ketchup-encrusted bits, admittedly).
I’m ashamed to admit that, initially, I wanted him to get his hair cut for selfish reasons, because I was so annoyed by the strange looks when another parent or passer-by in the street would overhear us call his name; or, worse, when they would actually engage with us and refer to our ‘little girl’ or ‘daughter’.
At first, I would correct them with a simple and stern ‘actually, Isaac here is a boy’, but I eventually got so sick of the confusion in their reaction – or, on odd occasions, an actual look of disapproval – that it just became easier to ignore their comment and say his name louder next time to really mess with their heads.
But now I’m getting seriously pissed off with it all.
I don’t care if he has long hair. I don’t care if he enjoys playing with his dolls and unicorns (he’s obsessed with unicorns). I don’t care if his favourite colour is pink. I don’t care if, one day, he decides that he’d quite like to wear a dress please, Daddy (although that does mean actually buying him one, and we don’t have enough space for any more clothing as it is, because 82% of our house is taken up by my wife’s shoe collection).
Who decided that dolls and unicorns are just for girls, anyway? When was pink allocated to one gender, and blue the other? Why shouldn’t he spend his birthday voucher on two rainbow-coloured teddies if he wants to?
At Ollie’s football club on a Thursday evening, there are two young girls who turn up every week with their Dads, and whenever I see them playing, I’m disappointed. I don’t imagine for one second, that there are only two girls of Ollie’s age in the whole of Sandbach who enjoy playing football, and it saddens me to think they don’t join clubs like this one, because they are either afraid or embarrassed of being labelled ‘boyish’.
Ollie has done many things that have disappointed me over his eight years on this planet. In recent months he has become extremely sulky, stroppy and stubborn. Prior to that, he started to misbehave and get into trouble at school (only for talking in class, mind), and when he was a baby, he shit on me. A lot. But I have never been so disappointed in him, as the time he criticised his goalkeeper at football club, purely because she was a girl. Ok, as it happens, she’s not the best player in the world, but then again neither is he, and I gave him a severe bollocking for having such a chauvinistic attitude.
My grandparents grew up at a time when racism was still widely accepted, and even though society has come a long way in the last few decades, we still see racism even now – for example, we will almost certainly encounter it at this summer’s world cup in Russia.
In 2018, we are still faced with gender inequality in terms of wages, and, until this year, women were not even allowed to drive in countries like Saudi Arabia.
People are still persecuted and looked upon differently, because of their gender, age, race, religion and sexual orientation. It’s fucking ridiculous. If we don’t educate our children, now, then this will never change.
If Isaac is made to feel different, or odd, or wrong, purely because he wants to have long hair, wear pink, or play with a doll, then society as we know it is totally screwed.
He may grow out of this phase of his life, he may not. I frankly couldn’t give a shit either way, so long as he’s happy, and so long as – if he does choose to pursue what society deems to be a more boyish lifestyle in the future – he does so for his own reasons, and not because of peer pressure, or, heaven forbid, bullying.
Look, he’s not perfect. In fact, far from it. There are very few days where I don’t end up telling him off, for one reason or another; but I still love him, and that will never change no matter what life he chooses for himself, and no matter how much he morphs into Drew Barrymore from E.T.
So, next time you see a young child in the street (or an adult for that matter), don’t automatically make assumptions about them and their life decisions. They may be very self-conscious of their appearance; but, hopefully, if they are anything like my son, they won’t give a flying fuck what you think.
And I think we can all learn something from an attitude like that.
Thanks for reading x