You are just a little boy with an impish face but the features of a man are there, hidden in the cuteness, like a almost transparent overlay that every so often catches the light just right and you can see the picture of you decades from now. You are being brave because your momy sold you on the whole idea of a hair cut. You don’t like hair cuts. You don’t like the strange smells, the scissors near your face, the buzz of a clippers and the feel of them against your skin. Most of all, you don’t like that someone else stands between you and your mommy and holds your face, but not in the way mommy does, stroking and smoothing, kissing and loving, but in a way that says “man” and “business” and wants you to turn your head or hold still . . . when all you want to do is slip out of the chair and run.
I see you weighing up the cost and doubting the process. You traded a haircut for some chocolate. You wince as the hairdresser squirts water all over your head and it drips down into your eyes. Your hand moves up instinctively to wipe it away and instead of fixing the problem, you have now transferred all the little cut hairs that were on the cape between your hand and your face, onto your face. Now, you are desperately wiping harder to get the hairs out of your nose, your eyes, your mouth . . . and every movement makes it worse. Mommy steps in and tries to help, wiping your face and kissing your forehead, trying to reassure you. She tries to make you understand you have to stop wiping with your hand, you are only making it worse. You just feel frustrated, but you try. You sit, and you struggle under the cape to be ok, but you are not. No-one seems to understand, and so your bravado, the shell of your future manhood that is so newly formed and still somewhat fragile, crumbles to the floor and you cry.
And all I want to do is rescue you.
Will you look back in 50 years and remember this moment as it really was? Will you even remember the little boy in the chair in front of me? Will this be the last time you will allow yourself to cry? How many more episodes will it take, coaxing you with chocolate, to carry you over the final barrier between your innocence, your softness, your heart . . . and what the world will demand of you?
I raised little boys. Tender hearted, kind people who felt, and cried, and loved so openly. I tried so hard to keep them safe from the world and its demands, to find the balance between allowing them to grow up and be men and not letting that take all of them in the process. I never wanted them to ever have to surrender their hearts and souls to empty bravado and brute strength. I wanted them to be more than that. I wanted them to be able to be themselves.
I watched the world beat that out of them. I watched people seduce it from them. I watched life suck them dry. I saw them broken and bruised, battered and worn, and forever fighting between what the world wants and who they actually are.
Are mothers the only ones who ever know that part of her sons? Do all men leave that part, the best part, somewhere in their childhood, tucked away with clippings of their babies hair and perhaps a tooth or two, in their mothers box of treasured memories?
Your mommy loves you. I can see she knows your heart but she too is racing along, pulled by life. We become so caught up in wanting our boys to be leaders of men instead of masters of themselves, standing in their own integrity, willing to feel, to see others and to respond with tenderness. In pushing them to be strong we often rob them of any chance of ever getting what they need. Steel is cold. Who protects our soldiers?
Men need intimacy too. They need to be loved and nurtured and cared for. They need a safe haven where they are accepted for who they are. They need to be more than a ticket to a lifestyle, arm candy, or a pay check. They are more than sex. They are more than protectors and warriors and the ones that carry twice the load and stays behind to make sure everyone else gets out alive.
The little boy finishes his hair cut. Despite everyone’s best effort, he is not cajoled into a happier space. He knows that no-one understood his distress and they lied. It wasn’t “fun.” It did hurt – maybe not physically but it was stressful, and his heart was hurt. Right now he does not want to be a “big boy.” he doesn’t care that, “daddy gets his hair cut all the time.” He just wants his mom to pick him up, rescue his shoe which has fallen off and is covered in hair on the floor, and get him out of there. He doesn’t want to look in the mirror at how “handsome” he is or be reminded that he complained that his hair was in his eyes and now it is not.
I don’t even think he cares about chocolate anymore.
He may not ever fully understand why he is so unhappy.
I feel sad as I watch him walk out of the doorway, holding his mother’s hand as tightly as he can, rushing along so as not to be next to the hair dresser who is walking out with them to collect the money for the hair cut. One of the girls sweeps up the hair, each stroke of the broom gathering bits of hair . . . and a few pieces of a little boy that are left behind beneath the chair he sat in.
She tosses it into the garbage and the lid slams shut.