Ask Amy: Hair war is putting Mom in the middle

April 2, 2014 

Dear Amy: I hope your answer will settle a disagreement my mid-50s husband is having with me and our 15-year-old son, "Bart," regarding his choice to have long hair.

Bart is a good student, plays a sport for the high school and is well liked on the team. He has buddies who are also good kids, is liked by his teachers, participates in church activities, has a good sense of humor and is occasionally "sassy" at home (he is a teenager, after all).

While he's not perfect, as far as teenagers go he's an all-around good kid except, apparently, for his hair, according to my husband.

Bart has hair just below his shoulders, and my husband has been on him (and me) repeatedly over the years to get his hair cut. He has now issued a deadline.

When asked why, he replies, "Because it looks stupid."

I've tried to probe my husband on various occasions to understand his possible true feelings on this, but to no avail.

I'm tired of the tension this causes and feel that if this is the biggest point of rebellion for a 15-year-old, who cares?

Your thoughts?

— Wife and mom

Dear Mom: As someone roughly your husband's age, I well remember the "hair wars" of my own childhood. When your husband and I were young, having long hair signified more of a social statement about rebellion, and boys wearing their hair long were often judged harshly.

I thought the lesson those of us who grew up in the '60s and '70s learned was that hair can be an important identifier for a teen, and that how a teen wears his/her hair truly should not matter to anyone else, even parents.

Your husband saying your son "looks stupid" is rude and alienating. It is not your job to persuade and/or tackle your son to have his hair cut against his will.

You should discuss this with your husband privately. Find his old high school yearbook and leaf through it with him. Surely there were guys he knew who had shoulder-length hair and turned out OK (I looked up teenage photos of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, and both sported long locks).

I have a feeling your husband's attitude can be traced back to how he was treated by his father. Urge him to be respectful and to pick his battles more carefully, because even if he "wins" this one, he still loses.


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