Mean People Suck

For context on this post, here is a recent picture of my two sons:

NYC 2011

Notice anything “wrong” with them simply by looking at this picture? If your answer is “yes”, then this post is for you!

[I apologize in advance for the angry tone of this post, but frankly right now I feel that it's justified]

In the last few weeks, there have been a number of instances where Riley has been judged negatively (by adults) for the length of his hair. It ranges from subtle (but still obvious enough) looks of disapproval to jokes or outright statements telling him there is something “wrong” with it.

This is unfortunately nothing particularly new (and we’ve gone through it in the past with Christian as well), but the straw that broke the camel’s back (prompting this post) was when he recently tried to cut his own hair in the bathroom because he was tired of dealing with the abuse.

Ironically, many of the adults firing off this criticism are short-haired women – not that there’s anything wrong with that, just an interesting observation in light of whatever they’re imagining is justifying their statements. Regardless of who is saying it, it also just so happens that across the board none of them have the guts to say anything to our (his parents’) faces about it.

Of course, I guess that’s not too surprising, since cowardice is a pretty common trait for bigots, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

You might notice in the picture that Christian’s hair is substantially longer than Riley’s, despite the fact that Riley’s hairstyle preference is (probably) primarily influenced by Christian. This is because the school that Riley goes to has some rules regarding hair length as a part of their uniform code. While we don’t necessarily agree with the reasons behind these rules (how could we, when no real reasons have actually ever been given?), we felt it was best to respect those particular rules and not make a big deal about trying to change them, since we knew about them going in and were OK with that. We felt that it was a good opportunity for them to learn to respect and honor rules even when they don’t agree with them, and I would say that they’ve done so admirably. It’s too bad that isn’t good enough for some people.

Since (as I mentioned before) none of these people are actually willing to talk to me openly and directly about their objections on this issue, I can only speculate as to what underlying assumptions or motivations may be driving them. I can only imagine that there is some sort of implied character judgment involving something inherently “rebellious” or otherwise flawed, and that preferring long hair is unambiguously an external expression of whatever that bad character trait might be.

All I can say in response to that is it’s a load of crap. I’ve had a decent amount of experience dealing with a pretty broad range of kids during my lifetime, and I have total confidence in saying that (as objective as I can possibly be on this matter) all three of our kids measure up extremely well to anyone you may want to compare them against, in any aspect of virtue. While they’re not perfect by any means, they have grown to be good people, with a high quality of character that I would consider rare, and for the most part they live lives that reflect that. I couldn’t be more proud of them.

Again, I apologize for offending anyone during my rant… except if you’re the kind of person who is going to make value judgments about someone else based on their appearance. I don’t apologize for challenging you to move past that narrow-minded outlook.

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8 Responses to Mean People Suck

  1. Margie says:

    Yay, dad! Kids need their parents in their corner!

  2. Dan says:

    That’s really sad.

    When I was a kid all I wanted to do was grow my hair longer but couldn’t because I had curly hair. It really sucked because no one I knew had curly hair and I slicked my hair with gel to get rid of the curls other kids made fun of me for. Knowing what I know now, I wish I ignored it and had the confidence to just be different. Trying to fit in and be accepted changed my character a bit and hindered my overall confidence for a while; when that changed was when I started “being myself”, coincidentally, after I stopped controlling my hair.

    You probably already are but I’d push Riley to gain his confidence and independence; that was my mistake. When he does, he should fly through the difficult years of School.

    All that said, it’s strange how our hair can be so emotional.

    Good luck! This may be a good time for him to cut or style his hair to gain his independence unless that’s what the shag was.

  3. Aimee says:

    The only thing wrong I see is that they are too darn big!!! How did that happen so fast. I know I’m not that old. Love your hair boys.

  4. nstryker says:

    i had long hair in elementary school and then again in late high school and don’t ever remember being teased for it because of the “rebellious” nature. i do remember catching a lot of hate for androgyny…or just people mistaking me for a girl. my dad, who has had shoulder length hair in the back since the late 60s, has mentioned that he still gets “looks” from people when traveling in the south. it’s pretty ridiculous that an adult in california would have a problem with it enough to say something. i’ll be praying that people put up or shut up. :-)

    dan- i’ve already noticed kids doing the beginning stages of teasing quinn for his curly hair. mostly in the form of pointed questioning: “why is your hair so messy?” i know we could probably help it by getting his hair cut more often, but still…pretty nuts that kids think they need to shun differences.

  5. MarthaB says:

    Interestingly, we have dealt with the “androgynous ” statement, too. Also interestingly, it’s always seemed to be adults with the issues.

  6. Jenn says:

    I’ve always liked long hair on men. I think it’s attractive as long as it’s kept clean (on men and women).

    People always make comments about Nathanael’s freckles. “wow you have a lot of freckles” ect. Well no shit, Sherlock. (bet u havent heard that since 7th grade ;-) It bothers him but with freckles there is no choice involved. There is also no moral associations but generally speaking I don’t think freckles are desired among the youth. It would be nice if people would see past the exterior more often and not feel the need to make pointless comments. I think what is often innocent small talk can be hurtful esp. for those who are finding their place in this world.

  7. jared says:

    Wow; thanks everyone! I have to admit that for a while after I “cooled down” yesterday I considered going back and taking this down, since I thought it might come off as a bit too negative or harsh, but now I’m definitely glad I didn’t.

    The amount of support (in the blog comments & on FB) and the degree to which this issue seems to connect with so many people on a personal level was really surprising to me! I am really grateful that those of you who also shared some aspect of your personal stories felt comfortable enough to do so.

    As most of you know (many better than I) being a parent isn’t always the easiest thing, and I have to imagine that knowing that someone has caused your kids pain in any way is one of the toughest things to deal with. I suspect that’s maybe what struck a chord with so many on this post.

    Ultimately, while I do continue to be hopeful for change I also have to be realistic and acknowledge that – as much as mean people do in fact suck – they’re probably going to be around in some form or another for quite a while. So, on the bright side, this is a learning opportunity as well – a chance to reinforce that your value or self-worth should never be based on what other people think of you, especially superficially.

  8. Dave Z says:

    You are on their side which is great, which back in the day it was the parents always trying to get us to cut our hair shorter, long hair is coming back in school, I have a picture or two of kathy and I with longer hair. If I find it I will post it on FB.

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