I keep a shaved head. This has been my preferred hairstyle for many years. Every so once in a while I attempt to grow it, but the resulting frustration with consistent styling always results in a relieving shave. I bust out my trusty clippers, lose all the guards, and clip my hair as close as possible.
Such a cycle ended a couple weeks ago. After a couple months of growth I reverted, once again, to a nice shearing. I did this in front of both my daughters, Big One and Little One. Little One seemed terrified, shouting with every clump of castaway follicles as though I was clipping away our very relations. Big One, on the other hand, was infatuated with the process. She giggled with glee as the process came to a close, rubbed my newly bald scalp, and shouted, “Now me, Daddy! Do me!”
My wife and I fancy ourselves rather neutral when it comes to gender identification. We strive to make parenting decisions that allow our daughters to experience “boy things” and “girl things” so that they might find the things that interest them, devoid of preconceived, socially outdated specifications. Sure, my girls have a play kitchen–they love it–but they also read comics. They watch My Little Pony and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Big One likes to wear pink shirts and jeans, while Little One prefers blue dresses and skirts. Both enjoy playing with their set of Justice League action figures, often bathing, feeding, and dressing Superman and Batman up like princesses after a battle with Cyborg and The Flash.
For my wife and I it is less about what girls should do and more about what our kids should so.
So, with all that in mind, how should I respond to my four year-old daughter when she asks to shave her head? I asked my Facebook friends and Twitter followers that question and got some interesting results…
Many of the responses were opposed to the head-shaving because Big One is a girl. Some responses were in favor of head-shaving because Big One is a girl. Both of those responses seemed inappropriately positioned.
Telling my kids that they cannot do something because they are girls is a stance I will do my very best to never, ever hold. I’m sure it will prove difficult, but it is my aim, nonetheless. On the flip side, using my children to fight gender stereotypes is equally unfair in my eyes. These are my children, not my soapbox. My job as their father is to protect them, love them, and nurture their growth–not use them to make a subversive political statement.
Unfortunately, there is no way to take gender completely out of the equation. That’s the crux of the dilemma, isn’t it? If Big One was a boy there would be no conundrum present. Plenty of young boys have their heads shaved. This is not abnormal. Young girls, however, are expected to wear pigtails and ponytails.
So what did I do?
Big One’s head remains full of hair.
As I said before, my job as her father is to protect my daughter. The question I had to ask myself was: Does the joy my daughter might feel upon shaving her head (and the gender neutrality inherent to such a decision) outweigh the potential harm she could endure through teasing and ridicule from her peers that could possibly affect her in a negative way for the rest of her life?
Unfortunately the answer, as far as I can tell, is no.
Someday I hope that this won’t even be a problem. I have seen plenty of women rock the shaved head and look beautiful while doing it. I bet my little girls would look gorgeous with a buzzcut–I’m sure of it.
This time, however, the question was not about me or my kids, but everyone else.
The world just isn’t ready yet.
Perhaps when she’s older. And stronger.
Check our the trailer for my new book, in Sanity, AZ: