I remember it well. It was the winter of 1964, and I was a sophomore in high school. Sitting in history class, I started a conversation with Joan. The Beatles were on their first tour of the United States and had appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show the night before, so, Joan, who it turns out was a big fan, asked if I had watched them.
When I told her I had never heard of the Beatles, her mouth dropped in incredulous surprise. I asked about them, and the only thing I remember is her telling me that they had long hair that went down past their ears. I inquired if she liked it and discovered that she was wild about the new style.
That date lives in infamy for me because beyond my wildest dreams long hair became popular for boys.
My father was a barber and appalled at the thought of this new hairstyle. He didn't have to tell me that he wouldn’t approve of me having long hair, and I never did until my seventy-second year of life.
One may wonder why I finally let my hair grow. Obviously by now I was old, and my hair was gray, well beyond the age that impressing the girls was high on my list. I actually had two compelling reasons.
The first was my commitment and loyalty to my dad who taught me that I should NEVER let anyone approach my hair with a pair of scissors in their hands unless they were trained as a barber.
The second was the 2020 pandemic. This year will always be remembered as the “lost year.” Like the rest of the world, I learned to wear a mask and social distance. I didn’t go out to eat, attend church, sporting events, or other large gatherings. In fact, I avoided all indoor venues, including the barbershop.
For more than a year my hair grew and grew and grew. My wife, Anne, helped me keep it nicely groomed and provided a woman’s view of how I should wear it to maximize the shape of my head, long face, and natural good looks.
This experience significantly impacted my attitude about long hair. I realized that washing long hair takes much longer than short hair and can’t be done at the last minute. I learned the value of ponytails, hats, and headbands to keep my hair out of my eyes, my mouth, and my nose. I developed an appreciation for the miseries of wind blown hair, to say nothing of the dangers of catching it in doors, wrapping it around buttons, and having it grabbed by stumbling people.
In spite of all this, I must admit I really didn’t have any serious downsides from growing long hair. In fact, I had a lot of fun with it and kinda liked the attention.
I believe there is a misperception about men with long hair. My experience taught me that long hair did not influence my perspective on life or change the way I treated my family or my political leanings, religious beliefs, or basic character.
Why did I finally cut it? Mostly because of habit, oh, and because now it doesn’t tickle my neck.
I believe if my Dad could have seen his only son with long hair he would have been surprised, but he would have still loved me and been proud of me for being obedient to the health care professionals. He would have also complimented me for stepping out of the box and developing a better understanding of what other people with long hair experience.
As parents perhaps we should think more about why our children do or want to do things we don’t much like. If what they have in mind is not dangerous or illegal, doesn’t violate our family values or ethics, then we might consider simply accepting their choice. There is a lot of value in not micromanaging their lives and letting them know we are confident they can make good decisions and will love and care for them no matter what.
So that’s the long and short of it.
Happy Failing Forward,
Calvert and Anne
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