Smartmom admits it: She’s a coward!
This all goes back to last week, when the Oh So Feisty One showed up at school with a large streak of turquoise in her hair. The entire class of middle schoolers made fun of Smartmom’s girl.
So what was Smartmom’s first reaction? You guessed it — panic.
Before she even had a chance to talk to OSFO, Smartmom made an appointment for her girl at Medusa Hair Salon to get the turquoise dye taken out in time for the next school day.
Talk about putting the colorist before the conversation.
“Everyone hates my hair and they keep making fun of it,” OSFO told Smartmom. “Everyone is asking, ‘Why did you do it?’ and telling me that I shouldn’t have done it.”
But OSFO wasn’t looking for Smartmom to make it all go away. She was looking for support because she didn’t WANT to make it go away.
“I just called Medusa. You can cover it up if you want,” Smartmom told OSFO.
“No way!” OSFO shouted out. “That would be cowardly. Besides I like it and I want to keep it.”
Smartmom fell silent. You could have heard a plastic glove with Manic Panic dye on it drop.
And there it was: Smartmom was the coward, the person whose self-esteem relied on the opinion of the group. Naturally, she had just assumed that OSFO would want to undo what she’d done. How could she have thought otherwise, considering that back to ninth grade at the New Lincoln School, she and Jean Flegenheimer spent lunchtime making collages in the art studio because they felt so unpopular?
But OSFO is not Smartmom. Sure, she was upset (who likes to be the subject of negative attention?), but she’d already decided that she was not going to be bulldozed by her class’s assessment of her new hair color.
Smartmom simultaneously felt shame and pride. Shame because she had revealed her own insecurities by offering OSFO an out before they’d even talked about her feelings — and proud that her daughter refused to plead guilty in the court of sixth grade opinion.
Whoa. Smartmom had some growing up to do and a lot to learn from OSFO.
Tellingly, Hepcat’s reaction couldn’t have been more different. He was routinely ridiculed at school for being different. Growing up in a small farm town in Northern California, his sartorial choices frequently prompted incredulity and hostility from his classmates. He sums it up this way:
“Like all real New Yorkers, I was the weirdest kid in the small town I grew up in. That’s why I moved to New York.”
He learned at a young age from his large extended family that being different was a good thing. A clan of farmers, engineers, doctors, and artists, they’re all proud of their iconoclastic and unconventional ways.
So while Smartmom was making an appointment at Medusa, Hepcat was bolstering OSFO’s decision to follow her own star:
“She’s got a strong sense of herself. Sure, she pushed the envelope more than she expected. But it’s one of those experiences that will give her a good sense of herself. It will make her a little more assertive and a little more independent.”
Later that night, Hepcat told OSFO that he was really proud of her.
“There’s nothing better than making choices and sticking to them,” he said. “From this position, you can win people over and get them to come around.”
The next day, OSFO was nervous about going to school. But Smartmom noticed that she was wearing the blue Paul Frank hoodie that matched her hair color. That was bold. As she readied to leave, Smartmom could tell she was a little bit scared. Smartmom began to speechify …
“Your hair looks beautiful. It takes a lot of courage to be different … ”
At this OSFO ran for the door. Clearly, she’d rather deal with a roomful of sixth graders than have to hear her mother make yet another speech.
Then Hepcat called out, “Have a great day, I love you!” The door slammed and Hepcat and Smartmom sat thinking of their sixth-grade selves and how OSFO was years ahead of them.