The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

Hair: An Old Family Story

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My friend Chaos on Twitter just told a story that reminded me of this tale from my youth.

Disclaimer: If my uncle Bob or my cousin Scott should happen to see this, please do not mess this story up with the facts. This is a Family Story, which means that, if it deviates from what actually happened, so what? Unless, of course, the truth is even better.

There are a few bits of background you need to know: First, it is impossible to describe the degree of idiotic passion (on all sides) caused in the ’60s by how long a boy’s hair was. Seriously. Being told that so-and-so was suspended because his hair was below his collar didn’t rate a raised eyebrow. Second, you must understand that, while my family was all the way over on the Left, my uncle Bob, though never a conservative, was hardly a leftist. Indeed, he was the owner of a home-building company, lived in Mendota Heights, and was the proverbial “pillar of the community.” At least, that’s how we Brusts always viewed him (though, to be sure, there was a high degree of respect and a fierce and lasting affection between him and his sister, my mother, that continues between our families to this day).

So, as the story came to us, my cousin Scott–Bob’s oldest–was sent home from school because his sideburns were too long, and Bob was asked to come in and see the principal. Well, Bob delayed meeting him for a day, then another, then another, until, when he finally came in, this conservative, well-dressed, well-to-do pillar of the community had grown his sideburns down to his jawline. At which time he walked into the principal’s office, smiled at the poor befuddled man, and sweetly inquired as to what the problem was with his son?

We always adored uncle Bob.

Post-script: Today, Scott is a public defender in East Armpit Missouri, helping those who need it most desperately, and also donates his time to helping the inmates at Guantanamo. If you raise ’em right…

skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

12 Comments

  1. “If you raise ‘em right…”

    He was worth the hair. Now he’s a worthy heir.

  2. Even in 1991, the civics teacher at the high school informed my parents that my shoulder-length hair was a threat to the Republic. I was most annoyed because I was by far his most enthusiastic student.

  3. A threat to the Republic, Dave? Wow.

    And hooray for Uncle Bob. He wins the parenting prize for that week.

  4. I’m imagining Uncle Bob looking like Isaac Asimov now.

  5. Ah, this brings back memories.

    Old, stupid, annoying memories. But still. *g*

  6. Steve, where’s the “Like” button on this page?

  7. I saw Uncle Bob two nights ago. He was wearing Birkenstoks.

  8. skzb

    Marci: Of course he was. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  9. We had a 10 th grade English teacher a member of the DAR with portraits of Napoleon and General Mcarther on the walls and who’s favorite song was Hitler’s my cousins Hanna and David had her before me and by the time I got there she hated all Tilsens reflexively I decided my class skit would be Truman firing Mcarther –that was my only C in high school

  10. skzb

    Scott: That is too perfect! And I think I had that same teacher, only mine was male, taught history, and it was in another city. My report on the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 didn’t go over so well. 🙂

  11. Long hair is, indeed, a threat to the established government. Look at Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, . . .

  12. Man I lucked out! My favourite (and the school’s best teacher by any student’s standard) was my grade 9 history teacher, who wore Birkenstocks, tie-dyed shirts, and fully embraced the idea that teens had intelligence and individuality and that these traits should be nurtured. He taught me more than just dates, he taught us all about political cause/effect, what I recognize now as some of Michel Foucault’s work, and what it means to be a member in any society. I’m pretty sure he’s the reason I went on to study anthropology.

    If the educators of the 60s saw what the educators of the 90s let me and my classmates get away with in terms of personal appearance, I think there would be some epic communal heart-attack.

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