By Don Rush

I must say my strategery of brainwashing has (so far) gone as scheduled. I’ll be honest, I tried to influence my boys’ lives to my way of thinking from the time they were very young. Saw them both this past weekend and I think my evil plan actually worked. They seem like fine young men in public. They just need haircuts.
I know publicly these days dads say their plans are to let their boys be boys, to let nature and the environment take their courses. Publicly, they say they don’t care. I say they are pretending. I believe deep down they actually do care how their boys dress, what they listen to or watch, who their friends are and how they wear their hair. Dad’s just don’t want to be labeled as overbearing or as a problem parent. They want to stay behind the scenes, away from the crosshairs of others’ opinions.
Because of the terms “toxic masculinity” and “cancel culture” I bet dads everywhere are putting up their arms in surrender without an attempt to fight for what they really may want for their sons. Why should they, they surmise they have little weight in how boys grow up these days. Social media, pop culture and the village raise our kids these days. But, deep, deep down inside their hairy chests, dads care. Dare I say, they cringe (albeit inside) when Junior comes home wearing black clothes, black lipstick, and black eyeshadow with loud piercings and tattoos. Not that there’s anything wrong with that look, I just bet dads cringe when first they see “the look.”
Honestly, when I see that kind of getup my eyes hurt. (Hey, give me some bonus points for being honest.) I never really got that whole “Gothic” thing from a decade or so ago — and I even read Bram Stoker’s Dracula when I was in seventh grade. To me it’s one thing to read about vampires or watch them on TV or in the movie theater — it is completely another thing to want to “look” like one.
I am not saying dark-everythinged folks are freaks of nature. Oh no. A person can be kind, gentle, compassionate and loving with spikes and things protruding from his or her body. There’s nothing wrong with that look, but let’s just say I feel better when it’s somebody else’s kid.
Also, as the fashionista of modern manhood, I fully understand the ever-changing ebb and flow of fashion. It’s a given that when the tide comes in, you never know what will be washed ashore. I also know the scope of my influence as a dad started out big and continually diminished over time. Just like Kryptonite weakens Superman, friends, fads and fashion surely lessoned the iron grip I tried to hold over Shamus and Sean. I dreaded the day when, God forbid, they would feel their own oats and actually want to express their individuality by being like everybody else. Diversity-schmirshity. I wanted conformity, dang-blabit!
So I acted early. Swiftly and decisively I plotted. I planted the seeds of them being “nice boys.” I wanted them to respect themselves and how they looked. And, as I stated, I think my strategy of brainwashing worked — except for their longish hair. They’re polite, well mannered and can hold intelligent, thought-provoking conversations.
* * *
I remember when Sean was about four, he looked in the mirror at himself and his hair that I had slicked down and brushed.
“Perfect,” he said. “It looks like Elvis’ hair.”
And, he was right, aside from being blond and not dyed black, it looked like Elvis hair. Let me further say, it was not the big, bush Elvis hair of the early-to-mid 1970s (No mutton-chop side burns and no, Sean still doesn’t own a rhinestoned jump suit, thank you, thank you very much). Our boy Sean liked the cool Elvis hair pre-1960 — slicked back, short cropped with a big swoop of a curl up front on his forehead. Of course, just thinking about it now, that Elvis hair itself was an afront to the adults of the 1950s’ prudish sensibilities.
Today Sean has reddish-brown hair and a reddish-brown beard. Both longish. He looks like he could be going to college in 1971, not 2021. He looks like a professor or archeologist. Shamus has a schlop of curly, dishwater blond hair on top of his big noggin and a light colored blonde beard. Admittedly, really it’s probably all their mom’s doing that they are both smart, caring good-looking young men. They’re just hairy (which can be laid at the doorstep of my influence).
I think I will buy them each a hair brush for Christmas.
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