09 February 2011

Everybody wants to rule the world

The son, who celebrated his 17th birthday last Sunday, is going through a bit of a rebellion.

Mostly, it's good-natured.

His school has a fairly stringent dress code. The kids wear uniforms, which is fine with me, and I think it's largely fine with him. He doesn't have to think much about dressing in the morning. It's in the shower, throw on a school polo and a pair of black trousers, socks and shoes, and he's good to go. Until recently, hair wasn't an issue, but a year or so ago, the manual was rewritten: boys' hair had to be above the collar and ears. No facial hair.

The boy decided to grow a beard. Actually, it's a well-trimmed and fairly tasteful goatee. We're sort of amused because it's red and blonde and brown. Of course, the kid has grown up to be as hairy as a Viking, so this motley isn't all that surprising.

"You know that facial hair is disallowed?" I reminded him when he stopped shaving certain parts of his face.

"Yup," he grinned.

I shrugged. "Well, personally, I don't care. You know the rules and if you get detention for it, I expect you to serve it gracefully and without complaint."

"Okay," he said, perfectly pleased with this set up.

The kid has a lot of Caltech in his background, and it's been one of my goals to see to it that he doesn't embrace his inner geek externally. So, I've always insisted on proper hygiene, a good hair cut and at least few nice clothing items beyond his loved jeans and t-shirts. For Christmas, I bought him a really nice cotton cashmere half-zip with just enough military detailing to make it both stylish and teenager-worthy. He'd also started hinting around that he wanted some Converse sneakers (the daughter and I both have multiple pairs of Chucks), and I got him a pair of Jack Purcells to complete his transformation.

Right after winter break, he abandoned his uniform sweatshirt in favor of wearing the half-zip to school (as verboten as the facial hair). Then he tried out for two school theater productions and got big roles in both. So, he's enormously pleased with himself right now.

In my book, he's nearly an adult, and there are rules and then there are rules. One does not drive drunk or recklessly. One does not rob a bank. One does not harm someone else. Those are rules. Tasteful facial hair on an older teenager? A nice sweater over the school-sanctioned sweatshirt? Pfft. If this is the form his teenage rebellion is taking, fine with me. His grades are better than ever and he's happy when he gets up in the morning. His teachers seem largely amused, and evidently haven't turned him in for insubordination.

I did insist he get a haircut; his hair was nearly as long as mine.

"Did Mr. Y (the theater teacher) comment on your cleaned up look?" I asked the son this morning.

"No," he said cheerfully. "But yesterday when he called on me, my English teacher, Mr. H., said 'Take it away, Style Boy.'"

I laughed out loud. Mr. H. is known for his own very vivacious facial hair, a beard of such length that it might very well have a life of its own.

Go listen to some music: "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" from the album Songs From the Big Chair by Tears for Fears.

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