Personal Essays

My Hairy Boy

Maybe you don’t have a problem with really hairy arms, but then again, you’re not the father of a Wookie.

My five-year-old son has hairy arms. Not peach-fuzz-here-and-there hairy: Robin Williams-in-a-bear-suit hairy. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. He’s probably closer to Robin Williams-in-a-mountain-lion-suit hairy. Regardless, his arms are hairy.

I know his hirsuteness shouldn’t bother me—there are far worse things for your child to have than long arm hair—but it does. Last summer, while play-wrestling with him at the beach, he had his arms locked around my legs, and for the life of me I couldn’t tell where my leg hair stopped and his arm hair began.

I knew something had to be done: His arm hair must be cut.

Unfortunately, he wanted no part of an arm haircut. Whenever I broached the subject he’d pull his arms away and look at me like I was trying to eat him. Once while cutting his head hair I mentioned that it would be easy for me to snip off some of his arm hair, as well. He paused, looked at his arms, and considered the proposal.

“Do other kids cut their arm hair?” he asked.

I didn’t know what to say. He seemed so sincere about the question, so keen on wanting to do the right thing that a part of me felt compelled to hug him and tell him his arm hair was OK no matter what the other kids did or didn’t do with their own arm hair. But another part of me wanted to nod my head and say “Yes, all the time. Kids cut their arm hair all the time.”

Instead, I did neither. I simply changed the subject, and then later that night while he slept, I crept into his room with a pair of scissors.

It wasn’t my proudest moment: me wearing the book-reading headlamp my wife had given me for Christmas, hovering over my sleeping child, carefully pulling back the covers of his bed. If he woke up and saw me there was a good chance he’d assume I was the bogey man. I was risking a lot, but the cause was worth it: No boy of mine would have to endure arm hair like that.

Now I have nothing against hairy people. Hairy people are just like you and me, only with freakishly more hair. And if my son should grow up and be a hairy person, so be it, I’ll love him just the same. But these days, while he’s innocent and under my complete control, I would prefer him to live the normal life of a hairless, prepubescent child. And I’m sure he’d agree that being able to wear T-shirts in public again would be an added benefit.

My wife watched me from the door with her lightly haired arms crossed, ready to rush to her child’s aid should I wake him. She was on board with the operation, although not as fully committed as I had hoped, mostly because she blamed my father for our son’s bounty of arm hair.

Very carefully I lifted one arm and turned it over, revealing the seemingly thousands of long, fuzzy strands of arm hair. I took some between my fingers and began to cut. “He’s hairy just like your Dad,” she snapped earlier that evening when I told her of my plan. This irked me. It’s not like her dad is some dashing, hairless creature either.

The truth is my father is hairy, but nowhere near Robin Williams-in-mountain-lion-suit hairy. My son has my father’s blondish hair, which is a good thing because unless there’s a strong breeze and he’s standing in front of a dark background, it doesn’t really show from a distance. But up close it shows—it shows big time. It’s like he has a shag carpet circa 1975 on his forearms, a shag carpet in a mountain-lion suit impersonating Robin Williams.

I had purposely put my son in short-sleeved pajamas so his arms were bare and ready to be trimmed. Very carefully I lifted one arm and turned it over, revealing the seemingly thousands of long, fuzzy strands of arm hair. I took some between my fingers and began to cut. Dumping the frizzy blonde clumps into the Power Rangers wastebasket beside my son’s bed was highly satisfying.

But as I continued the scissors became less effective. The blades proved dull and eventually I was only able to cut a few strands at a time. At that rate I would be there all night, and Heroes was almost on and I didn’t want to miss it. So I reached into my pocket for plan B: my mini electric hair trimmer.

“Are you crazy?” my wife whisper-screamed. “That’ll wake him up!”

“No, it won’t,” I mouthed back. “It’s not as loud as you’d think.”

With that I clicked the hair trimmer on to show her its quiet, pleasant buzz. She tried not to look impressed, but I could tell that she was. So too was my son, who had sat up and was staring blankly at me.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“It’s an electric hair trimmer,” I told him, trying to act like nothing was out of the ordinary.

“No, on your head.”

“Oh, it’s a head lamp.”

“Why are you wearing it?”

“It helps me see while I cut your arm hair.” My honesty surprised me.

“All right,” he said. And with that he lay back down and closed his eyes.

That was it. No protest, no fight, no nothing. It felt too good to be true. I turned to my wife and looked at her as if to say “Is this a dream?” She just shook her head and walked away.

I went on to restore my son’s arms to their rightful appearance: smooth, boyish, non-mountain lion-y. I can’t tell you how relieved I felt when it was over. My boy looked like a boy again. T-shirts were once more a fashion option for him. All was right with the world.

That is until I noticed his legs, or what I could see of them behind the mass of blonde fuzz that engulfed them. I realized that this would be a much longer project than I had anticipated. But I decided to hold off trimming his leg hair; shorts-wearing season was still a few months a way. Plus there was bound to be a coupon for Nair in the Sunday circulars.