“Rob, can you put London in the shower?” my wife Lala asked and I happily obliged. My son London doesn’t mind vertical baths; in fact, they bring out the Pavarotti in him. So while I checked my email, I listened to songs concerning ferocious battles between The Hulk and The Thing. After the dust had settled and body parts had been washed, The Father grabbed a comb.
“Don’t comb my hair, Dad,” London said, dripping.
Thinking this command was just a remnant of a song half-sung, I pushed the plastic teeth in.
London clamped my wrist with an impressive grip. “Seriously, Dad. Don’t.”
I felt my brow furrow. “Why not?”
“Mom and I are growing dreads.”
OK, we’ll skip the collective “we” and get to the hair-raising history here. London has been growing his locks long for many many moons. Hell, I’ve been growing mine too and even sported a Vandyke to give me that “rock me sexy Jesus” look, but dreads? On a white boy? Never saw it coming, I swear: My beautiful sonchild sporting a mullock (mullet + dreadlock) and morphing into a Boulder hippie, trying to score weed on a lonely street corner, all while wearing socks with leather flip-flops.
When I was London’s age, I had no say in the matter of the mane. My dad took me to Mario & Mike’s, two men who knew more about dousing aftershave on their ample chest hair and dangling cigarettes from their lips than they did about shags, bobs and pageboys. During my visit, Mike pressed my head to his belly, which was swathed in the thinnest barrier of polyester, while he snipped away and told unintelligible stories about playing soccer barefoot outside a Roman sewer. My dad loved both the stories and a cut so severe that it made me seem shovel-ready for electroshock therapy. I thought I’d been pretty liberal about London’s long hair. I didn’t want my son to have whitewalls but—Holy Rob Zombie, Batman—dreads?
I found Lala in the art room staring at a website aptly named “Dreadhead Headquarters.” Maybe it’s the Mayflower still sailing inside of me, but the photos on the site could have been reused for the Humane Society. Young men and women looking closer to those dust mop komondor dogs and feral Irish setters than humans with opposable thumbs.
“They say with white hair you have to tease first before you roll and rubber band,” she said.
I was so freaked out that I passed on an easy sexual innuendo joke. “When did we decide that London would have dreads?”
She swiveled to face me. “London and I have been talking about it for a while.”
“Oh, really?” I said sarcastically because I had nothing. Then I spotted an olive colored tube with a huge marijuana leaf logo on the front. Turn my back one minute and my house becomes a cannabis café. “And what the hell is this?” I asked, shaking the product as fiercely as I could.
“What’s wrong with you? That’s not even for London. It’s hemp shampoo. Give me that before you hurt yourself.” She ripped away my evidence. “This is for Poppy and me.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” I cried. “My daughter’s hair product is a gateway for rockin’ the bubonic chronic?”
“Lord,” Lala said, shaking her head.
“And these?” I asked, grabbing what could have passed for very tiny roach clips back when I roamed the dazed dorms of Wesleyan University.
“Duckbill hair clips.” She snatched those away too. “Did you even bother to read the package, Nancy Reagan?”
London then bounded in bare-chested singing the lyrics of a Michael Franti and Spearhead song he’d heard just minutes before in his sister’s room. After the first verse about opium fields, Afghan rebels and army recruiters, I started to get the bed-spins.
“This is not my beautiful house,” I half-sang and made my way to the couch.
Rob Wilder’s latest book is Tales from the Teacher’s Lounge. His column, “Daddy Needs a Drink,” appears the first Wednesday of each month in the Reporter.