It was the policy of the Pflugerville Independent School District (located just north of Austin, Texas) that all high school boys come to school with their whiskers shaved. “Whiskers,” it was explained to me, were facial hairs growing on the chin, neck, and cheeks. Mustaches somehow were exempt.
One morning, I got sent to the principal’s office for distributing unapproved literature on school grounds. The remaining copies of the underground newspaper I helped produce were confiscated, and my band of co-conspirators was given a stern talking to. Then I got pulled aside on a technicality. The head principal decided that the facial hair on my chin (that I so wanted to let grow into a goatee) merited a shave.
In the principal’s office was a large glass jar of pink Bic razors, which a student could buy for 25 cents, were he caught in violation of the facial hair code. The principal “loaned” me a quarter, handed me a razor, and directed me to the bathroom. I considered shaving—even though I didn’t know how, I’d always used an electric shaver—but I ended up just sitting there on the toilet contemplating my situation. Eventually I decided that I was not going to submit.
I emerged from the bathroom, and he became enraged at my “willful insubordination.” He turned red, quite literally. So I was sent off to a day of in-school suspension.
At some point, maybe it was after I was released, maybe it was the next day, I found myself explaining what happened to my 11th grade AP English teacher. She told me about a friend who had to cut his hair as a condition of getting a new job. I think her point was that even in “the real world” adults sometimes have to sacrifice their personal style.
I immediately seized on a key difference. He had a choice. He didn’t have to take that job if he wanted to keep his hair. But I was forced to go to high school. I had no choice. And what sort of stupid job would force someone to cut their hair? At the time I was also growing my hair out, primarily to challenge another asinine policy: dictating that a boy’s hair be no longer than the top of his collar. Male ponytails were also verboten. In public high school!
Anyway, her reasoning just wasn’t working on me. I felt completely justified in my disobedience. And then she hit me with a zinger: “If you’re not in class, I cannot teach you.”
Anyways, the moral of this story is not that you shouldn’t be rebellious, but that some times there are unintended consequences of doing so. So be prepared. In high school, I sucked it up and found ways to “stay out of trouble”…so that I wouldn’t miss class. In “adult” life, I find that “choosing my battles” is a constant balance.