Jeremy and I went shopping this afternoon. We were between stores when a gust of wind whipped past, tangling Jeremy’s hair and blowing it across his face.
“I hate the wind,” he snapped as he angrily raked his hair back with his free hand.
“Your hair should be long enough to put into a pony tail,” I mused. I tried to remember if I had an extra elastic in my purse.
“No,” he yelled loudly enough to make me jump. “We can talk about it when we get home.”
My first reaction was to yell back but there’s a time and a place. Plus he’d realized not ten steps earlier that the speaker he’d sewn into his bundle buggy had fallen off… somewhere. We’d just walked the length of the nearby Super Wal-Mart and there was no way we could retrace our steps to find it. He needed time to calm down.
We did a brief bit of grocery shopping, netting Jeremy a whole carton of cookie dough ice cream for himself, then caught the bus home. Once we put away the groceries and Jeremy got his bowl of ice cream, I broached the subject.
“Jeremy? Why were you mad when I offered to put your hair in a pony tail? I was just trying to get your hair out of your eyes.”
I more than half expected him to get mad, instead he sighed.
“Mom? Do you have any idea how often guys get beat up for stuff like that? All I’ve done is grow my hair long and dye it and I’ve got guys screaming ‘faggot’ at me when they drive by. I have no idea if they’re going to stop their car and come after me. It’s not safe to put my hair in a pony tail.”
“Jeremy?” I asked hesitantly. “If it was safe, would you do anything different?” He nodded and I continued. “I know you wore nail polish before and stopped because you were worried about what people might do and you shaved your legs-”
“I should shave them again now that we’re swimming,” he interrupted.
“Would you dress any differently if you weren’t worried about how people would react?”
He looked at me in surprise then nodded.
We’d had a brief conversation last night during which Jeremy talked about being attacked in grade school for being too girly… and now this. I wanted desperately to tell him it would be fine to just be himself but I couldn’t because his fears are legitimate.
“Jeremy, I just want you to know I’m here for you. I have your back.” I paused for a brief second. “Unless you’re wearing that duck costume again. Then you’re on your own.”
Jeremy dressed up in a giant fleece duck costume for Hallowe’en about five years ago. He made a very cute duck.
He looked at me in bewilderment. “Mom. I haven’t had that duck costume in years,” he pointed out.
“Then you’re fine,” I replied and he grinned.
And now I’m going to have a good cry on my balcony, which won’t solve a damned thing and probably won’t even make me feel better, but it seems like a necessity somehow.
And if anyone’s got any advice or words of support for Jeremy, please feel free to leave a comment.