Choose Your Battles

What’s the go with school formals? Specifically, what’s the go with booking your teenage daughter in for professional hair and makeup? Stephanie is insistent that this has to happen, but my inclination is to say no. Won’t it just encourage her in her already excessive fascination with beauty products?

All her friends are doing it, apparently, and their mum’s have already made their appointments (never mind that formal season is a good six months away). If I don’t submit, she says, she’s going to be socially ostracised and have a traumatic start to adult life. I tried telling her that, first of all, you don’t get ostracised over your school formal hairstyle, and second of all, it’s hardly the start of adult life. But she just started wailing about how she can’t afford to pay for it herself due to her budget being dictated by minimum wage, and accusing me of denying her access to basic social resources.

Damn my lot in life: being a progressive sociology professor and mother to a teenager raised in the inner north of Melbourne. Hair styling has occupied a disproportionate amount of debate time in our household, with Stephanie holding that it’s central to the formation of identity in today’s youth cultures, and that she therefore needs $200 for a cut and colour. I’ve tried pointing out that the flaws in her method of arriving at this conclusion, but to no avail.

I guess it wouldn’t kill me to let up just a bit – after all, the kid’s trying to do her HSC while working three nights a week at a taco truck. I can’t promise that she’ll have a spot at the city’s best hair salon, Melbourne CBD having a plethora of options that are out of my price range, but I’ll try to find her something nice. At the end of the day, she’s a good kid who’s going places, so who am I to deny her the formal of her dreams? She’ll realise soon enough that consensus reality is all a sham.