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Sons are not the same as pets

I'm under instructions from IT teen to write about what I did to him yesterday. I think he feels in need of some remote sympathy or literary redress. And all I did was dye his hair for him.

In case you're wondering, I didn't creep into his room at night and dye it against his will. Nor did I fill his shampoo bottle with some beautiful shade of orange (now that I've thought of it, though, it must be done at some stage).

What I did was what he asked me to do: I helped him dye his hair.

He chose a fetching shade of plum-purple. We've used the hair dye before so he trusted me with the instructions. I did tell him to read them as we went along but instructions are really boring and I don't think I was listening properly.

He has very thick hair so I had to work the dye right in, making sure it reached the roots. I'm sure the instructions said something about working it in though there was no warning about turning his scalp purple.

Actually, I lie. His scalp was a deep red, not purple. Frankly, there was nothing plum about that colour before it dried. It was the shade you might find on the battlefield, a dark, resentful red, looking like I had emptied something other than a tube of hair dye all over his head.

I was concentrating so hard on working it into the roots and was then so distracted by his scalp turning red that I forgot to avoid his ears. I only noticed I hadn't avoided his ears when they turned a dark red too.

They looked up at me, those ears. With IT's hair plastered to his red scalp, the blood-red ears stood out, seeming to accuse me, their tormentor, for what I had done to them. Then I noticed his neck. Yes, you guessed it, that lovely shade of red again.

Honestly, it was like we were going to be extras in The Walking Dead. I managed to get it over the whole of his forehead and, mysteriously, down his face under one eye. That patch was particularly redolent of a zombie movie.

His neck was red until it reached the front of him, then his side-burns took over. To be fair, before I started using the hair dye, IT teen didn't really have side-burns, but once I had been round his head a few times, he had really good ones - in red, naturally.

After this, I was faced with the choice of telling him he now looked like Hell Boy's little cousin, or letting him find out for himself. I was also starting to worry about what colour his hair would be when it dried. As his hair started to dry, it was turning towards salmon pink, such an evil colour I'm surprised they still allow it to be used.

Thinking that honesty would be best, especially as teenagers look in mirrors so much, I said,

"Erm, it's covering well."

He immediately stiffened, suspicion flooding him to the core. One hand raised tentatively towards his head as he said, in an unjustifiably suspicious tone of voice,

"What have you done?!"

Yes, I had done something but there was no need to assume I had and definitely no need for his voice to rise at the end, as if to say, 'what have you done now?'

"It's a bit redder than I expected," I said, working some more in.

He leapt from the sofa and looked in the mirror. There was some animated discussion at this point, which I won't trouble you with and then he decamped to the bathroom to try and remove the stain from his skin so that he could still go to college in the morning.

While he was gone, I spent 10 minutes with a damp cloth, scrubbing the patch of the sofa where the hair dye had transferred itself, at head height and made it look like a visitor had come to a sticky end and then been removed, to make way for the next one.

Later, (a bit later than intended as I forgot the time while the dye was setting), we went to the bathroom to wash off the hair dye. This is the dreadful part for me as you have to let the water run over the hair until it runs clear.

Runs clear? Continents clear faster than that hair dye. It's like some physical pain, having to stand there, showering and showering the top of IT teen's head, waiting for there to be no more zombie red going down the plug.

He knelt on the floor, his head over the bath while I attacked him with the shower attachment. Attacked is his word, not mine. All I was doing was rubbing his hair while I showered it, to help the dye leave faster, just like when you shampoo. It's not my fault it's been so long since he had someone wash his hair for him that he's forgotten what it feels like. He was making a big fuss over nothing.

Various comments rose up out of the blood red hair, along the lines of me never going into hairdressing, and if more hairdressers were like me he'd never get his hair cut and hairdressers weren't this rough.

We had a few words about how rough I was being as I couldn't understand why he was fussing so 
much. I was sure I was no rougher than the last time I helped him with the hair dye.

Away I went again, waiting for the interminable hair dye to stop running red into the bath when, after I caught his ear again, he yelped,

"You're washing me like Rupert!"

Now, before anyone gets excited about my private life, Rupert is our dim 4 year old collie. He quite often needs a bath and it takes a bit of effort to work shampoo in and out of a dog's coat.

I stopped and looked at the top of IT teen's head.

"No..." I said, carrying on, but then I watched what I was doing.

Oh dear, you know, I was washing him like Rupert. Without even realising it I'd been working in the water just like I do into Rupert's coat, then using my fingers to roughly scurry through the fur to get rid of any soap. Rupert likes that as it feels like he's getting a massage. For IT teen, however, it must have felt like I had brillo-pad fingers.

"It's just your imagination," I said to IT, trying to be a bit gentler. Then, as if I was watching from outside, I saw my fingers work the water from behind his ears and actually bend his hair as if it was ears.

Double oh dear! I was treating my teenage son like the family dog! This was harsh indeed as Rupert needs this sort of wash, whereas IT teen only wanted his hair dye rinsing out and is not generally in need of fumigating.

Luckily, the water finally ran clear (or was such a pale pink that IT teen didn't notice it wasn't running clear). We departed the bathroom with IT's hair glowing the red of distant furnaces and with me wondering how often I treated people like they were my pets.

Later, once the hair dried, it turned purple. I'm not sure how this magical transformation took place and I was kind of disappointed that the red became subdued into a rich plum-purple. However, we still have IT teen's ears, neck and the patch under his left eye to remind us of what might have been.

Next time he can maybe do it himself or get one of his college friends to help. I expect a group of teenage IT students will be at least as good at dyeing hair as I am. Or maybe he can let RT teen do it and hope that years of small resentments don't crop up at any important moments in the dyeing process.

I'm sure in the end it's a valuable life lesson to him, allowing other people control over his person and trusting them not to make a hash of it. Ahem. Well, maybe the life lesson is to plan things more carefully and give your aspie mother specific, short, interesting instructions at each stage of the process, so you don't end up with more than you bargained for.


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