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Thursday, October 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 41.0° F  Fair
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Tell All: Growing season
Should I order my son to cut his long hair?

Dear Tell All: My 16-year-old son has started to grow his hair long. He's a good kid and actually looks cute with longer hair, but I worry what other people might think or that maybe I should be enforcing some stricter rules. Am I worrying for nothing?

Scissor-happy in Shorewood Hills

Dear Readers: Pull the blanket up to your noses and snuggle in, kiddies. I'd like to tell you a little story that may help us uncover the answer. Our tale begins in New Zealand, a tiny country on the other side of the world, where there are 10 times as many sheep as people. The number changes each year depending upon whether Sheep McNuggets are on the dollar menu. (Okay, I made that part up, but the rest of the story is true.)

Some of the world's best wool comes from the Southern Alps of New Zealand. It's rugged country, so rugged that many ranchers don't bother with fences. They simply let their sheep roam in the mountains and then round them up every fall for shearing. In 2004, one rancher discovered a particularly elusive sheep that had somehow managed to evade capture for over six years. He had apparently hidden in a cave while all of his buddies were rounded up, growing puffier and puffier over the years until he resembled an enormous, fuzzy wood tick. When the rancher first spotted him, he didn't even recognize him as a sheep, saying, "He looked like some biblical creature."

Shrek, as they named him, became an instant celebrity, doing photo shoots, meeting the New Zealand prime minister and earning his own page on Wikipedia. I can't help but think that if I were a sheep, I'd be like Shrek: holed up in a cave on a mountain-top, growing fatter and riper over the years, dispensing my wisdom to whoever was brave enough to climb up and ask for advice.

I mention this to suggest that your son is in good company. From the Beatles to Albert Einstein to Salvador Dali, there's a long line of innovative thinkers who skipped a haircut or two. Your son is just doing what children have done for eons: testing his limits and experimenting with independence. Of all the ways he could have chosen to express his individuality, this is a pretty innocent one. So as long as he's being consistent in other areas of his life - following house rules, maintaining good grades and hanging out with the right friends - I wouldn't worry.

Do you have a question about life or love in Madison? Write Tell All, 101 King St., Madison, WI, 53703. Or email

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