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It's not how you look; It's what's on the inside that matters. I wonder if there's a parent alive who hasn't, at one time or another, passed this little nugget of wisdom along to their children.

Why then, do we parents rant and rave to no end and often pull our own hair in frustration when our teenagers wear their hair in styles that we, as adults, find offensive?

As the mother of four, ranging in age from 17-28, I've found it's not always easy to practice what I preach. And the one thing that always seems to top the list of "things that drive me crazy" is the way they wear their hair.

Shortly after my seventeen-year-old daughter's best friend moved to Vancouver, the first letter from "Out West" arrived. Jill eagerly scanned the half-dozen or so pages with intermittent squeals of laughter and excited exclamations: "Awesome! Oh, cool! No way!" she cried, until she came to the end of the last page. Then with a final shriek of glee she handed the letter to me.

Taped to the page were two photographs of her friend, Carmela. The first showed an attractive teen with long honey-blond hair; the other, an "alien" sporting an ungodly fluorescent orange mane. Underneath each photo was a sample of real hair--before and after--with a note explaining that a package containing Jill's orange hair dye was on the way.

Needless to say, I freaked. The hissy fit of the century!

In the midst of this tirade, I remembered with startling clarity the advice given to me by a close friend: swallow your pride; bite your tongue; and remember--it's only hair. This from a father of three after I'd called him in a panic one night several years earlier.

My eldest son (then around seventeen) had, without my knowledge, decided to shave his head. He then went to a school dance, was mistaken for a skinhead, and attacked by a gang of youths from a rival school when they crashed the dance.

When he arrived home a couple of hours later (after the school principal had called to inform me of the incident and assure me that he was okay) it was no easy feat to say nothing. My son had a cut chin, a black eye, and--a bald head! But, I did it: I put a bandage on his cut, an ice-pack on his bruise, and turned a blind eye to his head.

Thereafter, at least until his hair grew out, I completely ignored the fact that he looked like the wrath of God. Instead, I acted as if he still had a full head of curly hair. It worked. He watched me curiously for the first day or so, then with (I think) a sense of reluctant admiration, when he realized that I was not going to blow my stack.

All of which makes me wonder if outrageous hair styles worn by teens could be a not-so-subtle attempt to get a rise out of us parents; although they would have us believe it's because they want to be individuals.

Nevertheless, I've been at my wits end countless times over the past twenty years. And all because of hair.

And now, to top it all off, my youngest son refuses (unless he's bribed) to wash his hair! He's got the notion that washing his hair makes it look fluffy; and fluffy hair makes him look like a geek. Consequently, I've got the notion that this makes me look like an idiot mother who allows her son be seen in public with long, greasy hair.

But whatever the toll on my nerves and patience, I'm sure I'll survive. For despite the countless articles written by psychologists and other "experts" on how to cope with teenage fashion and hairstyles, I've found it all boils down to one thing--being able to hang in there, knowing it will pass.

So, when we parents can't bear the hair, we'd do well to heed our own advice. Because as we know, it's what's on the inside that matters.

And, while we're busy holding our breath, counting to ten, biting our tongues, or whatever strategy we decide on, it may be advisable to tell ourselves--over and over and as often as necessary--it's only hair; it's only hair; it's only hair.

For when all is said and done, it really is only hair.