Academic Writing A Way To Grow Up In the struggle for individual identity, most people find a social niche and

remain in that niche for most of their lives. Buddy, the narrator in Tom Perrotta’s Bad Haircut, is far from average though. As a boy, Buddy only reacts and goes along to the environment around him. This susceptibility makes him an easy victim for the peer pressures put upon teenagers. This pressure brings Buddy into the darkest alternatives in this world: drug abuse, gang violence and the indifference towards his mother and father. Despite the rough road Buddy faces during his adolescent years, he eventually reaches maturity through drastic changes in his personality and outlook upon life. Buddy progresses in his life: from childhood innocence to a teenage

delinquent and from that delinquent to a responsible adult. At the beginning of the novel, Buddy is clearly an innocent, naive child. In “The Wiener Man,” he has a collection of commercial, brand spokesmen’s autographs: Cap’n Crunch, Mr. Clean, and Chef Boy-R-Dee. Buddy sees these spokesmen as celebrities, when they are just normal people in costumes. Also, Buddy’s immaturity can be clearly illuminated by his

understanding of his mother’s relationship with the Wiener Man. She asks him to go to the supermarket right after she has a very emotional locking of eyes with the Wiener Man. Buddy’s admiration of the mobile home shows his youthful understanding of the Wiener Man’s situation: “It seemed like a fun way to live,” he imagined, “The three of us inside the Frankmobile, playing games and eating out all the time” (Perrotta 18). No mature adult would find the situation of living in a trailer as being appealing, let alone truly enjoyable. Buddy’s understanding of money in “Thirteen” is very juvenile as well. He receives money from Kevin, who steals it from his stepfather and freely spends the money in any way he pleases. This lack of responsibility in

accordance with his childlike understanding of adult situations shows Buddy’s naive innocence at the beginning of the story. As a teenager, Buddy is no longer seen as an innocent kid, but rather a rebellious, reckless adolescent partier. In “Snowman,” Buddy has surrounded himself with a very different crowd of rough bullies. While Buddy and his friend are walking down the street, they encounter the lifeguard, who punches Buddy in the face. Instead of moving on and being mature, Buddy chooses they way off his peers. As Zirko shouts “hold a knife against his throat,” (88) Buddy does as he is told for fear of being a coward. No one with an adult level of maturity would associate with such a rowdy bunch. Buddy reaches a new level of terrible behavior in “A Bill Floyd Xmas.” He goes to practice with his band, but he ends up “drinking rum and coke and smoking a joint” (127). Buddy then arrives at church on Christmas, high and drunk. When Buddy appears at home, his mother discovers that he is on drugs, and he denies that anything is wrong. Buddy seems to lose all of his innocence in this chapter, a severe contrast to the innocent youngster in previous chapters Despite this low point in his life, all is not lost for Buddy. He makes a come back to the good side with one more drastic change in his personality during the chapters about his girlfriends. Buddy matures into a responsible adult, ready for life and the responsibility ahead. Through a sexual encounter with his driver’s education partner, Laura, he displays more maturity about the situation than she does, despite the fact that she is both older and far more experienced. Buddy matures by losing his virginity in this chapter when Laura “guides him inside. All Buddy could do was gasp in astonishment” (151) finally realizing he is growing up to be a man. Laura thinks of sex as a tryout for a relationship, while Buddy’s view of sex is at a higher level of maturity: “He wanted to tell her something that would do justice to the things was feeling: that he thought she was beautiful, that he missed her already, that he would spend all night staring at

the ceiling in his room, trying to try remember the way she looked with her shirt off. But he chickened out” (152). Buddy sees sex as a meaningful experience, and he understands that it is not what determines whether two people should be together. Buddy reaches full maturity in “Wild Kingdom” when he sees the picture at the funeral of himself and Mr. Norman. “Buddy had long curly hair and wore a blue flannel shirt. He couldn’t believe how young and fragile he looked” (228). Just then Buddy sees his life in front of him. He no longer is a wild teenager; he grows to be a mature adult from everything he experiences throughout his life. Although Buddy, at the beginning of Bad Haircut is a truly naive and innocent child, he experiences many changes while growing up. He becomes a drug abuser and a slacker, but he finds his maturity in the end. Buddy encounters many small changes in his life, that all lead on to him becoming a mature young adult. Despite the severity of his situation as a reckless risk taker, he was able to turn his life around. Buddy’s behavior displays different actions about all people; many people change due to their community and environment, and once someone is altered, does not mean that person will be that way for the rest of their life.

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