My hair intolerance came late in life. It’s not that it wasn’t there, but I fought it. I tried to be strong.
I made it through the big, poufy, mega-permed ‘80s and early ‘90s with barely a tic. When I saw Melanie Griffith and Joan Cusack in “Working Girl”, it registered that their coiffures needed taming, but I didn’t respond like it was a horror movie, clenching the armrests and casting my eyes downward to see if popcorn-fed rats lurked at my feet. I watched and told myself movies are make believe and New Jersey is on the other coast. (Admittedly, I may have had my own case of poufy hair, a circumstance that was entirely perm-free.)
I only registered mild annoyance after moving to L.A. twenty-five years ago and seeing middle-aged men deal with receding hairlines by growing it where they could—extending the neckline, clumping it together in a ponytail. Not braided like Willie Nelson. Too much work. This was California casual. On occasion, I wanted to shake these guys and shout, “Your hair’s still receding. We still see that.” But I took my deep breaths, I let that Bobby McFerrin ditty dance in my head and I did some mental “Vogue”-ing. I worked through it.
I thought I made it.
I am not my mother’s son!
Then came the mullet. It proved a greater challenge. I could hear my grandfather in my head. Needs a haircut. Very succinct. He was a keen observer, always wanting to keep the younger generations in check. His tone conveyed more: Thugs and no-goods. A barber would fix ‘em. I believe that was my grandfather’s answer to all the evils of the world. Forget prisons; we need more barbers.
My mother learned well from my grandfather who, incidentally, went bald at the age of twenty. But she was always more verbose. I shudder to think what her commentary would be if she watched an old Michael Bolton video with me. “Where are my scissors? Honestly, what was he thinking? ‘Love Is a Wonderful Thing’? I’ll tell you what’s a wonderful thing. A haircut. Once a month. Five weeks at most. Just look at that mop. It’s like a lion’s mane. I’ll tame it. Clean, crisp snips. And there’d be three new wigs for cancer patients. Although Genie Mulgrove has a stylish collection of bandanas to make the most of things. Satin. Some of them are even from Neiman Marcus. But when you’ve got cancer, you need your splurges.”
It was a struggle, but I made it through mullets, too. “Hockey hair”, they called it. That helped. I accepted it in the name of national pride. Hockey. Canada. Suck it up.
But I’ve come undone due to the latest hair misstep. I hear my grandfather’s voice saying, Needs a haircut. I hear my mother rambling about her scissors. And even more succinctly than my grandfather, I pose the question: “Why?”
“Why, oh, why, oh, why why why?!” Okay, not so succinctly. I see the redundancy in my thinking but I can’t help myself. I can’t lop off even a single “why”. I. Am. Hair. Intolerant.
There are men walking around with a tiny lock of hair clumped together in a rubber band so that it sticks out of the top of their head. Like a shaggy antenna. Or, more accurately, a ponytail stump. (If you Google "man bun", you'll get lots of scary versions; the men I've seen attempt the look don't have a thick enough clump to form a bun in the first place.)
I suspect someone like David Beckham started this. Some sort of soccer requirement. Clump up that loose tuft of hair at the top of the head in case some gust of wind kicks up in the stadium and he gets a red card for giving an opposing player an unwanted hair whipping. But, men, we need to get real. David Beckham can carry off almost anything. He’d be hot in a squirrel costume. We are not David Beckham. We cannot carry off the ponytail stump.
We should know this. As boys, we were told not to play with rubber bands. Clearly, some boys weren’t so compliant. Or perhaps they were and now they are demonstrating a latent need to experiment with elastics.
I’d gladly buy them a geoboard. Anything to keep the rubber bands out of their hair.
This will not hold up well in one’s personal history. Like crocs and pants that sag down to the knees. I am certain of this. And there will be oodles of incriminating evidence in the form of Instagram and Facebook selfies.
I can hear the children of these men, years from now, looking at pictures of their dads when they actually had hair. But that relatively full head of hear won’t be something the young‘uns marvel at because there will be that overriding distraction. “Uh, dad, why is your hair sticking up at the back in every picture?”
“I meant to do that. It was the fashion.”
“No, it wasn’t.”
“It was.” And, god willing, I’ll be there to chime in and say, in a cathartic release, “It wasn’t! It really wasn’t!”
So please, gentlemen, put the rubber bands down. Tame your hair with gobs of goop if you must. It is time to clip the ponytail stump.
If you don’t do it, I may just have to pull out my mother’s scissors. I’m not afraid to use them. My ancestors will cheer me on.