first published June 20, 2014
Oh, my hair! It was a thing of beauty! Full, black, glistening! When I walked down the street, women wanted me and men wanted to be me. As a teen-aged boy, I spent hours in front of the mirror with a comb, jars of goop, and bottles of glop. My hair is what gave me my mojo and I took good care of it! The style changed over the years, as fashion dictated, but it remained nice and thick and dark and lustrous well into my 40’s. Inevitably, however, the gray began to creep. And then, triggering a mid-life crisis, the strands began to thin.
It took me a while to accept that I was going to be one of “those guys” — the bald ones – who I’d long pitied. It was as if I’d been bitch-slapped by Mother Nature. But what choice did I have? So I learned the ancient and sacred art of the comb-over. Using some manly hairspray (which I’m sure was no different from the stuff my wife used) I’d pull out the long, painstakingly-grown side-flap, tease it up in to a white cotton candy confection and swirl it around atop my almost-bald pate into something resembling (at a far distance, at least), a healthy head of hair.
This too, in its own way, was a sight to behold. Really, it was a masterpiece of theater and illusion, of misdirection and magic. Coiffed high and fluffy in the front, trimmed neatly around the ears and back, it was a variation of the same style I’d worn as a kid, back in the day when the ladies couldn’t keep their eyes off me. And they still looked at me! I thought it was because I still had the mojo. I realize now, they were simply incredulous that a man could be so delusional.
The thing the ladies don’t understand is that for a man, his hair is the source of his virility. That Samson and Delilah story didn’t come from nothing. A man will go to any lengths to conceal from the world his loss of power.
I had a buddy who wore a really awful toupee. The first time I saw him in it, I thought he was carrying his cat on his head. I looked at him and thought, “You’re delusional, pal. Everyone knows it’s a rug!” At the same time, he was looking at me, thinking, “You’re delusional, pal. Everyone knows it’s a comb-over!” Neither of us recognized in the other that same need: to defend our manhood; our youth, our sex appeal with whatever resources we had left to us.
I wore that magnificent pompadour until just about a week before I died, when I was too sick and too weak to take care of myself. My wife, bless her heart, made sure the funeral home did my hair just right for the viewing.
What does it mean? What is the lesson? I suppose I need to really work this through, because I feel as if I’m missing something really important here, but honestly, right now I can tell you this: of all the people and things and places I miss in life, I miss my hair the most.
This story still makes me laugh. I assume that if I had, in fact, channeled someone who’d passed, his passing must have been quite recent. He was still firmly attached to his ego.