Stop Worrying About Too Much or Not Enough Hair

This is about our growing problems with Hair.

I’m not talking about the musical or the song. I’m talking about the strands and follicles that sprout from our bodies, continuously. I’m talking about our very problematic relationship with our hair, a very hairy subject indeed.

Have you considered how much time, money, and attention we lavish on our hair – or the lack thereof?

Now, I’m not suggesting we totally abandon all the cutting, trimming, shampooing, dyeing, preening, plucking, ironing, lacquering, shaving, waxing, and ripping-out-by-the-roots shrieking we devote to our hair. But like so many things in contemporary America, it’s getting a bit out of hand.

I’m not going to delve much into the female war on, or with, their hair. Any proper treatment of that monumental subject would take volumes and never get to the root of it, so to speak.

Instead, I want to deal with hair from a male point of view. I have never officially had a bad hair day, but I have had bad haircuts. When I was a kid, my grandfather served as my barber – and I use the term “barber” generously, since he had no professional training.

In good weather, Pap Pap cut my hair on the porch of his farmhouse. Though he lacked teeth, he nevertheless masticated a large wad of Beech Nut chewing tobacco as he worked. He would occasionally interrupt his hacking and whacking of my wispy hair to step over to the porch rail and expectorate a large gob of amber saliva into the yard.

Ah, it makes me downright nostalgic to recall his endearing quirks.

He may have been minimally competent, but he had one overriding virtue in the eyes of my parents. He provided my haircuts for free. As to the quality of those haircuts, there’s an old saying about getting what you pay for.

So, growing up, I endured more than my fair share of cow licks, crooked bangs, and what Pap Pap famously called “cat steps” which were actually gouges and furrows unevenly distributed around my scalp. Pap Pap never used a bowl as a guide, but maybe he should have.

One of my first adolescent revolts involved my refusal to endure any more of Pap Pap’s haircuts. They may have been free, but they were costing me too much self-esteem and ridicule at school.

Soon my father and I had an argument when my hair, for the first time in my life, actually touched the tips of my ears.

Nowadays, having reached my 50s, I am more than happy to have some hair left to cut. Sadly, some of my contemporaries are not afforded the same luxury, and they develop odd neuroses over their baldness. Judging by ads I have seen on TV and in magazines, I must conclude a great number of American males just can’t accept what nature has given them, or in this case, taken away.

Some of these ads offer membership in “hair clubs.” Now I belong to several clubs that serve beer, but I can’t imagine belonging to a club that serves hair.

Grimly, some men turn to what must be viewed as the last resort – the hairpiece, otherwise known as the toupee, or The Rug. Apparently, some guys do this because they believe women will be more attracted to them if they have hair – some hair, any hair – on top rather than a bald reflective pate.

Guys, I don’t want to rain on your parade – or your hairpiece – but let me whisper a little secret in your ear.

Women can tell. Immediately. And any number of women have told me that they actually prefer it when you own up to it and go au natural, and shine on brightly up there.

Some guys shave the whole thing. I have a couple of friends who sport this look, and every time I see them I think I have taken a wrong turn into a Buddhist monastery.

Then there is the infamous comb-over. Of this I can only say: beware the high wind.

Lately, however, the whole shaving thing, for guys, has gotten ridiculous. We older guys remember when a hairy chest was actually a sign of masculinity. Suddenly it’s becoming a taboo. Guys are now shaving their chests. Going even further, they’re shaving their arms, backs, armpits – even their legs!

An odd reversal is taking place. Guys are starting to shave their legs even as some women have thrown away their razors and gone hairy down there.

I remember back in college the first time I dated – and I use that term loosely – a girl with hairy gams. She was going through a bohemian stage, you see. I guess I would have gotten used to it, except her legs were more hairy than mine. She had hairy armpits too, and was not -how shall I put this – hygienically fastidious.

She did make a great angel hair pasta dish, but we broke up after I developed a severe rash. Today, I retrospectively nickname her Betty the Yeti. I heard later she became a beautician, specializing in Brazilian waxes. I don’t need one of those, because I already have one. I use it to polish my car.

Rogerson, of Wheeling, is a professor of English at West Virginia Northern Community College.