Facing strands of my remaining male vanity

As a little kid, I hated going to the barber. Was it really that painful?

I don’t know when my mother took over, but I doubt it added any style. This was the ’50s, remember, and then the early ’60s.

Looking at those photos, I see a vast improvement when my girlfriends took over.

And then the hippie movement hit. I let mine grow out. It was wild, felt free, and even attracted chicks. One, who’d known me in high school, kept voicing her disbelief, “You’re so cool now.” Like what happened?

Looking at the photos, though, I should have had it styled. Really. It’s embarrassing, even with the headband.

Sketch of me by the late Douglas Dorph,, 1971 or ’72.

Once I moved to the ashram, it started getting shorter. Not all at once, but by degrees. We were cleaning up our act, as Swami said.

By the time I was back out “in the world,” mine was mostly about sideburns, and then my locks were in the hands of my first wife, the artist.

Flash ahead a decade, right after the divorce, and I was visiting the Big Apple for a job interview. A good friend who always looked great in a new ‘do arranged for me to visit her hair stylist in Brooklyn. The session was quite the revelation, even after he ran his fingers through my mane and declared with disgust, “Dis hair wasn’t cut in New York.” I mumbled a dumb apology akin to groveling.

Well, whatever he did worked. I landed the job.

A second current was running through many of those years. It started at the temples, the receding hairline. Invisible to me was what was happening at the crown. Shortly after I relocated to New England, I was starting to look like a medieval monk there.

Well, when I was walking with a good friend who’s a family physician, he quipped that a popularly advertised shampoo or daily pill wouldn’t do any good in my case. I had the wrong patterning or some such for it to address. Alas.

And then, once I’d remarried, my daughters warned me of dire consequences if I ever grew my ponytail back. So the thinning continued.

After the younger one had gone off to college, my roommate from my own first year after came up for a visit. I was in shock. His eyes were still the sparkling blue and his voice and laughter were as musical as ever but – gasp – that naturally blond Afro he had sported was totally gone, leaving a shiny dome in its place. Something was off, seriously wrong.

What did surprise me in the aftermath, though, was my elder daughter’s reaction. When she had confirmation that, yes, my hair really had been that long, she reconsidered. Maybe she was tired of what she was calling my comb over. “Why don’t you let it grow long again,” she said. “You’re writing those hippie novels, you might as well look the part.”

OK, I had just retired. Give it a try.

That’s brought its own shocking discoveries.

First is just how much time it’s taken to grow at all. (I started to say how long it’s taken, but find the pun jarring.) You know, even my follicles are slowing down.

Second is the double meaning of “thinning.” It’s not just that there’s less hair, it’s that each surviving strand is much thinner than mine used to be. These are like spiderwebs and sometimes just as annoying.

Third is a sense that this is a last hurrah. A round of chemo could wipe it out or I could have it shaved off in support of someone else undergoing chemo or I could even try a new style altogether, but once this is gone, it ain’t comin’ back.

Well, as I used to say back in my hippie youth, I was gonna enjoy my hair while I had it. That was my excuse for wearing it long when I did.

No regrets, then. I dood it.

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