Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hair Today, Here Tomorrow?

We got haircuts last night. Our hair guys, Frank and Rick, used to have a shop, but the rent on it got too high, so they went on the road instead. Now, instead of their clients going to them, they come to their clients in their homes. They've been doing this for a good ten years now, and for a while, when they first started the new business, we had friends and neighbors lined up for Friday night "haircut parties" at six-week intervals. The boys cleaned up! Things have calmed down considerably by now, but still, the regular visit is always fun and a time to catch up with these two men who have become old and true friends.

At age 62, I'm glad to say I still have a decent head of hair. It seems to be thinning exactly as father's hair did, only at the front corners, leaving a widow's peak. (You can't see it because I don't comb my hair--I cut it short enough to just wash it and then dry it by running my fingers through it--what there is in front just hangs down.) My father had auburn hair which retained most of its color throughout his life. In hair color, I am now, as always, taking after my mother. We both had almost black hair in our youth. At my current age it's a gunmetal color, and I expect it to become a blazing white as I get older. I'm not complaining.

I confess to a certain lifelong vanity about my hair. I've always liked it. When I was a kid I always wanted it longer than my parents thought proper for a boy, although they did hold out the option that if I would "train" it (meaning always comb it back in a pompadour the way my father did) I could have it long. But I liked it floppy, so off it came. I was stuck with flat tops and "butch" cuts through high school. When I was in college and The Beatles came along and liberated men's hair, I and many others rejoiced, felt almost vindicated. No grease, no barbers, just h-a-i-r. There was even a Broadway show about it! When I finally was able to let my hair grow really long, shoulder-length, though, I discovered that it had a tendency to grow out as well as down. I'd end up with a look similar to the onion domes on St. Basil's cathedral in Moscow. So barbers and I have always maintained an acquaintance, and thinning shears for the sides are welcome.

I said all that to say this: For the life of me, I don't get the current--what, shame?--men have been taught to feel about hair. I'm talking about hair elsewhere on their bodies, places where men are supposed to have hair, their chests, their legs--where in the world did this fetish for depilation come from? At first blush it would seem to be a phenomenon limited to a fussy segment of the gay culture (the "gay asthetic" is something I don't understand intellectually but of whose existence I am aware), but it doesn't seem to be limited to any particular group. Instead, it's everywhere. Women tell their men they don't like the hair on their bodies, so we are treated to the sight of shaved, waxed, or otherwise de-nuded male flesh in gyms and on beaches. Until now, the only person in my life I'd ever seen who had no hair whatsoever was a late cousin of mine who went bald during childhood because of a bout with scarlet fever. That was an acceptable excuse for which she (yes, a woman) was given sympathy. Nowadays, sympathy would be the last reaction she'd garner. More likely, she'd be envied.

Men in our culture, from the bumbling sitcom husband to the supposed oaf who thinks only between his legs, often get a raw deal. Maybe this body hair thing is meant in some perverse way to "civilize" men, to mitigate the supposed threat of their manliness. But I say, if a lion can have his mien, a man can keep whatever hair he was meant to have. It's his birthright. Does this make me a men's libber?

6 comments:

Ravel said...

Men removing all hair: it ias only a fad made by people short of ideas to make money.
I believe it began with those athletes who removed hair to help their performance. Cult of the slim and trim body came with it.
I may invent all I say, it is only my conclusions from observations.
Just thinking of the itching when it grows back is enough to make me see how lousy an idea it is.
(my opinion, sorry).
As for white hair, it is usually very becoming...
You're welcome, Ralphie. :-)

Ralph said...

Your theory is as good as anyone else's Ravel. Who knows how these things get started? And obviously, I agree with you.

Thanks you for the compliment on my not-yet-white hair!

Bob said...

As one who was balding in the 11th grade, and whose two sons, still in their twenties, are both bald, I say hang on to whatever hair you have.

Ralph said...

You go, Bob. Be careful what you ask for!

Zoey & Me said...

I started going bald at age 45 just like my Dad did, almost clockwork timing. Now the girls say I look handsome that way, YAY!

Ralph said...

Z&M, you and Bruce Willis. I'd say you're in pretty good company.