Somewhere within an old photo album, stowed away by my mother in a dark wooden cabinet made by my father, is a black-and-white picture that shows where it all began. My hairstyle, that is.
In the picture I am seated in a barber's chair in a shop in Merchantville, N.J., looking perturbed. I am age 2 or 3. The barber -- and it must have been a barber, because no self-respecting man or boy went to a "hair stylist" back then -- has just finished my first haircut, neatly trimming it and parting it on the left.
The year was, I believe, 1959. Eisenhower was president.
And today, though both Ike and the barber shop are long gone, my hairstyle is exactly the same.
Except for a brief period in college when I attempted to part it in the middle, only to find that my hair remained in that position only if I wore a tight ski cap for several hours, and that I also looked stunningly dorky, my hair has always been like this.
Sometimes it's been longer, sometimes shorter, sometimes better-kempt, but any picture of me -- whether from 1959, my wedding in 1985 or ... in 2003 -- will show the same hairstyle.
It's what we used to call the "regular men's cut." It's cheap, and a good barber can crank it out in 10 minutes. A bad barber can do it in five.
Yet now the haircut that has seen me through 16 years of school, 19 years of marriage, 10 presidents, six newspaper jobs and residency in three regions of the country is in jeopardy. My wife is hinting again that I need a change. She suggests it by saying, "Don't you want to try something different?" Only that's not what Clare said. Not really. After almost two decades together we know each other so well that she can leave out words that might be counterproductive if spoken, getting their meaning across just as quickly and clearly through more sensitive methods such as inflection, body language and facial expression. At least I think that's what she uses. It could also be some kind of weird spousal ESP that develops when your brains lie next to each other on the same bed night after night after night. Anyway, I think an accurate translation would be more like: "Don't you finally want to try something different? The last person to look stylish with that cut was Clark Gable, and he used hair cream and went to the barber more than twice a year and combed it differently. Not to mention he's deader than Ike. And stylists are doing so many interesting things these days. And since you admitted I was right about your green plaid shirt looking like a tablecloth -- a really ugly tablecloth -- don't you think I'm probably right about this, too?"
It's possible I'm reading a little too much into her comments. But still, no, I don't want to try "something different." Back in 1978, around the time of the doomed parting-in-the- middle experiment, I used to interview on a regular basis a college dean who was about the same age I am now. One day he showed up with his straight hair permed into tight little curls. Not only did he look even dorkier than I did, his new style screamed: "Danger! Danger! Midlife crisis erupting!" In addition, I sought professional advice on this matter just a while ago, after another "don't you want to try something different?" episode, to no avail. I asked a stylist, who I thought was pretty good, for ideas. She looked at my hair for a minute, mumbled discouragingly and went back to trimming it up and parting it on the side. Yes, really. And so, with both the historical record and expert opinion lined up against the idea, I really don't want to try "something different." But, of course, if what I wanted mattered I'd still have my green plaid shirt. Which really did look like a tablecloth, once Clare pointed out the resemblance. Source: Roanoke Times & World News. Powered by Yellowbrix, Inc.