I never really thought much about my hair until the summer between eighth and ninth grade.
Growing up, I had a thick brown mop of hair that fell in my eyes, and well over my ears. A few poorly placed cowlicks — most notably in the front right and left of my forehead — shot tufts of hair in every direction.
It never occured to me that my hair had any bearing on anything (read: girls), or that I should do anything about it, until my mom asked her stylist at a swanky Main Line salon to give me a haircut. I don’t think she was acting on any sort of agenda (like spiffing me up for my impending bout with puberty), I just needed a haircut, and I happened to be there with her.
I think the salon was called Adolph Becker. And I’m pretty sure it was in Ardmore. But don’t look for it; I think it’s long gone. I liked the smell of the place, like burnt fingernails, perfume and terpentine. And I liked the commotion. Mostly, to be honest, I liked all of the sweet older women doting on me.
“Have you ever had your ears cut out?” my stylist asked.
My stock rose immediately when ninth grade began just few weeks later. Chrissy Ferraro — later to be named Conestoga High School’s Best Looking Student of 1989 — said, “You look really good, Ben.”
Numerous incarnations followed. My bangs became long, feathered, and oft fondled (my father joked that I broke character when playing Frederick in “Pirates of Penzance” every time I swept them from my eyes). I discovered pomade, and rocked a Flock Of Seaguls type thing for a while (it went well with my Genera sweaters, Union Bay parachute pants, and discovery of The Cure). In college, I grew the predictable-in-retrospect pony tail, later to be followed by something of a Hip Dutch Boy.
My hair became something to hide behind (when trying to buy beer on my first night of college), peer from under (when trying to seduce a young woman), flail around (on stage), and generally prize (the rest of the time). The ladies seemed to like it to. Without sounding like too much of a douche bag, I was never want for company (of course, I realize this has little to nothing to do with my hair, but bear with me).
Sometime after graduation, though, my hairline began creeping back. Soon thereafter, a thin spot appeared on my crown. I tried Rogain for a few months back in the Nineties. No thanks. I would consider Propetia if the ad didn’t warn against avoiding contact if one’s pregnant (no, I’m not, but I don’t like what it says about the stuff). A comb over is, of course, out of the question.
And so, ten years later, the inevitable had become, well, evitable. Last night, with a freshly purchased pair of CVS clippers, Abbi sat me in the shower, wrapped my shoulders in a towel, and shaved my head.
It’s difficult not to resent the heinous dudes with a thick mane; what do they need it for!?! It’s difficult not to wish I still had that rockin’ Flock of Seaguls thing goin’ on. And it’s difficult to ignore culture’s preference for a full head (and the lengths to which guys like Jeremy Piven and Sean Connery will go to remedy their situation). My brother tells me I shouldn’t worry about it so much. But he has a full head of hair.
In the end, it’s like everything else about growing up. It’s all about loss. It’s about getting used to your adult reality, and its divergence from your adolscent fantasy. It’s about letting go of what might have been, and settling into what is. There’s some loss there, some disappointment, even some sadness. Ultimately, though, I guess it just is what it is. And it seems to work for Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Stewart, Ed Harris, Seal, and Michael Stipe. So I’ll just have to make it work for me.