Hair, or Something like It

“Anyone can be confident with a full head of hair. But a confident bald man – there’s your diamond in the rough.”

                                                                                    -Larry David

I went to a salon when I visited my mother in Tallahassee a couple years back. She knew a lady that had a daughter that styled, and my mom said she was cute, and there was no denying a pretty lady running her hands through your hair. So I checked it out.

The salon was in the middle of a shopping mall with Winn-Dixie headlining the giant billboard signs targeting the road.  Since I didn’t have a car I rode with my mother, who assisted me into the salon like a mother helping her son try on clothes.

My hairdresser was sharpening her blades when we came in. She stared at me, piercing the steel of her blade against a blacksmith’s wheel and eyeing me up and down. Tattoos of stars lined her neck and hips. Her hair fell to one side, covering her one eye, while the other half of her head was completely buzzed. She was half-man, half-woman, blade sharpening blacksmith from hell, sent to bring out the boy of my hair and into his diapers. I giggled with excitement.

“Just take your seat right over here,” she demanded in controlling fashion, beckoning me towards the giant black chair. Besides her all the other stations were identical: an older woman wore too much makeup, clipping away at an elderly who needed a dye and perm; a man named Ron or Terry pranced about; a young stylist, streaked pink hair, nose ring, and tattoos, played on her phone. Their trimmers all buzzed likes bees in a swarm, and the constant hair spraying heard quietly made a home in my ears.

I sat against a black leather chair, strapping me in at the wrists and packing my pelvis against my bladder. She tightened the grips at my chest and ankles, adjusted my seat near the ground, and swung me around to face the mirror. She stood above me and wrapped her hands around my neck, moving her cheek against mine, enough to smell a sweet perfume on her neck. Her nametag proudly read KATE, with painted stars and skulls surrounding it.

She began massaging my head then, tracing my scalp with her fingers, faster and faster, over and over again, until my eyes rolled back into my head and just at the point of ecstasy she asked-

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah, sure,” I swallowed, “everything okay with you?”

She looked at me through the mirror and laughed. “How do you want your hair cut today?”

With a shot of insecurity and a bottle of Jack. “Um, just buzz the sides and cut the top with scissors.”

I hadn’t told her about my problem yet, but I could see her eyes scanning the top of my head. ‘What the heck’ she mouthed. Everyone in the salon stopped and shrieked, my mother cried, and I stood and screamed in shame.

After the haircut I stood and thanked her one more time for the dominatrix haircutting fantasy, and went to pay. Instead of paying her, she showed me to a shelf in the front that could help my ‘little problem’.

“See, there’s 3 choices, and I know it’s expensive but it will do you some good.” I know what she was saying-a freak like me couldn’t grow my own hair. I had to buy it in a special shampoo and watch it sprout on the top of my head.

‘Okay, fine,’ I told myself. What? A little hair loss is not uncommon for a 23 year old, and I could still grow a beard. Besides, my problem wasn’t that bad.

“Let’s go with the lowest then, level one?” I asked my mother. Kate nodded in approval but a manager overheard and walked over, asking to inspect my head. I awkwardly leaned over in front of her as she surveyed my balding spot with her hands.

“Better make it a 3,” she rasped.

Ever since, I notice the receding hair line, the tiny patches of hair missing on the sides of my head, and the dreaded bald spot on top that grows and grows until it takes over my life.

“Let’s just buy the one mom, who cares about the three?” I insisted quietly to my mother on the side.

“Oh, shut up, we’re buying the 3,” she hissed. I know what she was saying. ‘It’s hard enough having a son balding at 23 than to have to be humiliated in public for it.’

When we walked out I thanked my mom for the haircut and shampoo. “It’s okay,” she said. Always a mother. Even after being humiliated she still says the things to make me think she loves me. She, of course, did not. Who could blame her? I hate bald people. No, even worse. I hate people going bald, but who aren’t quite there yet. When it gets to the point when one feels compelled to nudge them and say, “Come on, who are you kidding? Pick a side: Bald, or Bosley?”

And the commercial of the year goes to Mr. J.D. Adkins for his work on Bosley Pro Hair Creation. Bosley, helping you find friends since 1997.

This is ridiculous.

***

“Dude,” my brother Jake once said to me after inspecting my head, “you’re going to turn out like Grandpa.”

I had pondered this for some time already, and him saying it confirmed it. I was given the gift of being born a generation too late. My dad’s generous portions of hair resting wistfully on his head, my half-brother’s straight brown combed to the side, my other brothers shaved head because he had already admitted defeat; I was next in line on the trail of the hairless.

Often I turned and stared at my head in the mirror, wondering when the patch of bald would stretch down my sides, eating my hair and my pride with it. I was turning into a taller, unlucky George Constanza.  But he wasn’t on television running around, doing crazy Jewish things, so I couldn’t laugh at him. He was right here instead, in the mirror, staring back at me, slowly becoming a part of me. There was no audience to laugh with at this crazy, balding man. There was only me, staring cowardly at the genetic disorder encompassing my head.

My world was ending. Social meltdown at the greatest scales. Opposite sex becoming less and less interested. Nose looking bigger and bigger without hair. Awkward bald and bearded head beginning. Abort mission, mayday, mayday, mayday.

“What should I do?” I whimpered.

“Heck if I know,” Jake said, opening a beer from the fridge. He was staying at Grandpa’s house, helping the old man and hanging out with him. Besides free rent and cases of dementia he said it wasn’t too bad. “There’s Rogaine,” he continued, “and hair pieces.”

In the other room grandpa wore his own unique hair piece, which sat on his head like a hat two sizes too big. Was I headed for that? A teethed grin and lack of sense, with a hair piece sliding off my head? Eating peanuts and watching western classics again and again?

I grabbed a beer from the fridge and sat with my brother at the table, unscrewing the cap and taking a swig. Pill bottles and napkins cluttered a blue tablecloth hanging over at the edges. Wadded tissues lined the counters and floors, overflowing in the garbage. The lingering smell of time and age in every room, each with its distinct dirt and nostalgia. Dust covered television sets, old typewriters, pictures of family, and the graying carpet. Not to mention the turquoise color of the house, which my Grandpa hired a few Mexicans to do a few years prior. White house, white house, white house, then blam, a nasty blue-green combination that stained the neighborhood. I can still see my Grandpa grinning, sitting in a white metal chair, bobbing back and forth, ignoring rants and raves from neighbors standing at their porches, pointing towards the awful blip on their street.

In a sense I am like the old man. I think at that point I wouldn’t care about wearing a hair piece, painting my house turquoise, eating peanuts, passing out to Open Range, and having neighbors point. But now, having friends and family point a finger at me and notice the blip on the top of my head, the patches of hair gathering around my pillow, the cartooned characters every friend makes me up to me, makes me feel a little more important, but I care a little bit more of how they see me.

“You could shave your head,” my brother offered.

I wondered aloud what I would look like. “I don’t think I have the complexion to pull that off.”

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