by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Oh, say, can you see

My eyes? If you can — Then my hair’s too short.

— from the musical ‘Hair’

I used to sing that song. I used to sing it in junior high, when I came out of the gym class shower. I used to sing it as I defiantly held my hair flat against my forehead, for 20 minutes, so that, when it dried, it would indeed hang over my eyes. And then I could perform the coolest, grooviest move on the planet: flicking my head to get my bangs out of my eyes.

This, of course, was before blow dryers, mousse, gel, mud, streaks, fades, and other things men do to their hair nowadays. And I’m sure I left something out. And that is exactly my point.

Somewhere between junior high and today, I lost touch with hair.

Not my hair, most of which still sits atop my head, but the whole hair thing, what it means, how you’re supposed to wear it. You know, THE STATEMENT.

I used to be hair-hip. I really did. When it was supposed to cover your ears, it covered my ears. When it was supposed to reach your shoulders, it reached my shoulders.

When we were supposed to get it “feathered” in that neo- David Cassidy-Partridge Family thing, I had it feathered. I didn’t say I liked it. I said I was hip.

But then something happened. I lost touch. I split ends. I have now — and I hate to admit this — had the same hair style since 1975. I keep moving to new cities just so people won’t recognize me. I’m no longer hair-brained

When did I part with hair? When did I lose the wave? It must have been somewhere in the disco era, when John Travolta made the high pompadour the look of choice. Now I ask you: 1) Can you blame me? 2) Who could worry about hair when you had to learn all those stupid dance steps?

After disco, hair and I had a falling out. The punk look was in, and, as they say today, I was definitely not with that, especially if it meant a buzz cut down my scalp, or dyeing my head purple.

Then came the 80’s, and the greased-back-young executive look that Michael Douglas made famous in “Wall Street.” This was fine, except for one thing: I could never put grease in my hair. I’m sorry. It violates one of the early religious experiences of my life, which was seeing my basketball hero, Pete Maravich, dribbling a ball during a Vitalis hair spray commercial. You remember that song?

“He’s using Dry control, from Vitalis.

You can’t see it, but you know it’s there.”

All this while Pistol Pete dribbled between his legs, over his shoulders, behind his back, and his dry hair never moved! And he was in street clothes!

From that moment on, no grease, water, or even dew would ever sit upon my head. No sir. I waited out Michael Douglas. Hey. Could he dribble?

Unfortunately, Mike was followed by the pony-tail thing, which definitely lost me, since I never know where to buy rubber bands. And after that, men’s hair fashion sort of frizzed into several directions. You had these guys from raw rock bands in Seattle, whose hair just sort of parts in the middle and is snipped evenly at the bottom, which makes them look like Shemp Howard of The Three Stooges.

And you have actors with stringy hair, whiskers, and stubble, who pretty much make the fashion statement: “I am a castaway that just washed up on shore.”

Or else there is the buzz cut. For some, bald is beautiful

How this came back, I’ll never know. But young men, especially athletes, now go for the close-cropped, Marine- recruit look. In the case of the Michigan Wolverines basketball team, several players actually shave their heads before a big game. Less is more.

Of course, had we done this back in the 60’s, we would have been kicked off the planet — or given the lead in “The King and I.” Buzz cuts? The bald look? Don’t you remember the “Hair” lyrics?

Give me a head with hair,

long, beautiful hair,

shining, steaming,

streaming, flaxen-waxen. . . . “

I don’t hear the word “razor” in there.

So where does this leave my generation? We kids who used to stand entranced in front of mirrors, combing our hair until the lunch bell rang? Well, we still stand in front of mirrors. But it’s mostly to pull our hair back and look at all the skin.

Me? I am 1975 and holding. My haircuts begin with the same four words:
“Give me the usual.” I think about people like Keanu Reeves, Johnny Depp, Nirvana, Prince, and I know I can’t keep up.

The other day, I came out of the shower, combed my “bangs” forward, and tried to flick my hair out of my eyes. It barely moved.

And I got a crick in my neck.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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