Whether or not we care to admit it, most of us probably have complicated relationships with our hair. And, as with all things that grow, that relationship keeps changing.
Thanks to the cruelty of genetics, I’m now past the age when I can get a wild hair to have ... wild hair.
I mean, things started out well. My baby pictures seem to show me with a wispy coif, although in retrospect, it was probably foreshadowing.
After that, from the time I had hair enough to cut, Dad took it upon himself to add barber to his duty as in-house physician. Armed with a Sunbeam hair clipper set, he administered regular crew cuts, close cropped, with a flat top.
To this day, I can remember the sharp click of the power switch setting off its mechanical buzz and the dull vibration of the clipper head on the base of my skull behind my ears. Even now, when my stylist uses one for the finishing trim, it makes me a little nostalgic.
Things got kind of crazy once I hit third grade. After making it through the 1960s with a decidedly 1950s-style haircut, my head got into the groovy 1970s with a sleek bowl cut that not just touched my shirt collar, but passed it. Mom took over haircutting duties for that.
By the end of the decade, I’d moved on to stylists who layered my lustrous locks as I tried my best to feather my bangs a la David Cassidy before school every morning. It stayed this way for almost 10 years.
In the middle of the 1980s and long after the shock of the punk movement had hit the pop culture scene, my Morgantown haircutter gave me a spiky top and a bottle of stiff, styling product. As it was my first go-round with contact lenses, I still felt kind of new wave when I donned my mirrored shades. The demise of this look began with an internship at the statehouse, where I wore a tie.
Grad school was the era of back-to-basics, authentic marketing for white Gap T-shirts and real Lee jeans. The back-to-basics me was the result of my authentic father, and I decided his post-med school look could be mine, too. So I donned the horn-rimmed glasses and grew bangs like a swoopy, clinging vine; I felt like an art student. This look ended about the same time I noticed a bald spot forming at the top of my head. I began going to a barber.
In the years since I entered the work force, it’s been less about hair styling as hair management, making the most of what’s left. I’ve been close-cropped for more than 10 years now and my stylist is under orders to let me know when it’s time to surrender and shave it all off. He’s put up a valiant fight so far.
Now, in addition to my genes, I have to contend with Father Time. As happens with married life and fatherhood, though, the nice dusting of gray that’s begun to coat my closely shorn do is being blamed on the rigors of family life — specifically the raising of an energetic preschool boy and a budding “three-nage” drama queen.
My son now gets haircuts with his old man downtown. At first, he’d sit on my lap, but he’s since graduated to a booster seat, so I don’t have to worry about him squirming or jerking around in the chair. I am a bit concerned about the proprietor, Mr. Ted, though, as the lad is fairly loquacious and has likely filled the man’s ear with everything he’d want to know about Star Wars, Batman and Legos.
The boy usually likes to go first, so I get to explain to Ted what the child had been talking about and help him decompress with some more grown-up chit chat and gossip.
It hadn’t hit me that my hair color was changing until I looked down after a cut last year, as the clippings from my son’s dark locks peeked through the thin carpet of ashen gray that had fallen during my sitting. If my creaky knees and expanding waist weren’t evidence enough, this made it official: I’m getting old.
So this is what our relationship has grown into — a nice, easygoing fade to white. That having been said, although heredity and time have stopped me from doing adventurous things tonsorially, raising a family as an older dad may be the wildest hair I’ve ever had.