No, that is not a dead fish on my head

December 14, 2008

“Linda” has stopped cutting my hair and now stands silently beside the chair, mouth and scissors both temporarily paused in the open position.

Using my vast reservoir of journalistic skills, I cleverly deduce she is confused. Well, that and the fact she just said, “I’m confused.”

The cause of this sudden cessation of snipping is this conversation:

Linda: How do you want your hair cut?

Me: I don’t give a shit.

Linda: I’m confused.

I explain to Linda how it has been 30 years since I cared what my hair looked like. Hell, it’s probably been that long since I actually had hair in certain locations to care about.

“I’m 110 years old,” I say. “I’ve been married for what sometimes feels like 3,000 years. Who in their right mind is giving me a second look these days? There is no one out there in possession of two brain cells to rub together who is actually thinking, ‘oh look at that hunky man — too bad about his haircut.’ ”

Linda blinks. Very slowly. The scissors waver slightly in mid-air, as if they’ve grown impatient with being stilled and are eager to resume clipping.

“So,” Linda says, “what should I do?”

“Salvage what’s left of my dignity,” I say. “Summon forth a miracle. Christmas is nigh and I need to look presentable should the neighbours invite us over for a cuppa of holiday cheer. I figure if my hair looks tidy, no one will notice I’m not wearing pants.”

Kempt would be a good start (or, more correctly, a good end), I tell Linda.

A thinning is probably called for as well. And here I’m using the verb — as in reducing those great bushy bits poised above my ears — as opposed to the noun, which some heartless relative might use to describe that vast expanse of skin being inexorably exposed on a back section of my skull like some new island rising from a hirsute ocean.

“All I want to do in the morning,” I explain to Linda, “is to step out of the shower, towel-dry my hair, and brush it straight back. And then move on to more important chores, starting with drinking the entire world’s supply of Starbucks coffee.”

I do not, I add, want to use a hair dryer, a styling comb or product. These days, it’s all about keeping things simple and fast. Which, now that I think about it, also happens to describe my sex life.

I wasn’t always this cavalier about my hair. There was a time when it was very important to me. There was a time when I was young and stupid and had money for frivolous grooming expenses. It was also a time when I was single and on the prowl.

That was in the ’70s, of course, a glorious time of personal freedom. An era of wildness and experimentation and expression. An era of what I like to call “the best haircut in the world.”

Officially, it was known as a shag. It was only later — long after I’d subjected my hair to the scissors before a trip to Europe lest I be subjected to a full body cavity search at each and every border crossing — that less enlightened members of society dubbed this style “hockey hair” or, even worse, a “mullet.”

What a creature also known as the goatfish or white sucker has to do with hair styles, I’ve never understood, but it just goes to show how petty and ignorant some people can be. Petty, ignorant AND jealous.

It now does my heart good to gaze upon the footpaths of Napier and see that, along with retro clothes, the shag, Mohawk and rattail are making a comeback. On the other hand, considering this is New Zealand, they probably never left.

In the end, I simply told Linda to do whatever the hell she wanted with my hair. The fact that she was kind enough to apply her clippers to the shrubbery growing out of my ears was a bonus.

I am now available for any and all Christmas functions. I’ll be the one under the mistletoe, the one with perfect hair and a distant glint of nostalgia in my eye.

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