The complicated relationship between a man and his mane

I was in an elevator the other day when a guy with a buzz cut complimented me that I could get my hair to “stand up”.

“I wish I could get my hair to do that,” he said.

Not wanting to say my secret wasn’t my hair’s personal integrity but instead a $15 bottle of “product”, I thanked him and thought to myself: “I wish I had the guts to have a buzz cut so I wouldn’t constantly be terrorized by my hair’s insatiable demand for ever-more-expensive ‘product’ and attention.”

I spend more time worrying about my hair than any other portion of my body. That’s partly because I can’t do much in five minutes to “improve” the rest of me: Barring expensive surgery or months of hard work, I have to live with the hand I was dealt there.

But my hair offers a deceptively quick opportunity to be a better person. If I’m nice to it, and if I lovingly shampoo it and brush it and comb it, my hair might take the rest of my body’s plight into consideration and help say something positive about me to the rest of the world.

Then again, it might not. I keep telling myself my hair doesn’t have a mind of its own, but just a glance in the mirror tells me whether my hair is taking my pleas to heart, or if it’s simply blowing me off and doing its own thing.

It’s annoying, and sometimes downright mean, when my hair won’t cooperate, when it decides to force a little corner to stick straight up while coercing the rest of its pals to bend the other direction. And even when I bribe it with the best, most nourishing and most expensive “product”, my hair doesn’t always appreciate my thoughtfulness. At first, it may seem placated; sometimes it even does what I ask of it. But then, just as quickly and often after it has gobbled up enough product to prevent a return, it turns on me again.

I hate to admit this about one of my own, but there are days when I know that if my hair could form a finger, it wouldn’t be indicating “I’m No. 1”.

This kind of back-talk makes me insecure, and I find myself not paying attention to people talking with me. Instead, I’m preoccupied with my hair, which is trying to distract them and grab all of the attention for itself. Those days, even cutting it all off — just to show it — doesn’t seem like punishment enough.

Yet when I look at other peoples’ hair, it always looks the same every day, even when they complain they’re having a “bad hair” day. Why is their hair so cooperative?

So I ask myself: “Why do I care so much about what my hair thinks and does if no one else spends much time noticing it? Why can’t I just quit worrying about it?”

But I can’t. It just won’t let me. It’s flapping in the breeze at me right now.

 


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