By Andy Young
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has necessitated changes large and small in the lives of everyday Americans, including this one.
century version of what I imagine Friday saw when he looked at Robinson Crusoe after the two had been marooned on a desert island for a decade or so. Or, for those who haven’t yet gotten around to reading Daniel Defoe’s now 301-year-old novel, think Tom Hanks in Cast Away, only with grayer hair and one less volleyball.
Once I got over the shock of realizing the haggard-looking transient in the mirror was me, I called to make a haircut appointment at the barber shop I’ve frequented for the past twenty-plus years. Fortunately, there was a slot available the next day, which I eagerly and gratefully snapped up.
I don’t think I had ever gone five months between haircuts in my life.
During my boyhood I rarely went more than six weeks between trips to the red high chair where our family’s hair stylist did her snipping. Evading that periodic indignity would have been difficult under the circumstances, since I lived with the barber. My mother did the haircutting in our house when my siblings and I were growing up. I always assumed her talent had initially been born out of financial necessity, but later learned the actual story: she had taken her two toddler sons to a barber shop once, but after the screaming fit one of them (not my brother) had after nearly swallowing the lollipop (stick and all) he had been given by a well-meaning employee, she justifiably decided she’d never again show her face (or the face of her older male child) in that particular establishment.
Actually, I didn’t much mind getting my ears lowered now and again; back then it seemed like my dark hair grew an inch a week. To eschew haircuts likely would have left me resembling a taller, slightly more articulate version of the Addams Family’s Cousin Itt.
Later on when my passion for playing basketball grew, I required frequent trims to keep the hair out of my eyes, even though shaggy locks provided a plausible (at least to me) alibi for every missed shot I ever took.
With five months’ worth of out-of-control mane now gone, I no longer look like a fellow who habitually sleeps under a park bench, although my surviving hairs are nearly all gray. But the guy I saw in the mirror the morning after sojourning to the barber shop looked reasonably handsome, assuming one’s definition of “reasonably handsome” is an exceptionally liberal one, which mine is, especially when I’m the one being evaluated.
But there’s bad news as well. Having not been to the barber shop since mid-March, I had grown enough hair on my dome to conveniently forget that there aren’t sufficient strands left to cover the increasingly gleaming back of my head. I had even fantasized that my once-luxuriant locks had miraculously returned, and all those thick strands on my temporarily non-shiny scalp had eliminated the need to waste time on the elaborate combover(s) some insecure, follicly challenged individuals resort to in order to maintain the illusion of virility they imagine a full head of hair affords them.
There’s no doubt that getting my hair cut was an excellent decision. But there’s still some vanity in me struggling to determine which is more socially advantageous: to look like an unkempt vagrant of indeterminate middle age with plenty of hair, or a mentally sound, well-groomed, but unquestionably balding senior citizen. <