Friday, September 2, 2022

Andy Young: Aspiring to visual respectability

By Andy Young 

School starts this week, which suggests I should try to look respectable. That means it’s haircut time.

Certain “friends” of mine chuckle when I broach this particular subject. One remarked that I need a haircut like Angelina Jolie needs liposuction. Another commented I’d require a trim when Shaquille O’Neal feels the need to wear platform shoes. (Or when he needs a haircut, for that matter.)

Don’t let the lush head of hair in the photo that runs atop this column fool you. It was taken when Barack Obama was president.

During his first term.

Or possibly when he was still a community organizer.

In my youth, getting a monthly haircut was a necessity. Fortunately, it wasn’t tough getting an appointment with the local barber; my mom was in charge of keeping my siblings, my dad and I appropriately coiffed.

Growing hair wasn’t a problem for me during my teenage years. In fact, if it wasn’t cut frequently enough it would get into my eyes during basketball games, which could negatively impact my already shaky on-court performance.

I never gave a second (or even a first) thought to thinning and/or disappearing hair until I was in my late 30’s. At the end of Day One of a business trip to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I was brushing my teeth in the privacy (I thought) of my hotel room’s bathroom when … I suddenly realized I was not alone. There was a balding man lurking behind me! 

Terrified, I let out an ear-shattering shriek, all the while looking desperately for a way to alert security of the situation.

Then I realized the multiple mirrors on the walls in the bathroom had created an optical illusion. The back of the potentially psychotic intruder’s head was, in reality, the back of my own.

I didn’t have much luck growing facial hair, either. I’d never tried cultivating a beard or a mustache until I spent a summer in Alaska, but it seemed like the right time (I didn’t know a soul there) and place (appropriately wild and far away) to try the unshaven look for a while. Four razorless days into the experiment I began looking suave, like a rugged, younger version of James Bond. Encouraged, I vowed to give up shaving for the rest of the summer.

The results weren’t pretty. After a week I looked like someone who had slept on a park bench. A few days later I could have passed for a guy who regularly slept under park benches. By the end of the month, I resembled the runt of the Bigfoot litter. My face sported neither beard nor mustache, but a series of random hairy patches of varying sizes, shapes and shades.

These days my dermatologist, who I see twice annually (or half as many times as I visit the barbershop), informs me I’d best keep the expanding solar panel on the back of my head covered, and accordingly I’m no more likely to go outside without a hat than I am to drive my car without a seatbelt.

The woman who currently cuts my hair inherited the job from her dad, who retired from full time barbering a few years ago. She does a great job, even though doing so takes her about as much time as it would to pull all the weeds from a Death Valley tomato garden. But come December 1st or so, she knows I’ll be back for another haircut, whether I need one or not.

Every so often I find myself wondering how often Shaq goes to the barbershop.

Or if he’s ever worn platform shoes. <

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