Hair Club for Sons

Bill Levine

by Bill Levine

“What’s wrong with your hair? It’s all sticking up,” my nonagenarian dad impolitely enquires from his living room recliner; this non sequitur interrupting a conversation on the Red Sox and the number of my Bar Mitzvah guests still living.

“Nothing’s wrong,” I say, stretching the truth a little, since actually my bald spot is approaching tonsure size with the accompanying comb-over promoting unruly wisps. Having hair gone wild, has caused me to devalue Hair Club for Men jokes.

Dad then throws down a timely but overly parental gauntlet, “I’ll pay for you to go to one of those hair places.”

My father’s offer goes from enticing to uncomfortable in 8.2 seconds.

First, I am embarrassed to admit that I am still not immune to paternal disapproval over my appearance, as I thought I had surmounted this angst 40 years ago, when I told my dad that dumping on my bright-orange corduroy bell-bottoms was “so Nixonian.”

Secondly, I am angry that Dad has broken the unwritten rule of parenting offspring over 60: don’t make them dredge up soggy memories of being your fourteen year old again, as clearly, if I look in the mirror now, I fear I will see pimples and not wrinkles.

“No Dad, thanks, but I’ll pass on the hair offer. My hair is not that big of a deal to me.”

But it occurs to me, that mild as it may be, this is the first time we have experienced a follicle fallout. This fact made me a rare non-combatant among my whole male boomer cohort, who decades earlier bravely defended their hippie – commie, girlishly long tresses in the key generational battle that defined the Age of Aquarius—the struggle over hair. Back then hair was supreme, otherwise the boomer Broadway anthem would be entitled “Weed” or “Nehru Jackets” and not “Hair.”

Indeed, with regard to hair, it was consistently all quiet on my youthful home front. As a young kid my dad ensured that my styling would not be cutting edge by taking me to a three chair shop with a barber pole outside where the word “salon” was never mentioned, and the reading material was yesterday’s newspaper. My barber Charley’s stylistic range was from whiffle top to extra whiffle top. Really, though that was okay with me as there were no Mohawks or Justin Bieber dos to ask for, and even if I had a slight inkling for a Dennis the Menace floppy cut Charley would have said, “Dennis who?”

Moving along with my hair history, my Bar Mitzvah album shows me at the Bimah with two other boys to men, all of us with short haircuts. There was no pre-Bar Mitzvah whining on my part for a Beatle mop-top.

A recent perusal of my college yearbook shows that I graduated near the bottom of my class in counter culture hair length, with my graduation picture one of few male shots where ears can be clearly delineated.

We were a short-haired family. My sister’s tresses were only average length—for an Aquarian guy. Our dog, Ginger, was a wired-haired terrier, and no one ever called our living room rug “plush.”

A few days after refusing my dad’s hair restoration offer, I’m in my stylist’s chair for the monthly salvage job on my pate, commonly called a trim. His precise snipping is taking too long, mostly because hiding a bald spot the size of a crater is a difficult salon trick. The results will look good for a day or so, and then I recede back into my slightly dishevelled look. The prospect of one good hair day every month makes me start to think that my old man’s restoration offer is not triggered by his unease that in this tenth decade he has more hair than me, but is actually just based on pure parental concern.

But then I think this is my Aquarian moment. I will not trust anyone over 90. No Dad, my generation has every right in the world to look ageing, bald and unattractive. I start to feel pretty groovy.

Bill Levine is employed in the IT field but in his spare time he aspires to be a humorist. Recently he noticed that his hairline is receding faster than the Saint John River at low tide.