The scent of rebellion was in the air when I was a teenager in the late 60s. Being soft-spoken and quiet, my choice of anarchy was hardly world threatening. As most teens then, I was obsessed with my hair, or rather, obsessed with trying to make my hair rebel against its genetic nature. I’ve had wavy hair since I can remember, and in high school I slept many a night with damp hair neatly combed under a tight-fitting toque in vain hopes of having— viola—beautifully straight hair by morning light. Worked well…for at most 30 minutes, which meant by the time I actually got to school it was its usual random self.
I remember spending inordinate amounts of time trying to make it look longer (which amounted to stretching bangs for the appearance of long hair since that’s all I had to work with). I always envied friends with more liberal parents who allowed them the courtesy of growing their hair long enough to pass as girls (which is what my parents assumed was their intent). Eventually I did grow my hair long when I was 17 or 18, but to my utter dismay my hair bulked up instead of hung down…the curse of wavy hair fulfilling its prophecy. In later years, wavy hair was desirable and those poor unfortunates with straight hair poured money and products down the drain in vain efforts to put a natural curve in their otherwise straight locks. I guess I was just ahead of my time back in high school.
In my senior year, thoughts turned to cars (I’d say girls, but that was earlier). My Dad cut a deal with me to co-sign the note on my first car if I would cut my hair. To his shock, my shoulder-length hair (well it would have been had it been STRAIGHT) transformed one day into a near-Marine cut, evidence of my deep passion for those wheels. Got the car, but I think my extreme compliance made Dad feel bad. No problem, I was on my way to cruisin’ with the chicks in my top-down MGB….but that’s a story for another day.
Later during one of those whimsical stages of middle-aged male life that the power-that-be thinks is oh-so-funny, I yearned for the long hair of my youth. In the 80s it was considered hip to have a ponytail, if you were an artist type. I had just transitioned from architecture into graphic design and figured my trade demanded I look as hip as possible. So I avoided hair salons for months letting my hair lengthen (and thicken) until the day came to tie it back into a pony. As the saying goes, the “will is strong but the flesh is weak.” In this case, it was the hair that was weak. Imagine a nice, 8″ pony tied strategically at the base with just a little body to give it fullness. Now imagine letting go said pony and watching with horror as it instantly bunched up into a ball. I didn’t have a ponytail, I had a bun…neither cool nor hip. My naturally logical mind thought, “No problem, just need extra ties.” Now I had a pigs tail—a fat strand of hair curled in a corkscrew. Sigh…so much for ponytail dreams.
Off and on through the years I’ve grown, then cut, then grown my hair many times. On reflection I think those changes occurred during periods of increased creative restlessness, as though the mere act of growing my hair would allow deeper creative juices to surface. A strong taste of freedom is also associated with letting one’s hair down, another artifact from being a child of the 60s. Through the years I’ve found little compassion for my struggles getting my thick, wavy hair to behave from friends who struggle to keep what’s left of theirs. I still have all of mine (enough for several people at times), and my friend’s vain efforts at making the most of thinning hair is probably no less ironic than my fighting the waves.
And as you might guess by now I’m at one of those stages again, evidenced mostly from the recent cancellations of the last several hair salon appointments. And just maybe for the 2004 version of this life-long game I’ll keep it long longer. No pony this time (shun the bun is my new motto), just lengthening to waken long-dozing creatives that I think (hope) are still there waiting to go to work. Failing that, I can always dig in the closet and find that toque. Who knows…it might just work this time.