By Sean Wilkinson
I think I’ve always had some strange predilection for hair products. I remember the first time. I think I was about 9 or 10 years old. I was swimming at my cousin’s camp and it was time to go home. I went in the bathroom to change back into dry clothes and dry my hair.
There it was, on the sink: a big tube of pink gel.
At this point, I had something not unlike a bowl cut going on, so mashing a palmful of sticky pink goo through my hair left me with few style options. I vaguely remember finally being satisfied with what my hair was doing and going out to meet the rest of my family to drive home. I also vaguely remember that the style I finally settled on was not unlike that of Squiggy, from Laverne & Shirley: way too much greasy gel, pulled forward into a floppy front-tail.
Needless to say, my new style was met with laughing, pointing, and general expressions of exasperated confusion. Horrified, I ran back into the bathroom and washed most of the goop out of my hair, returning it to the bangs-on-the-forehead style my uncreative relatives were used to. My avant-garde hair was simply too much for them. My artistic voice was stifled.
My hair spent the next several years hiding in shame, choosing to spend as much time as possible underneath one of several trusty baseball caps. Then at some point in high school, in an effort to delay the amount of time between haircuts and update my shaggy bangs, I discovered hairspray.
This also was a sad time for my hair. After the shower each morning, there was a blow dryer and brush used to part my hair on the side and raise the combed-over bangs into a wave at the front. This was then spritzed with some hairspray, leaving me with slightly crispy, but very wind-proof, hair.
Mercifully, this phase did not last long. I was outside a school one night where my friend and I were performing in symphonic band. He and I, his sister, and his dad were all standing in the parking lot when his sister (older than us and in the cool cliques in school) pointed at my hair and said, laughing, “What the hell do you call that hairstyle?”
Her dad piped in, coming to my defense, “Leave him alone. It’s the wind-blown look.”
I looked up at his hair, a strange, feathered, wispy helmet with tendrils in the front reminiscent of Gonzo from the Muppets. I went into the bathroom and pushed my hair down into the old bangs-in-the-eyes. Back to baseball caps for me. (Most days I would shower, towel-dry my hair, and put on a hat. If forced to remove said hat at any point during the school day, my hair would be formed into the worst hat-head you can imagine, molded into shape while still wet and clamped tight for hours.)
Then, one fateful day several years ago, I walked into a new and strange barber shop – a stylist’s shop. I sat and told the girl to just make it shorter. She did, and then she went further. I hadn’t asked her to do anything different, but she forced a style on me, and I liked it: shorter on the sides, a little longer on top. Simple.
Next, the girl asked if I wanted some “product.” She pointed to the counter, and there was a row of well-designed little jars of pomades and gels and waxes. My eyes lit up like that day at my cousin’s camp. She rubbed her hands together with a dab of pomade and attacked my head with well-trained fingers. Now the hair on top was standing up just a bit, and it looked messy and stylish. A real hairstyle. I bought a jar of the pomade and went home smiling.
I remember I had to shower before going to meet my girlfriend that night, but my hair was perfect and I hadn’t yet had any practice recreating the style I’d just been given. I took a shower, carefully dodging all water from the neck up. It was worth the effort. My new style was met with “oohs” and “aahs” from the girl. My new style had been validated.
As time went on, my hair got longer and longer. I got bold. I got crazy. I decided that no matter how long the hair gets, it must go up. I have had to switch to a more powerful product. I have faced ridicule and questioning, ribbing from friends, and comparisons to the like of (from left) Ed Grimley, TinTin, Jimmy Neutron and Bob’s Big Boy.
Even my family has voiced concern for my hair. My brother in Seattle has taken to calling me “Future Boy.” I got an e-mail from a friend in Seattle the other day. My parents were visiting my brother and the four of them had gone out to eat. The e-mail said, “Hey, it was great to see your parents. They say you’re doing well — good job, nice new place, nice girl — but they don’t get your hair. Sound about right?”
Does it really need to be a dinner conversation with my friends and family? When I’m not even present?
The new jokes haven’t had the same effect as the old jokes because tall hair comes in handy. Just the other night, I was sitting at the very last booth in a bar with some friends. The booth back was as tall as our heads. Another friend walked back to our booth to say hello. “I could see your pointy bangs from the front of the bar,” she said.
See? If I hadn’t had tall hair, she might have never known I was sitting back there. It’s an easy way-finder, too. I have been enlisted to help several survey crews measure long distances. For a small fee, I can use my superior sense of direction to find your car in the parking lot, and then you just have to look for the pointy bangs.
It would be irresponsible to cut these pointy bangs. They are a boon to humanity. Plus, chicks seem to dig them. At least some do. And that’s all that really counts, right?