January 03, 2007
|Rick will either a) get his regular haircut; b) shave his head; c) grow a ponytail or d) wear an Afro — depending on what You say. Vote today: firstname.lastname@example.org. Vote often. Void where prohibited by law. (click for larger version)|
It is quite easy to get a charge out of my wife, Karen. A simple sentence will usually suffice.
"You need a haircut," she told me the other day.
"No, I'm letting it grow long. I want to wear a pony tail," I replied.
The disgusted look on her face meant her quick mind had, in a single nanosecond, processed what I had said and made a mental picture of me with a ponytail. In other words, I would be so ugly she would be embarrassed to be seen with me.
The truth is, I always wanted long hair. Back in the late sixties and early seventies, most everyone I knew had long hair, except, of course, the girls.
The look I wanted was a long ponytail with a tie-dyed handkerchief (preferably used) tied around it, and, of course, a paisley headband. That look, coupled with a necklace made of brightly colored beads, would ensure the masculine look that made the little hippie girls swoon. My problem was my hair didn't grow down, it grew straight up.
Yes, I had all the requisite nicknames like "Brillo Head" and the like, but I stubbornly pressed on until the thing rose into the sky like a dense thicket outside a haunted house, prickly and foreboding, a haven for mites and other living creatures.
Getting a comb through it was out of the question — it was impenetrable.
My mother, the more social of my parents, was embarrassed beyond belief.
"I can only wonder what the neighbors think," she would say, staring at my head and shaking her head.
After a couple months, my father, the silent type, chimed in with his two cents.
"You need a haircut," he said authoritatively.
"Why?" I asked. "Who cares what the neighbors think?"
"I don't care what the neighbors think," he replied. "I think you look like an asshole."
Once my friends and I were recruited in the schoolyard by an old pastor from the local Lutheran church. It seemed he had entered into a basketball league with some other churches and didn't have enough congregates to field a team. We showed up in the gym underneath the church, practiced for a half-hour, and then suited up to play the visiting team that had just arrived.
"You play center," he said to me, pointing toward my opponent, who must have been six-foot-seven-inches tall. I did my best despite the height disparity, and we won. After the game my friends asked me why the pastor made me the center. "Beats me," I shrugged.
Later, we all realized why: the poor guy was half-blind, and from where he stood I was the tallest player on the team: though barely six-feet I had eight additional inches of hair.
These memories came to the fore of late when my daughter, Anna Rose, revealed her crew used to refer to me as "Afro-Pops" derisively behind my back. She thought it was cute to make fun of her dad, but she didn't think it was so cute when I told her that she was named after a Grateful Dead album, her middle name "Rose" harkening back to the classic album American Beauty.
"I thought I was named after my great grandma Rose," she said when I told her the sad truth.
"Your great grandmother was named Gerta," I said matter-of-factly.
It could have been worse, as I was holding out for "Jefferson Airplane" Murphy had she been born a boy, replete with the instant classic initials JAM.
Anyhow, here I am, 35 years later, with another chance to look really cool. I figure with all the gels and gobbly gook available, I can force my hair into straightness whether it likes it or not, and avail myself of any number of hip hairdos, including braids, pigtails, cornrows and the requisite ponytail.
Or I could go au natural and bring Afro Pops back (this time as Afro-GrandPops) and impress all the brothers and sisters with its height and grandeur. I suspect I could spark a whole Afro resurgence, wherein all the cool cats would look like Dr. J and Angela Davis.
The options are unlimited, except, of course, for Karen. It puzzles me, and frankly concerns me, that she is reluctant to embrace a husband with braids or pigtails. Whatever happened to standing by your man?
Worse, the thought of me au natural doesn't excite her, either. I tried to point out that had we lived on a desert island my hair would be about four feet high by now. She pointed out I would have never lived that long because I would have killed myself out of despair since there would be no television.
So I'm leaving it up to you, our readers. I can return to the cropped, neat look I sported earlier this year, the Investment Banker On Crack look, as I call it. Or, I could pursue my lifelong dream of having a ponytail a la Bobby Weir of the Grateful Dead. Or, I could go back to being Afro-Pops and scour all the pots in my kitchen while I'm at it. You decide.
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