This is an offshoot of the original Liam & Janet blog. That blog has become overrun by Liam's inability to keep his mouth shut when something annoys him. The serious rants there seemed incongruous with the humor columns. The plan for the humor columns continues to be to post a new one every Friday, plus occasional extras when the mood strikes.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Cue Ball City

Once again, I'm posting early. Janet and I have a long driving trip this weekend, and so this evening I will probably be too busy packing to remember to post this. The is the normal Friday Evening humor column for this week. --Liam.

This morning, I shaved my head.

This was not because I enjoy looking like a cancer patient (although I must admit, it's a plus). It should probably come as no surprise to anyone who knows me; I've had a love-hate relationship with my hair for as long as I can remember. The fact that it has thinned noticeably on the top in recent years only intensified the hatred side of the equation. Several years ago, I started shaving my head, this morning was notable only because back in November I'd decided to see what would grow back if I stopped.

The thing is, my hair is a pain in the butt (and don’t even get me started about the hair ON my butt. ). As a child, I had fine, wavy hair. My brother had thick, full hair, the kind of hair you see on models and actors, the kind of hair that says “I’m going to be a CEO or an NFL quarterback. Or a pirate.”. *I* had the kind of hair that said I was going to be an accountant or one of those straggle-haired homeless people who walk the streets talking loudly to no one in particular. (These days, this sort of hair says “I’m going to grow up to be a successful geek, ultimately making millions when I sell my stock options in my technology startup”, but “technology” when I was a child meant that your horse had that new-fangled automatic transmission.)

The thing is, fine hair is annoying, but there’s nothing worse than “natural curl”, because what it means is that your hair will never, no matter how you try, go where you want it to. My brother had straight hair. He would wake up, give his head a vigorous shake (or I would… ah, younger brothers…) and every hair would fall into place.

Bed head, hat head, “bad hair days”, these were my regular companions, and forget about humidity. A good rainy summer day, and I could pretty much count on my head being a mass of unruly curls all day.

In college, I went through a phase (most of us did) where I decided to see what it would look like if I grew it long and added a beard. I had visions of looking like a bearded Fabio or Tarzan. In fact, I looked like Grizzly Adams. Of course, I didn’t know this at the time. I thought I was a major stud with my long hair. It’s only looking back now at photos that I realize that I’d have done better with the ladies if I’d worn a sign saying “I Have Herpes”.

College ended (as must happen eventually) and I went out into the wide world, ready to make my fortune. It seems “making my fortune” involves a fair amount of stress, and it turns out that when the going gets tough, the hair gets going. My hair began to thin out around my late 20s. Not noticeably to anyone else, but it bothered me. I started brushing my hair back, instead of parting it on the side, because I knew one day it would be thin enough that I’d be at risk of the dreaded comb-over. You know the style I’m talking about, the one that looks like someone has carefully placed about 7 strands of spaghetti in parallel across an ostrich egg.

As time progressed, and my 30s began, I started growing more hair! This was wonderful! Lustrous. Thick. A joy to run my fingers through. All located on my back, because if there’s something that’s even more attractive than a straggly balding head, it’s removing my shirt and looking like an orangutan.

My head was a different story. It was now obvious to the world that the top of my head was now supporting about 30% of the crop it had previously yielded. I toyed with trying Rogaine but decided that wasn’t for me, opting instead to invest in Turtle Wax, so I could at least get a good shine up there, make it painful for anyone to give too close scrutiny to my scalp.

And so finally I shaved my head. I wish I could tell you that it was because I look like Sean Connery or Patrick Stewart or even Michael Jordan, but not so much. To borrow a joke from my writing idol Dave Barry, I look like nothing so much as a big, white thumb. I could fit in nicely with white supremacists or a meeting of the Yul Brenner / Telly Savalas fan club.

There are, however, advantages. I am fortunate to have a fairly nicely shaped head. I never have to worry about sleeping through the alarm clock and not having the time to tame the beast. Wearing a hat holds no secret terror or shame for me. Rainy days are not filled with the dread they once were. Shampooing is a thing of the past (well, except for my back, but actually I find that carpet shampoo and a vacuum cleaner works wonders!) and there are no hairs in my shower drain! If I shower just before bed, I don’t have to worry that my hair will dry into a fright wig which will resist all efforts to correct. And I haven’t had to pay a barber in years.

This last is actually a major sticking point for balding guys. When you’re younger, every couple of months you go to the barber, he spends 20 minutes and charges you $15. You tip him a few extra bucks, and you’re on your way. As the hair starts to migrate south for the winter, you spend less and less time in his chair, but he still charges you the same amount, and you have to go more often, because long hair with none on the top looks like your scalp has lost cohesion with your skull and your hair is sliding off the back of your head. Each time you go, you ask yourself why you’re now spending MORE money for LESS effort on his part, and for less benefit. There is simply zero chance of walking out of the barber shop looking like anything but a monk, or like you’re suffering mange.

For the minuses, I do have to worry about sunburn on my scalp, and in winter hats are less of an option, more of a necessity, but all things considered, I don’t look any WORSE than I did before, and the convenience is wonderful. And when I use the phrase “I racked my brain”, you know that in fact I racked 15 OTHER brains, my big white melon is OBVIOUSLY the cue ball.

So what if I look like I’ve lived too near to Chernobyl? So what if my wife can’t run her fingers through my hair? I’m hairless and proud, and the fact that I have to write an entire essay about it in order to justify it to myself in NO WAY indicates that I’m self conscious about my decision.

Copyright © March 16, 2005 by Liam Johnson.

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