Sunday, July 27, 1986
THE MIAMI HERALD
THE HAIR APPARENT
BARRY Herald Columnist
I have a letter here from Mrs. Belle Ehrlich, of San Jose,
Calif., who feels I should get a new hairdo. To quote her
directly: "I enjoy reading most of your columns . . .
but your hairdo in your photo sure looks DATED and NOT at
all flattering or becoming, to say the least. If you are still
sporting that awful hairdo, I suggest you go to a good hair
stylist to give you a new and better hairdo. I hope you don't
mind my criticism, it's nothing personal -- just a suggestion."
Ha ha! MIND? Of course not, Mrs. Belle Ehrlich of San Jose!
As a journalist who seeks to inform his readers about topics
of vital concern to the nation and the world, I welcome insulting
remarks about my hair!
OK, perhaps I am a bit sensitive about my hair. I have been
sensitive about my hair since second grade, when the Kissing
Girls first swung into action. You probably had Kissing Girls
at your elementary school too: they roamed the playground,
chasing after selected boys and trying to kiss them. We boys
carried on as though we would have preferred to undergo the
Red-Ants-Eat-Your-Eyelids-Off Torture than get kissed, but
of course we wanted desperately to be selected. And I almost
never was. The boys who were selected had wavy hair. Wavy
hair was big back then, and I did not have it. I had straight
hair, and it did not help that my father cut it.
You should know that my father was a fine, decent and sensitive
man, but unfortunately he had no more fashion awareness than
a baked potato. His idea of really el snazzo dressing was
to wear a suit jacket and suit pants that both originated
as part of the same suit. He would have worn the same tie
to work for 42 consecutive years if my mother had let him.
So the way he would cut my hair is, he'd put me on a stool,
and he'd start cutting hair off one side of my head with the
electric clippers, then he'd walk around me and attempt, relying
on memory, to make the other side of my head look similar.
Which of course he could never quite do, so he would head
on back around to take a stab at Side One again, and he'd
keep this up for some time, and all I can say is, thank heavens
they had a little plastic guard on the electric clippers so
that you couldn't make the hair any shorter than a quarter-inch,
because otherwise my father, with the best of intentions,
trying to even me up, would have started shaving off slices
of actual tissue until eventually I would have been able to
turn my head sideways and stick it through a mail slot. As
it was, in photographs taken back then, I look like an extremely
young Marine, or some kind of radiation victim.
It also did not help that in third grade I became the first
kid in the class to get glasses, and we are talking serious
1950s horn rims of the style that when you put them on a third-
grade child, especially one with a comical haircut, you get
a Mister Peepers effect such that everybody assumes the child
must be a Goody-Two-Shoes Teacher's Pet science-fair-oriented
little dweeb. And it also did not help that I was a Late Bloomer,
pubertywise. I was ready for puberty. All of us boys were.
We wanted to catch up to the girls, who about two years earlier
had very suddenly, in fact I think it was all on the same
day, shown up at school a foot taller than us and with bosoms
and God knows what else. So I was definitely looking forward
to puberty as the Dawn of a New Era in the looks department,
and you can just imagine how betrayed I felt when it started
happening to the other boys, even boys whom I had considered
my friends, well before it happened to me. They got ahead
of me then, and sometimes I think I never really caught up.
I am 38 years old now, and I have yet to develop hair on my
arms. Isn't that supposed to happen, in puberty? I see men
much younger than myself, with hairy arms, and I think: Does
this mean I'm not done with puberty yet?
I realize I sound insecure here, but if you really wanted
to see insecure, you should have seen me in eighth grade.
I was a mess. That was why I developed a sense of humor. I
needed something to do at parties. The other boys, the boys
who had wavy hair and reasonable hormone-activity levels,
would be necking with girls, and I would be over by the record
player, a short radiation victim in horn rimmed spectacles,
playing 45s and making jokes to entertain the 10-year-old
brother of whomever was holding the party. Now that I'm grown
up, I keep reading magazine articles about these surveys where
they ask you women what you really want most in a man, and
you always say: A Sense of Humor. And I think to myself: Right.
Sure. Great. NOW you want a sense of humor. But back in the
eighth grade, back when it really mattered, what you wanted
And I am not even going to mention here that for several years
my hands were covered with warts.
So anyway, Mrs. Belle Ehrlich of San Jose, what I'm trying
to say here is: Thanks, thanks a million for taking the time
to drop me a note informing me that my hair looks awful. Because
now that I'm grown up (except in terms of arm hair) and have
contact lenses, and I have finally come to think of myself
as very nearly average in appearance, I can handle this kind
of helpful criticism, and I will definitely see if I can't
find a good hair stylist. This is assuming that I ever leave
my bedroom again.
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