The decision to have a haircut is hardly one that should need much soul searching. Spending time thinking about the morality of cloning or pondering on the ethics of testing potential life-saving drugs on animals are arguably worthwhile intellectual and spiritual pursuits. But a trip to the barber? Apart from the cost – which, as you ladies will know, can be around the gross national product of a small, South American country – the main difficulty comes from the different definitions of “long” used by my wife and myself. For me, “long” kicks in at exactly the same point that she thinks it’s just right. When the length of the hair at my temples is such that I see a shock of gray that screams “old man,” she sees a distinguished flicker of silver. And as the length feels to me to be dangerously close to making me a Fabio clone, she perceives a romantic sweep of Byronic tresses.
Despite my wife’s assurances that the distinguished Romantic image is appropriate for a forty-five-year-old writer, my inner Self continues to remind me that Byron (1788-1824) died at the age of thirty six and, as far as I am aware, never wrote anything along the lines of On a Visit to the Stylists for Quick Trim and a Blow Dry, or The Stylist of Athens. Unless on some unconscious level his poem The Corsair is nothing more than a pun on “coarse hair.” In this poem, he writes of the pirate “Sun-burnt his cheek, his forehead high and pale; the sable curls in wild profusion veil.” Nothing that a good barber couldn’t fix in a few minutes using little more than a sharp cutlass and a dollop of extra-hold mousse.
There is definitely an appeal to the well-groomed long-haired look. As an English democrat, I was brought up to believe that Oliver Cromwell and his Roundheads did the cause of democracy a great service by usurping the power of the King. But in terms of style, you had to give full marks to the Cavaliers. The long hair and feathered hats; the voluminous shirts; the pantaloons with high leather boots, all finished off with a majestic cape, which was free to be tossed aside just before taking on a group of surly men with pudding basins on their heads, no doubt covering their short, scurvy scalps. And why has The Three Musketeers been remade so many times by
Then again, men have it easy whatever the hairstyle. It’s true that with age, women go gray but men become distinguished. Sure there are products such as “Just for Men” and “Grecian 2000” that can be used to tone down the silver, but who needs it? Richard Gere still ranks as one of the sexiest men in movies and his sexiness seemed to increase in direct proportion to the intensity of gray. Tom Cruise is also on the list of aging hotties and his new silvery style for the movie Collateral hasn’t keep women away from the box office. And whatever you may think of Bill Clinton’s politics or morality, he’s unlikely to be coloring his locks in the near future.
There is, in my opinion, one definite no-no for the graying guy: Do not, under any circumstance, be tempted to grow a ponytail. Sometimes referred to as “Biker’s Neurosis,” the post-40 ponytail is an affectation that only looks cool in the eyes of the beholder. A desperate, last-ditch attempt at holding on to youth, the gray ponytail is probably the reason Delilah took the shears to Samson. “Look, Delilah. See how strong and manly my hair is. Is it not amazing that a man of my age has the virility to maintain a luxurious mane? Watch as I toss my flowing locks with gay abandon.” “Yes, my love,” she answers, “Such a glorious river of silver adorns your pate. Wouldn’t it be a great pity if, by some bizarre twist of fate, you were to fall asleep next to a pair of very sharp scissors and, while turning over, your hair was to get tangled in them and end up shorn from your scalp.” No. Once past the age of 40, hair that’s long and gray should only be found on the back end of donkeys – and old donkeys at that. Willy Nelson may well be close to 100 and have braids, but he is (a) stinking rich and (b) unlikely to ever find himself in GQ’s Man of the Year edition.
Inevitably, as my hair reaches Rapunzel-like proportions, I have to choose between an appointment with my stylist or letting my cosmetology student daughter practice her art. Having seen what my darling offspring can do with razor-sharp scissors and a dummy head, the money I spend at my hairdresser’s seems like a trivial investment.