I shaved my head by accident once. I don’t mean that I fell down against something sharp, although I’ve done that too. Usually I don’t fall head first though. If I fell down against something that could shave my head, the story would likely begin thusly: I decapitated myself by accident once. Obviously, then it would be written by someone else. In this story though, which I’m writing, I was trying desperately to fix a problem, and then I was bald. (As a revealing aside, I can use that sentence too often, frankly.)
I’ve always had trouble with my hair. Actually, to be more direct, I’ve hated it since I was thirteen. Before then my hair was gloriously straight. Sure my entire family had had curly hair for generations, but I hadn’t studied genetics yet and I didn’t know anything about human development. I just figured that I had won some sort of hair lottery. Then, almost overnight, my hair became a thick tangled mess of curls, like medusa’s but with less hissing and no discernable stonework powers.
I was pretty heartbroken. I wanted straight hair so that I could grow it long. I don’t remember what prompted my youthful fascination with pony tails, but I wanted one just as badly as I wanted cowboy boots. (I was a strange little boy.) For the record, I’ve never had either.
For the first eighteen years of life, my parents always made me keep my hair short. At the time I resented them for it, but they were just being prudent. Not only was short hair respectable, which aided in my attempts to overcome the stigma associated with my age, but it was easier to maintain, which aided in my attempts to fulfill the stigma associated with my age. I was quiet, trustworthy, and lazy about my appearance.
When I went away to college however, my parents didn’t go with me. At last I was free to grow the luxurious golden tresses for which I’d always hoped. All I needed was time and gold paint. My hair was brown, just to explain that a little. It was ever so brown. In the depths of winter it was brown; when the sun bleached it, it was still exactly the same brown. Apparently I lived in an area where the sun used color-safe bleach.
But I was determined to have the amazing hair of my dreams, or rather, I was determined to look like an idiot for no particular reason. As it turns out, I cannot grow long hair; I can grow an afro. I looked less like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian and more like Richard Simmons in Sweatin’ to the Oldies. Actually, I looked like Richard Simmons on a bad hair day.
And to be clear, I didn’t need to accentuate the size of my head. I’d gotten all of my adult height by that time, but none of the thickness, and my head had reached its full size years earlier. I would say that I looked like the caricature of a normal person, but I didn’t. I looked like the caricature of a thin large-headed person, or like a stick figure. I was seventy-five percent noggin; I don’t know why I wanted to make my head appear bigger.
Nevertheless, I did.
I tried for years to push through the awkward stage when my hair was too long to style but too short to pull into a reasonable tail. Unfortunately, I could never find the far side of awkward. The awkwardness just kept getting bigger and more dense. Eventually I had to quit, lest my hair become a strain on my neck. It’s hard to balance so much weight; I probably looked like a bobble-head doll.
Thus, for a little while I abandoned my dream. I focused on growing a beard instead, a goal for which thick curly hair is an advantage. That went as well as I expected, but probably because I never tried to grow it long. Whereas I always imagined that long hair would make me look rakishly handsome, I knew that a long beard would make me look like a deranged lumberjack.
Then I went to graduate school. Perhaps the nostalgia of living in a dorm again helped resurrect the hairstyle desires of a younger me. More importantly though, I didn’t want to have to find a barber, and I especially didn’t want to have to pay a barber. At the rate my hair grows, that would have used a lot of the money that I preferred to spend on food. Instead, even though I really should have known better, I decided that I wanted long hair.
How does wanting long hair produce the exact opposite result? Well, for that you’ll have to wait until Part 2.