My old pal, Steve, called today, sounding all down in the dumps. "My hair's falling out," Steve said sadly. "So I called my doctor to see if he could give me something to keep it in."
"What did he recommend?" I asked. To which Steve replied, "He said to just use a box."
Poor Steve, like so many other follicly-challenged men his age, he sees the final parting of his hair as a sign that his life is all but over. "It's all downhill from here, man," Steve moaned. "You know how it works. First, you lose your hair, then your teeth, then your bladder control! I might as well go out right now and buy a box of Depends because I'll need them by the weekend!"
"Come on, Steve," I said. "You're being ridiculous." (Mental note: Next time Steve comes to the house, keep him off the new couch.)
When Steve and I were younger, hair was the least of our worries. We came of age in the late '70's, a time when men were men and women were scarce and hair was something we all had plenty of. This was an era influenced by Keith Partridge and Tony Orlando and Grand Funk Railroad and The Bee Gees, who, between them, laid claim to approximately 17% of the world's known hair. Steve and I shared 3%, and the remaining 80% was doled out to everybody else, with most of it going to the inhabitants of the isle of Samoa.
While Steve's coiffure was inspired by the "Elvis Live From Hawaii" poster he had hanging in his room, I sported the official do of the day. My hair was parted perfectly down the middle with microscopic precision, layered back in wings, and hanging down to my shoulders. Styling such a head of hair was a highly technical operation, requiring a steady hand, a keen eye, a stout comb (I used one of those big honkers with a clenched fist on the handle), and sixteen cans of hairspray. I averaged burning up one hair dryer every six days and used so much hairspray that the ozone layer still sends me hate mail. But boy, did I look cool, or at least I thought so at the time. I look back at my 1978 graduation picture now and wonder, "What the hell was I thinking?" I looked like Marlo Thomas after a bad peroxide rinse.
I still have a full head of hair, but I wear it short these days so I don't have to do much to it. Low maintenance hair, my wife calls it. It's not that I've grown lazy. It's that, once the affects of all that hairspray finally wore off, I realized that I only have so much time on earth and spending 1/4 of it with a blow dryer in one hand and a roll brush in the other seemed like an awful waste. But even though I'm not losing my hair, I feel for Steve and other men who are. After all, they are my brothers and I feel their pain. Actually, I'm sitting here with my thumbs in my ears, wiggling my fingers, sticking out my tongue and singing, "Na-a- na- na- na!" I'm sympathetic to your plight, my bald brothers, but in a "better you than me" kind of way. Sorry.
I did my best to make Steve feel better (I felt bad after calling him, "Curly.") I explained that his hair abandoning his head was nothing personal. That's just the way hair works. A man's hair is like a Michigan retiree. It spends forty years working for you atop your head, then, when it's old and tired, it pulls up stakes and heads south, setting up little hair retirement communities all along the way. They sprout up in a man's ears, in his nose, in his eyebrows, all over his back. And I don't even want to talk about those hairy, little buggers that settle in what would be considered the biological equivalent of Miami Beach. There are just some things best left undescribed.
My conversation with Steve did make me wonder how I'll react when my hair finally decides to go. I contacted my friend and well-known haircare expert, Dr. Beechwood A. Jing, Professor Emiritis of the South Hampton Institute of Technology's Hammond-Eggar Anthropological Department, to ask why men are so attached to their hair, especially after it's no longer attached to them.
"Hair to a man is like tail feathers to a peacock," Dr. Jing wisely explained. "A man's hair helps define him as an individual and plays a tremendous part in establishing his sexual identity. Therefore, in a man's eyes, when his hair goes, so goes his manhood. Like a plucked peacock, he may experience a dramatic loss of self-worth and self-confidence, especially where the opposite sex is concerned. Such feelings of inadequacy can lead to deep depression, bouts of paranoia, periods of anti-social behavior, a lifetime membership in the Hair Club For Men - all sorts of horrible things!"
"Dr. Jing, what can a man do to work through these feelings of inadequacy?" I asked.
"They should seek out a licensed psychotherapist to help guide them through recovery," Dr. Jing concluded. "Or they could just take all their money and buy themselves a new Porsche. Nothing diverts attention from a cue ball head like an expensive, German sports car."
Great advice, Doc. I can't wait to tell Curly -- I mean, Steve.
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From "Small Business Q&A" With Tim Knox
Tim Knox is a nationally-known entrepreneur, author, speaker, and radio show host.
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