Hair today, gone tomorrow

I’ve never been vain about my hair. Even as it emigrates to my ears and nose, I don’t mourn the loss of hair atop my head. I subscribe to the lesson behind the old joke about a wife complaining of her husband: “He’s so sensitive about his hair. I don’t know why — he hasn’t got any!”

In February of 2012, I wrote in this space about my attempt to grow enough hair to donate to charities that specialize in making wigs for children. The original plan was to wait until the end of the school year and cut it as one of my class projects for my students. Because I figured I was too old and my hair too scarce to actually donate for a wig, I looked into alternatives. An organization called Locks of Love takes shorter, grey hair and sells it to pay for overhead expenses. I was on my way!

Something happened on the way to that haircut: My barber informed me I had almost five inches already AND there were other organizations that only required eight inches of hair. My wife, who had practically dared me to grow my hair in February (“You won’t do it — you hate long hair!”), now steeled herself for the prospect of seven more months of her husband’s Art Garfunkel hairdo.

Suddenly, even though the front of my head was closed for business, there was a party in the back. Granted, it was a sad little party, the kind where Mom has to invite distant relatives to your birthday because you don’t have enough friends to justify renting out the Chuck E. Cheese. Still, I managed to put a rubber band around a tiny ponytail somewhere around July. I felt an immediate kinship with Brad Pitt and David Beckham.

The worst part about having a ponytail was that others naturally assumed I was working to achieve this look. They didn’t know I’d challenged my students to read 500 books before the end of the year, after which they’d have the choice of whether I would cut it (I knew they’d want to) or keep it. Instead, people looked at me with pity: “Doesn’t this man have anyone in his life who cares enough to tell him what his hair looks like?”

In the 19 months it eventually took me to grow my hair long enough for a donation, I complained about it constantly. As we drove up to school each day, it was my wife’s job to wrap the ponytail with a hair band (my attempts only resulted in more knots). I hated the extra combing, the tufts that escaped and danced wildly in the wind — I even begrudged the extra shampoo. Everyone knew I’d maintained a crew cut for 15 years and was not digging the new look. I yearned for the day it would grow fast enough to let me get rid of it all.

Yet no one told me that regular trimming of the ends would foster faster hair growth. No one. I discovered this when I searched online for ways to spur the growth and end my misery. I have a mother, mother-in-law, four sisters, three sisters-in-law, and a wife who deal with long hair on a regular basis, but no one saw fit to share this morsel with me. One could be forgiven for assuming they were too amused to see it all end.

Instead, I learned of the many disadvantages of having hair. For instance, I hadn’t encountered knots for ages; now I woke up each morning as if the hair fairies had been knitting my split ends together for rope. I showed up at weddings and funerals and found myself rushing to explain my appearance lest they assume I was in the midst of a mid-life crisis. (I’m saving that for when I buy the convertible Porsche.)

I was mortified to host the September open house with my new students’ parents looking like an overgrown Chia Head.

In the end, my students responded not by reading 500 books but by reading more than 1,200 (which must be a testament to how bad I looked). I sent my donation to an organization that specializes in providing wigs for children, CWHL. My hair will be combined with others to form a wig for a suffering child. I only hope that poor kid has better luck with it than I.

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