Monday, November 30, 2015

Hair: An Excerpt From Backstop

When I found out my dad was writing a book I knew it'd be selfish of me if I didn't share it with the world. He's probably the funniest/wittiest/well written person I know and I won't hate you if you never want to read my writing again after reading his! 

Here is an excerpt from his book, Backstop.  

I had a lot of hair back then.  In 1972 hair was in and the more of it that you had, the better.  Pre 1972 and pre pubescent, a lot of hair would have worked great for me.  I had straight brown hair that would turn blonde in the summer, just like the cool guys in all the cool bands.  Unfortunately 1972 was post pubescent for me and along with all the other stuff puberty brings it delivered to my head a coarse, wiry tumbleweed that made all those picture-day combs obsolete for me.  Along with all the insecurities a kid brings to 7th grade, my hair was one of them. 

Dippity Do ( “a little dab will do you”) was the only hair product of that era for men.  Designed really only for a 50’s style “greaser” look my dad, who never threw anything away (a Depression Era thing), would pull this thick, green colored glob out of the jar and try to COMB it through my hair, yes I said COMB!  I don’t know why, but for some reason he could not accept the fact that my hair was not straight like his and my oldest brother.  He basically used the “it worked for me and my family when I was young” theory in every aspect of life.  Do everything the same way EVERY time and do it as FAST and as rough as you could!  I was on the bad end of that theory a lot as a kid.  I’m not sure why my dad was so rough and in a hurry to do everything, my god just watching him attack his teeth with a toothbrush was barbaric.  I don’t know how much stuff you can blame the Great Depression on, but what his teeth did to deserve that punishment was beyond my understanding.  My teeth also suffered from his lumberjack sensitivity when it came time to pull a tooth.  I cannot explain accurately the feeling I had in my gut when I would discover the tiny initial movement of a loose tooth. 

He was not the guy to be dressing a 5 year old.  When my mom was out of town he was trying to button and zip my jeans (Huskies) and in his "do it rough and fast" way he zipped my kindergarten penis up with the zipper.  Of course if you zip a penis up you have to zip it down to get it out, no worries because my father was at the helm gently guiding the zipper with its gouging copper barbs down until my once unnoticed penis was free.  I paid more attention to my penis afterwards and quickly learned to dress myself.  

Okay, where was I, oh yeah Dippity Do, and if that was not bad enough for a confused boy with crazy hair, hand held hair dryers were not invented yet!  My hair was at the mercy of the elements.  A few drops of water were enough to send it into a frizzy frenzy.  Swim day in gym was a cruel joke played on me by the straight haired gods, so was the fact that I had gym first hour which allowed me to parade this intruder on my head for the entire day.  My body had turned on me and my hair was the biggest traitor of all.  My 7th grade yearbook picture was a portrait of helpless confusion.  I stared into the camera wearing a too tight shirt and wearing a tie that was of course handed down throughout the years.  My eyes were pleading for help or at least an explanation.  Looking back now, the obvious remedy would have been to shave my head.  I have a perfectly shaped head.  I know this because a brain surgeon told me this once.  I also have one of the largest heads in the state, but it's shaped perfectly and a shaved head, or a burr as it was called back then, would have looked great.  As fate would have it, this “look” was not in and the only boys wearing their hair burred were the hillbilly’s in Jenks.  It was 1972 and I was rebellious and different.  Well, not really….it was my brother Dicky who was 7 years older than me who was different and rebellious.  The original hippy, he was selling grass (weed) before most kids had even tried it.  I knew he was selling it because in 4th grade I helped him load the grass into small matchboxes that were sold for $5 each.  

Anyway I was different and rebellious by proxy only.  I never broke a rule, went to church and made excellent grades.  My hair was the one truly rebellious act in my life, a “tyranny of hair” as one English teacher put it.  Half way through 7th grade, my dad, who still used the picture-day combs, took matters into his own hands and forced me to go to a new type of barber called a “stylist.”  The stylist was a bold new breed of barber who instead of asking you if you wanted a “regular” as my old barber would ask, would embark on giving you a “style” that was your own.  They would also have (and would sell you) hair spray, not your mothers hair spray mind you but hair spray for men!  Never was this heard of before. 

 My stylist was Nelson.  A tiny tiny man of about 5’3” who was incredibly effeminate and married with two kids.  Back then a man could wear a dress and lipstick to work but if he was married AND had kids he obviously was not a homosexual.  Nelson was entertaining and told me stories that were so nasty my dad would fall right off Plymouth Rock, where all good Pilgrims sit, if he were to hear one tenth of the stories I was told.  Nelson also disfigured my already disfigured hair so badly that not even the 3 bottles of hair spray, men’s hair spray, that he sold my dad could repair the carnage wrought by the shears held by the tiny tiny hands of Nelson.   Even my dad, who had no style and relied on my mom to lay out his clothes everyday, recognized that what had happened on my head that day was a travesty and I was never forced to cut my hair again.

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