It’s a jungle up there, atop my bean. And it’s alive. Every few seconds I sweep vines from my eyes, pry curls from my ears. Springs and locks bounce gaily against my neck with every step. Sometimes I throw on some Melvins, rock my nog in a Pez-head jolt, and pretend I’m auditioning for a 1993 Charles Peterson photograph. In short, I’ve got some long-ass hair. The length’s so bad that even my aunt’s boyfriend, who sailed through the ’70s as a Cheech Marin doppelganger, finally expressed his disgust yesterday. “Good God,” he sniffed. “Get a haircut.”
I’m not sure what my problem is. I once observed a regular schedule. Every couple of months I’d stop by the local locksmith and drop a Jackson for a maintenance scrub and snip. It was a simple process: Shave to the natural neckline, clear the ear-tops, and keep enough over my forehead for a morning swipe with mousse. But it’s been almost a year since my last appointment. Whatever sensible suave I cultivated is long buried now. Of course, I keep assuring people, “Yeah, it’s getting ridiculous,” and I promise to kiss shears as soon as possible. Then I go home, regard my reflection, and shave my face instead. That counts as a compromise, right?
The last time I had hair this long was ca. 1995, when it was still somewhat fashionable. Back then my excuse was money. Most of my meager funds went to necessary expenses, like diner lunches, shampoo, rent, CDs, books, and Big Gulps. Besides, I thought I looked awesome, my locks billowing down to my shoulders, a spotty beard making a futile trek across my face. Daily I preened, patiently teasing split ends from that lush forest of shadows. All that vanity evaporated after I had my head shot taken for my hometown paper’s staff list. In moving color I was luxuriant poetry. But in static digital monochrome, I resembled a lolling wino peeled from a sewer grate and propped in front of a camera. Maybe the whole thing was some kind of intervention, I dunno. Naturally, I made an appointment for the following afternoon and watched an entire year tumble in sorrowful clumps.
There were other disadvantages to long hair too. Clerks would trail me in stores. “Looking for something in particular?” they’d ask nervously as I thumbed through a Cornel West. Strangers would whisper, “You carrying?” as I passed by. Cops stopped me constantly when I was on foot, which back then was all the time. One night I was walking home from work when a cruiser pulled up in front of me to block my path. When I went for my wallet, the driver screamed, “HANDS! HANDS! HANDS!” Granted, it was two in the morning and I was a 23-year-old in a Peter Tosh Legalize It tee. Still, that didn’t stop me from stewing in indignation for the rest of my stroll. I was a furshlugginer journalist, not common curb vermin. Damn cops probably had spottier records than me.
I’m not sure why, but I don’t seem to have that problem anymore. Maybe it’s the mysterious aura of maturity. Maybe it’s an unspoken acknowledgment of my working-class status. Or maybe it’s because I don’t advertise narcotics on my chest anymore. But I kinda like my long hair now, with its earned gray stripes and its lazy, blissful ignorance of current trends, what I’m sure Brian Wilson meant by “that happy glow.” It applies to the fellas too, doesn’t it? Keep it long and strong, my brothers. At least until they take your picture.