Saturday, June 06, 2009

Long Haired Country Boy


If you don't like the way I'm livin',
You just leave this long-haired country boy alone.
--Charlie Daniels

“Mommy, why does that man have long hair?”

I overheard this from a little girl, probably about four, as I walked through the library the other day. I didn’t hear her mom’s response but I thought the girl’s comment was pretty cute. I get this kind of thing a lot and in almost all cases it’s just hilarious. When my son was playing little league there was a kid on his team who had a little sister about that age. She used to stare and stare at me, but would hide behind her mom if I smiled at her. Finally, her mom explained to me one day why she stared. “She calls you: ‘Jesus at the park.’” That’s one of my favorite stories about my long hair.

Another favorite is when I went for the first time to set up my electricity service in Abita Springs. After paying, I stopped in the restroom right around the corner in the office, but the two ladies behind the counter thought I’d left. I came out of the bathroom only to hear one lady exclaim to the other about how “ridiculous” my hair length was. At that moment I passed in front of the counter and waved to them as I headed out the door. The look on their faces was…to steal a phrase…priceless. I chuckled about that one for days.

Last week, having lunch at a local sushi establishment, I became aware of a woman staring at me from across the tables. I kind of watched her from the corner of my eye as she leaned forward and whispered something to her friend while continuing to look in my direction. Instantly, the friend spun around and looked right at me. Laughing under my breath, I made eye contact with her, and she immediately blushed and began looking past me at the wall behind me as if that was the reason she was looking my way. Her friend should have told her, “no, no, no don’t turn around.”

Occasionally, though, I find comments on my hair irritating. About ten years ago, when I was chair of the Psych department, we were meeting our new freshmen students. I actually had quite a bit shorter hair then but I was shaking hands with one of the parents when he just bluntly made a gesture at my hair and said: “What kind of statement are you trying to make here?” Here was a guy who was dressed in a silk suit, with carefully matched tie and diamond tie pin, with a gold watch on his wrist, and he’s asking me about “my” statement? I wanted to say, “you’re a ween,” but instead I said: “I didn’t realize I was making a statement. I just like long hair.”

That’s the thing, really, my hair is not a statement about anything. At least not anymore. I originally grew it long for two reasons. First, for all of my childhood life my father cut my hair himself and never let it get more than a quarter inch long even though I begged him to. When I became a teenager, after he died, I let my hair grow. This was, at least in part, a rebellion, I’m sure, but the rebellious phase faded out back when my hair was barely shoulder length. Another reason I let my hair grow was because that was the style back in the seventies, and because I was in a band. But by the time I was 20 I had long hair for only one reason. I liked it. The fact that it seemed to irritate some people to no end was just gravy.

My mom has always seemed to believe the hair was a rebellion, and at least one of my “sister’s in law” seemed to make it her goal in life for years to get me to cut my hair. She told me once something along the lines of “You’d be a really good looking man if you got your hair cut.” I just laughed and told her, “well, I’m not trying to attract you.”

The strangest thing about it all is that I just can’t for the life of me imagine why anyone cares? What is it about long hair on men that seems to “threaten” some people? Why is it worthy of a stare or a snide comment? Seems to me there are a lot more interesting things to observe about people than their hair.
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49 comments:

Cloudia said...

Sounds like 1967 in your neck of the woods!
I think LA would be a great vacation, but as a northern hippie I have residual fear of the South. You and Travis make it sound like a place with normal, great folks, though.
Let your freak flag fly, professor!
I was in a coupla bands too, the girl flute player/ back up vocals........Aloha, Charles

G said...

Non-conformity is what makes each of us unique individuals.

If you wear your hair long, so what? The only person that has to be satisfied, is you. And maybe your wife.

Now if you went the Dusty Hill route of incredibly long facial hair, to match what's on top....

Randy Johnson said...

Don't worry bout it, Charles. I have a few stories about my long hair and beard as well(I was doing the ZZ Top thing with the beard before they were).
The place I worked at in my youth, everybody gave me grief about the hair. One told the boss he ought to make me cut it. The man had the right attitude though. He told them, "I don't care if he wears it down to his ass as long as he does his job!" That ended that.
Ad the years went by, things gradually got shorter until I'm almost a skinhead these days. I have no problem with anybody else, just got tired of the grooming that went into keeping it looking good.

David Cranmer said...

I grew up and went to a very strict church where everyone had very short cropped hair. They frowned upon anyone that showed up with anything going past the ears. Yet, I would look at all the paintings of Jesus at the church and he was pictured with long flowing hair?!

Travis said...

I've always thought it was just one more thing people thought they needed to try and control. Silly really.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, sometimes the south changes very slowly. For many people it may still be 1967.

G., Lana does like my hair. I don't think I could grow a beard as long as Dusty though.

Randy Johnson, I find it pretty easy just to let it grow, and fortunately my hair dries pretty fast. I could use a trim, though cause it's getting a bit too long for comfort at times.

David Cranmer, exactly. I neer understood why it was great for Jesus to have long hair but no one else. It always confused me.

Travis, yes, I don't try to control anyone else, why do they try to control me? It makes no sense for sure.

Sidney said...

I wear my hair shorter than I used to at my current job. There's concern that I might get dragged into a web page if my hair should become entangled in the code.

Scott said...

Charles,

I get looks all the time,too, because of my hair and my tattoos as well. I don't get looks or comments as often as I used to in the past, but when I'm travelling, through small towns and such, I get looks of disgust or even downright fear...I don't see the big deal. I do expect a certain amount of looks beacuse of my appearance; I'm not going to be like that guy who tattooed scales all over his face and then bitches because people stare at him...but it does get annoying sometimes.

I had a similar experience to yours in college...a girl told me that I'd be cute if I cut my hair...so I said, "So I guess I'm hideous right now , then." Another gal told me she would never date a guy with longer hair than her...I told her that she had no idea what she was missing, LOL.

Mary Witzl said...

I got a lot of comments about my hair too, back when I grew it long (to my knees, at one point). As a kid, I always let myself get talked into short hair, and I think my long hair WAS a protest. I got a kick out of hearing people tell me to get a haircut, like it was any business of theirs. Now, the more people who tell me I shouldn't cut my hair, the more I want to shave my head. But the main reason I want to cut my hair now is because long hair is so hot and it's such a headache to wash after I've been swimming.

Love that Long-haired Country Boy song, by the way. I'll be going around the house singing that now...

fairyhedgehog said...

I like long hair on men and always have done. I don't see why cultures have to be so restrictive. I like men in kilts/robes/togas/tunics too, i.e. men in skirts - but men aren't allowed to wear "skirts" as such either. Whyever not?

I'm not keen on beards but that doesn't men I think men should shave them off. It's a personal preference and why can't people be allowed to adorn themselves as they want to without a lot of fuss?

I've just cut my hair short and I'm glad I'm in a culture that allows women to have short hair if we want to without enduring snide looks and comments. Men should have the same freedom to have their hair any length they want to.

the walking man said...

Here's a picture for you.

My hair is as long as yours, My beard halfway down my chest and my belly not unsubstantial. Now picture me in a red shirt.

Imagine the comments and looks Santa gets from the kids.

Imagine the comments Santa makes back about using the rest of the year to make lists.

ANNA-LYS said...

Long hair on men turns me on, don't know why, but it does. Maybe, it is some romantic brave heart episode, but, it always has, and will always do.

Maybe it does awake senses of wildness and wilderness ... lol maybe a long haired man will drag me into a cave ... :-p

To make a statement; It's sexy!!!

Patti said...

It's the people with shaved heads with swastikas on them that are making a statement.

ivan said...

Dunno.

I should be a Sixties parent?
Moot point.

Said to one guy in the street, "Get a haricut!"

He said, "Get a hairlip!"

That'll teach me.

Gabby said...

I think, regardless of whether you are a man or woman, as long as you take care of your hair, it shouldn't matter what length it is, overall. I've seen women who have ridiculously long hair where it's all nasty and nappy at the end -- not attractive. One of my brothers has curly dark hair and he usually grows it pretty long (halfway down his back) and it is the envy of EVERYONE in my family! Especially since my other two brothers are losing their hair. Heh. Personally, I prefer shorter hair on men, but can see the appeal in the longer. But don't talk to me about beards! They look okay on some men, but it's a no for me on my husband -- can't stand kissing it! ^_^

Greg Schwartz said...

i like that story about the guy in the silk suit. that's a good one.

i don't know why people care, either. everyone seems to want to control how everyone else looks or acts or behaves, especially if it's "different." no one can just seem to let well enough alone. if it's not harming you in any way, who cares? live and let live.

writtenwyrdd said...

Jeez, some people just have too much spare time and energy if they have to get all bent out of shape over the length of someone else's hair! The important thing is that it's what you like.

Besides, you are a college professor and a psychologist to boot. In some circles you almost have to have long hair! ;0

Charles Gramlich said...

Sidney, well I could see if it was an insurance or health issue. Perfectly reasonable. ;)

Scott, lol. Yeah, I don’t a bone in my nose. And most of the time I don’t mind folks staring at my long hair. It’s so bizarre to me how people seem to care, and make the effort to speak up about it, as if they were doing us a major favor.

Mary Witzl, my hair doesn’t bother me from being hot. The only time it irritates me is when it blows in my face. Especially if I’m eating. Yeah, I always liked that song.

fairyhedgehog, although men still get a lot of benefits women don’t in society, women generally have more freedom as far as how they dress. I’ve never been tempted to wear a modern skirt, but a good kilt might be nice and breezy on our hot Louisiana days.

Mark, lol. Your appearance gives you power, see. But my beard is getting whiter by the day so soon I may partake of that power as well.

ANNA-LYS, Lana likes long hair too, as does Scott’s wife. It’s a good thing there are women out there who will love us despite our hair.

Patti, yeah, I could agree with that.

ivan, I used to tell folks I couldn’t afford a haircut but if they wanted to put up the money I’d consider it.

Gabby, Lana probably wouldn’t mind if I lost the beard. But yes, any kind of hair needs to be taken care of. Two of my brothers are balding. I just tell them not to hate me because I’m beautiful.


Greg Schwartz, yes, that was so surreal. He had no idea of the kind of statement he was making but didn’t want me to make one. People are just weird.

Charles Gramlich said...

writtenwyrd, I do feel a certain sense of demand from my constituents. ;)

laughingwolf said...

i'm with you on all fronts, charles, even to the point of my dad cutting my hair every time HE thought it was too long... later, when i had it in ponytail, he gave up... and that's the length it still is

at 6'4" and 250 lb, NObody sez boo to me about it ;)

btw, you having a whiz in that there pic, hombre? :O lol

Heff said...

I have nothing to add, except that I've had VERY SIMILAR situations.

jodi said...

Charles, when I graduated, most of the guys had hair longer than the chicks. Magglio O. of the Detroit Tigers has the most luscios locks, and most everyone covets or at least admires them. I can't either understand why anyone gives a hoot. I am more apt to notice bad manners and the such. My stock answer would be to those clods,"why would you ask?" That puts 'em on the defense and you don't even have to justify the question!

Steve Malley said...

Y'know, I've become accustomed to people recognizing me on sight, and to sticking out like a sore thumb. I barely think about it anymore.

Your post had me laughing and shaking my head, dreadlocks tumbling around my shoulders as I recognized a fellow traveler!
:-D

Charles Gramlich said...

laughingwolf, lol. I never thought of the Whiz part. I turned around so Lana could get a pic of me and my green brother with the same haircuts.

Heff, I figured you would know of what I speak. Especially small southern towns seem to have some of this attitude.

jodi, most of the time I do really find it very funny. another question I get a lot is "aren't you cold?" because I only wear short sleeve shirts year around. It never really gets taht cold here but some people think it does if they are from here. I respond to their question with "aren't you hot?"

Steve Malley, oh being recognized can even be one of the benefits. All the restruant staff around here always remember me because of the hair, and since I tip well we usually get really good service.

Best Fantasy and Science Fiction said...

My mom cried when I cut my long hair in junior high. Literally cried. It is a lot easier to take care of short though. :)

My brother-in-law has long and my 3-year old always says "He has long hair just like me daddy!" with a huge smile on her face. The little ones love it. But facial hair scares her for some reason. Quite odd.

Travis Erwin said...

I got a kick out of Cloudia's comment. I think part of the hair thing is jealousy. Lots of people don't have the guts to let their hair down so publicly (pun intended) and they are envious that your do.

Erik Donald France said...

This is a damned excellent post. First of all, congrats, many men around our age are bald or virtually bald, so all power to you. Next, it's a free country and maybe a lot of people haven't gotten the memo. Cheers to you! I do know what you mean -- back in my Easy Rider days, I got a lot of the same kind of reactions due to dress or beard, especially in Mississippi, for whatever reason. To repeat: it's a free country. Blessed are those who realize it.

Maalie said...

LOL! I wonder if there is some innate, primordial, now outdated "statement" from long hair, in the way that the numer of points on a stag's antlers indicate dominance?

Sadly the days when I could think of makeing a statement with my hair are longs since over ;-)

cs harris said...

"Jesus at the park"! That's wonderful.

Some people are inordinately threatened by anyone who doesn't conform. Perhaps they see it as an indictment of their own conformity? Plus they probably make all kinds of assumptions about your political/social views, based on your appearance, and see you as a threat for that reason.

Charles Gramlich said...

Best Fantasy and Science Fiction, I've noticed a lot of little ones that are scared of facial hair. My hair isn't easy to take careof when it's short because it sticks up. I find it actually easier to take care of long.


Travis Erwin, I'm sure some cases are like that. More's the pity.

Erik Donald France, I do think the south is more this way than the north, not sure why. Maybe there's still more distrust of those who look different.

Maalie, Maybe I should do some research on it, but my appearance might just bias my own results.

Candy, it's definitely amazing how many folks draw conclusions about other people simply on appearance. Stereotypes are alive and well.

jennifer said...

You go Charles. It suits you.

Though I am guilty of judging men based on their hair - guys with hilighted spikey hair and lots of gel (plus a fake tan and whitened smile) skeeve me out.

Believe it or not, there is a stigma about long hair for women too. I am getting to be "of an age" that long hair is no longer stylish. To some I might look like I'm trying to hold onto my youth, but the truth is I am cheap and lazy. I hate going to the beauty shop to get my hair cut.... which I haven't done since October.

December/Stacia said...

I've never understood why people feel the need to comment on the appearance of others, or why things like that bother them so.

It's 2009, is long hair on a man still really that shocking?? Sheesh.

SQT said...

I'm surprised that long hair on men still gets noticed.

My uncle was the original "Jesus at the park." He really had the look going on. So I always thought men with long hair were fairly common. But that's probably because I was used to it.

My husband had long hair when we first met, but he cut it for his job since it's a very button-down kind of place. He hasn't had the freedom to grow his hair since then, so I have to be content with the facial hair he grows when he's on vacation. Better than nothing I suppose.

Lana Gramlich said...

You forgot the time the cashier at the grocery store asked if we "ladies" found everything we were looking for. *LOL*
As for the "why people care" part, you know what I would say. Finish the following statement; "People are _________." It probably doesn't help that you have long hair in the bible belt, you heathen sinner.
I love your hair. Don't change a thing.

laughingwolf said...

whizzing on yer bro... not good... charles ;) lol

Charles Gramlich said...

jennifer, I'm probably guilty of some of those judgements myself and you'd think I'd know better. I do think it says more about someone if they put a lot of "effort" into something. But long hair really isn't that much effort. It's not like I spend hours urging it to grow.

December/Stacia, yeah, you'd think men having long hair would be past the comment stage by now, although it's still not terribly common I suppose. But who would care.

SQT, I am too but it sure seems to around here. Small town in the south, I guess. I didn't grow my hair really long until after I had tenure at work. I don't think my university officials particulary approve, although they've never said anything.

Lana Gramlich, lol. yes. And the time the waitress at the Fox and the Hound did something much the same.

laughingwolf, if I gave him water, who is to complain?

Merisi said...

Sidney's comment has me all tangled up! :-)))

I see middle-aged men in smart suits and grey ponytails quite often in Vienna.

Come to think of it, have you ever watched Michael Beschloss on the Jim Lehrer NewsHour? To this day I am not sure if he wears his hair long in a ponytail or just slicked back with a ton of Brillantine! Not that it matters, but I was so intrigued by his hair, I forgot to listen what he had to say. ;-)

Shauna Roberts said...

Growing up in the '60s, I thought long hair on men was sexy and never have gotten to like short hair on men. Or sparsely furred bodies, for that matter.

When I was a child, though, I was terrified of beards. Didn't help that my mother's family was Pennsylvania Dutch and all the men that hung out at my grandparents' had beards.

And like Jennifer, I find some people think I'm too old to wear long hair. But I like my hair long and my husband likes it long, so it's not getting cut.

laughingwolf said...

hope it's a saltwater marsh plant! :O

Barbara Martin said...

Great post.

Wil said...

Damn hippies! "l still say they're not going to make the parish line." What movie was that from?

Wil Harrison.com

Charles Gramlich said...

Merisi, you don't see any folks dressed like that in the south, or at least I haven't. I see them on TV, but they're always from California or something.

Shauna Roberts, I've often wondered about the beard thing with kids. I've seen it a lot. It's almost some atavistic thing. And good for you not to get your hair cut. What in the world does age have to do with it. I know some folks that think we writers who are all grown up and still write about SF/Fantasy need to grow up too, but I just call them idiots.

laughingwolf, we've been back since and it's still alive.

Barbara Martin, thankee.

Wil, sounds like some Burt Reynolds movie maybe. I'm not sure.

writtenwyrdd said...

Charles, I just wanted to add that as a woman who's had short hair most of my life, I still get a ton of comments asking why I don't let it grow longer. Usually it's people I know well instead of strangers, but WTF?

Vesper said...

I love your long hair stories! :-) :-) :-)
Yeah, people should worry about themselves and not others...

Wil said...

"Easy Rider". A true classic.

Wil Harrison.com

Charles Gramlich said...

writtenwyrdd, folks just can't seem to accept each other as they are eh?

Vesper, I've got more I'll share one of these days.

Wil, yeah, I likes me some o dat movie.

Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Charles,

This post made me smile. Hank used to wear his hair long to accentuate his likeness to Greg Allman and people were after him to cut it and he'd say, When it gets down to my bra strap, maybe. He just liked it as well. I don't get why people are so full of opinions about other people's appearances. I generally enjoy how people look no matter what -- and don't often assume they are making a "statement."

Charles Gramlich said...

Michelle, you're like me in that but I fear we're fairly rare.

Thumbelina said...

Aha - glad I caught this post before it rolled off into obscurity.
Didn't you know? The only reason I come here is because you have long hair! ;0)

My bro had long hair for years. I hated it when he cut it. As long as it is clean then I have no problem with it!