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.
“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.