The day before I retired I went to a barber and had my hair cut into a brush cut. It was a dramatic and symbolic response to show off my new carefree lifestyle. For years I wrestled with my unforgiving mop each weekday morning in front of the bathroom mirror. With a brush and strong gel, I would pull it all back while it was still wet. For at least ten minutes it had a dark and shiny look that would have made Bela Lugosi proud. But then after breakfast I would return to the mirror to find that it had become dry and uncontrolled. I would then repeat the earlier process to achieve the final result of a helmet of hair. Like the army troops ready to take Omaha Beach, I would march into work. A category three hurricane couldn’t touch that hair of mine.
As posted earlier, my personal appearance has always important to me. If the charge is vanity then I plead guilty. Retirement, however, offers me an opportunity to move away from the restrictions of the professional look I had created for myself. It has been an absolute daily joy not to have to think about ties clashing with shirts, pants matching with jackets, and socks that go okay with certain shoes. My only major concern these days is whether the t-shirt should be tucked in or out over my shorts.
Nonetheless it’s the hair, or the lack of it, that continues to symbolically represent a kind of freedom for me. Stepping out of the shower and just rubbing the towel over my head is heaven. No brush, no comb, no gel. Just a towel to dry it, thank you very much.
Gorgeous has become my new barber of late. I got tired of going to local barber shops and being charged the same amount that more hirsute men were paying. A brush cut takes half the time compared to these fancy dudes with their hipster Skrillex, bed-head, or flow-and-combs. Hell, even the seniors with their Robert Redford or Julio Iglesias’s take more time than my George Goebel, thank you very much. So in keeping with the thriftiness of coupon-cutting, early bird dinners, and whipping out my AARP card for real and perceived discounts alike, I am employing the middle America tradition of haircuts at home to save precious resources.
Every three weeks Gorgeous takes out the new electric razor bought at Sally’s Beauty Supply to give me a splendid cut. Making the experience for her as realistic as possible, I discuss RG III’s awful performance on the gridiron that previous Sunday, plus my ten reasons why the country is going to hell in a hand basket. She agrees with everything I’m saying with a hearty “Mmm-hmm.” To complete the experience, I give her a two dollar tip each time.¹ I’m sure she’s thrilled.
When my sister visited us last week, she did do a double-take as she entered the terminal after her plane landed. I hadn’t warned her of my new look, and I can only imagine what thoughts were going through her head as she looked at her too-young-to-retire brother. A few days later she brought the subject up with a “So, the hair…” preface. My explanations of symbolism, retirement, freedom, no-maintenance, etc., were all greeted with a strong silence that was rather deafening. I can only assume that she thinks I’ve gone off my rocker.²
I may grow my hair back someday, I may not. But I know for sure that I will never, ever use hair gel again. Helmets are uncomfortable.
¹ Although this is supposed to be a joke on my part, I’ve noticed that the cash gets swooped up quickly and put into her purse.
² I am the youngest of four in my family and the only boy. Growing up, I had a full head of bright red hair that turned auburn as I got into high school, and then dark brown as I entered adulthood. It is now a mix of brown and gray. But to my sisters, I am still the little boy with all the red hair. We often see life as we wish it to be.