It all started with the hair. Since retiring, I have been roaming my environs with a brush cut haircut that requires absolutely no maintenance or thought towards fashion sense. From the shower, just towel off and away we go. But between the classic H.R. Haldeman look and the daily coordinates of cargo shorts and jersey shirts, I have been bracing myself for a possible ambush by Stacy and Clinton with their camera crew for the erstwhile “What Not to Wear,” or maybe even the Fab Five making a reappearance. Of course, while wardrobe can be easily swapped out, my hair would be a challenge for a stylist of any repute. There’s only so much you can do with it being a centimeter in length.
A redo is in order, and in recent weeks I began growing my hair again. As Florida’s temperatures begin to hit 90 and above, with humidity levels soon to be through the roof, an epiphany told me that I needed to find the inner hippie. Long hair — as in the kind that droops down and would force me to go a pony tail route until October. All of my life, I’ve stayed within the coiffed parameters of a Richie Cunningham convention. Neat, within the lines, and without any real mood. I yearned to switch-up and instead channel the savage Keith Richards. “Baby won’t ya keep me Happy?”
Ah, but reality. Oh, the painful cutting of a truthful observation and all it holds to be so uniformly unvarnished. If it’s true that we look for comfort from those to whom we are closest, then sadly the same can also be said about those who can shatter our self-indulged fantasies. Just as when my mother of all people was the one to tell me that I was never going to take Al Kaline’s place outside of my own private field of dreams, it became my lovely bride’s burden to dampen the current figment in my head of becoming Mick Jagger’s compatriot. No matter how much I try to repackage myself, ain’t no way I can simulate that kind of cool. Or as Gorgeous put it in the most direct language to me:
“Those guys have an edge. You don’t.”
Ouch. I am Burnett’s to their Hendricks, deviled eggs to their canapés, Van Heusen to their Christian Louboutin. It’s not that I don’t have an edge as much as I am barely sitting on the margins of even garnering a cachet. George Goebel’s famous line comes true: Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes? Feeling bad, Gorgeous then followed up with a soft-landing: “… it’s because you’re so nice.” Cue Greek chorus: “Awwwww.”
Ah, yes, the all-purpose nice. That and another $2.75 will get you a latte at Peet’s. My treat.
It would appear that my inner hippie will remain private. With apologies to David Crosby, I will cut my hair.
If I’m truly honest with myself, and to you too, dear readers, part of my absorption with the whole hair thing was for the benefit of family members and one ex-wife to look at me in an askance manner. It’s a wonderful thing, the askance manner. I fancied that someone might actually see me sitting in a catbird seat of audacity. By retiring younger than anyone else in my immediate tribe, I was looking forward to wearing a whispered coronet of family eccentricity. “That’s Uncle Marty… careful what you talk about with him. I swear I smelled sinsemilla on him prior to dinner.”
But instead I’m afraid it’s back to discussing Justice Breyer’s latest book on the New York Times best seller list. With a pair of Docker khakis and docksides, I know how to play the regular role. I’ve shaped, molded, and perfected it for a half century. It fits, well, like those docksides. Forgo the socks and I probably could fit right in at the Kennebunkport compound, sans a cigarette boat, of course. I bet I can even out-Poppy “W,” with him and his beer swilling. Oh wait, he said he gave up the booze. Eh, let him keep up the facade. Paintbrush anyone?
In the end, we really don’t change much from the person everyone knows. A lucky few do get to have a Grandma Moses-type second act and go on to amaze and astound all who rotate in their orbit. But most of us carry on being the unique individuals that we’ve always been. We might pick up a knack for gardening or possibly woodworking; some of us get the travel bug and travel to exotic places such as Paris, Istanbul, or Dannemora. Others stay close to home and are grateful for the comforts of family, grandchildren, or old friends. Yet, in spite of whatever changes are introduced, whether it’s retirement or a lucky Powerball jackpot win, our DNA really doesn’t change because of the environment in which we find ourselves. Uncle Frank still has a pile of old Playboys in his workbench drawer, younger brother Hal still ends up doing everyone’s taxes each year, and cousin Jean and her wife always throw the best New Year’s Eve parties. There’s something to be said for certainty, and it’s not an underrated quality to have.
I will not end up having my Keith Richard’s haircut. Gorgeous is right — I just don’t have that edge. I’m probably not able to snort my father’s ashes anyway. But I am also not prepared to ride into the sunset by tossing aside a previously established sense of style, vanity, or flair. The brush cut needs to go away for a while. Perhaps at least a hint of GQ can return now and then, even if it’s just taking an out-of-town visitor to an oceanside tavern and restaurant. I’m just not ready to start wearing the flexible Haband brand full-time just yet. It does look awfully comfortable in the AARP Magazine ads though, doesn’t it?