Splitting Hairs

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

January 27, 2019

A few years ago Yale University issued a study on the psychology of bad hair days and its effect on a person’s self-esteem. I found that fascinating – not the results – the fact that some company would actually give researchers money to look into this stuff. (I wasn’t quite so fascinated when I found out it was Proctor and Gamble that funded it and by a remarkable coincidence they just happen to be launching a new line of shampoos and conditioners at the time.)

According to the survey, if your hair is all ratty and you look like an unmade bed, you will feel less smart, less capable, embarrassed and less sociable. It didn’t take too many brains to figure that out.

What I did find surprising though is that it is us men, not women, who feel dumb if their hair is messed up.

Far be it for me to question the findings of Yale University, but I don’t know too many men who spend hours in front of the bathroom mirror every morning with elixirs, gels and conditioners. Nor do I know any who keep a medicine cabinet of exotic chemicals and sprays to combat split ends, frizzes and flyaway hair. (Actually I do have a male friend who does have a serious problem with flyaway hair. His flew away in 1974 and never came back. He still spends hours in front of a mirror, but not with sprays – with a can of Johnson’s paste wax and a hand-held floor polisher.)

My problem with the survey isn’t so much the hair thing and the questions they asked, but the people they asked – 60 men and 60 women from age 17 to 30. That’s ridiculous. What do people that age know about flyaway hair? And why should they even care? They should be at their peak of freshness – no wrinkles, no funny brown liver spots and better still, no cellulite deposits and love handles that have to be hidden under a one-size-fits-no-one beer shirt and baggy sweatpants.

When I was their age, I was a young Adonis. Bus tours came from the city every summer just to see me in my shorts. Robert Redford used to call me for grooming tips. Elizabeth Taylor would send me little notes to say that Nicky or Eddie, or Mike or Richard (I forget the names of her other 5 husbands) would be away on the weekend and was I doing anything? The Speedo Company began to drop off samples of their latest swimming briefs with lucrative financial offers for me to be their poster boy. Charles Atlas let me kick sand in his face. (If you remember Charles Atlas it’s about all you can remember.) The Pope wrote me to ask that if I must jog, I not jog by the convents. One pass in my Speedos and he feared the young ladies would leave in droves.

But all good things must end. One day I reached 31. In spite of my Spartan diet and super-active lifestyle, even my powerful body began to show infinitesimal signs of wear and tear. My stomach, once a bronzed washboard of rippling muscle, began to take on the shape of the washing machine itself.

My manly chest lost its tone and the Maidenform Bra Company started sending me samples. The Nemo Girdle people suggested big money could be made modeling for their catalogue. Suddenly I had jowls. I awoke one morning to find that sometime during the night I had grown an extra chin. (I offered to sell it to Joe Clark who was our Prime Minister at the time but he wasn’t interested – a decision that eventually cost him an election.)

My barber began asking odd questions like – “Would you like me to do something with those eyebrows or are you planning to comb them back over your forehead?” or making weird comments, “I see you are growing your own ear muffs.” He began to talk about a tint.

I started to add even more pounds, although they were hardly noticeable. Although now that I think about it, whenever I swam in Couchiching Park, I could hear giggles. Once I dove off the park dock and swamped the Miss Orillia. My feet disappeared (I know they are still there, I can smell them. I just can’t see them).

And now I read this stupid report that says people with bad hair days have low self-esteem. Preposterous! Flyaway hair is a mere inconvenience. I’ll tell you what low self-esteem is. It’s the feeling you get when the Georgian Bay Tourism Association asks you for 24 hours’ notice before you jump into the water at Wasaga Beach to give them time to evacuate Manitoulin Island.

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