One thing we as humans share with primates is a need for grooming. A whole industry has arisen to address this need, and many people think so much of it that they devote their lives to grooming others. They can actually make a good living at it. I once heard that to schedule an appointment with one Paul Mitchell stylist can run more than $400. But why do we groom? Why does a woman spend anywhere from one to five hours in front of a mirror on a daily basis plucking and primping? Why do men spend anywhere from five to ten minutes doing the same thing? What is the reason—to look good, to feel good about ourselves? Ok. I can buy that. But if that is the case, then why is my body constantly working against me?
When I was a kid, my mom took me to the barber shop for haircuts (this was before she started cutting it herself—a skill at which she got quite good) and the barbers and hairstylists would fawn over my hair saying how thick and full it was and that any girl would be envious of it. I was born blonde, but being a kid in the 60’s and 70’s I spent most of my time outdoors in the south which sun bleached my hair white. Now it is a sandy brown with light-colored (no—not gray…never gray) highlights, and I still have most of it left. It is a little thinner, but no bald spots and the hairline is not receding. I keep it shorter but not the buzz-cut that many vets maintain after they return to civilian life. No, my hair is just fine.
I think there is a part of my brain whose job it is to keep the hair growing. I’ll call it Pete. We all have it, somewhere up there next to the parts that track where you put the car keys and what the route is to work. A segment of the brain that says, “grow. Now, turn gray. And now fall out.” It has a simple job and for the most part it does it quite well. Oh, sure, some guys would argue that Pete is falling down on the job when they pull wads of hair out with a hairbrush, or when they see the gleam of the light reflecting off the scalp. Poor Pete pushed the “Fall-out” button too early. But be that as it may, and I say this as a man with a full head of hair, Pete is working ok in the head department.
But the head is not the only place with hair, and many of us spend countless hours doing our best to remove hair from any place that is not the head (and many remove it from there too) I never understood someone intentionally shaving every hair off of their body. My son did that once. He said he was bored. Go figure. But my point is that, because we are mammals, hair does grow aplenty all over.
The problem I have with good ol’ Pete is that while he seems to be keeping the hair on the head (although he seems to be focusing too much on the highlights these days) is that he has been springing up hairs in places that previously there was no hair. Why do I have hairs growing out of my ears? Not just from inside, but on the lobe, the auricle and just about any open space of skin on my ears seems fair game to Pete. It’s like he’s a gardener that decided bare Earth is a bad thing. And they grow so fast! The hair on my head loses this race like the south Florida luge team going up against the Swedes. I can pluck one in the morning, and it’s back to three inches by lunch. If I could figure out how to transplant these to bald men, I would make a fortune. They would all be Yani within a week.
I can almost see ol’ Pete sitting there looking around and saying to himself, “There’s a good spot. Oh, and right there,” as he sprouts new hairs between my eyebrows and on the tip of my nose. Lon Cheney would call me cousin if I didn’t pluck and trim (and if you didn’t get the reference, howl at the moon). Thankfully I have a lovely, loving wife who hates these errant follicles more than I do and she is quite diligent in reminding me to pluck away as well as taking tweezers in her own hands when needs be. She relishes making my eyes water going after the sprouts on my nose. I have to limit the plucks to three, however. I know women can take the pain of repeated yanking of these follicles, but I would much rather run my hand through a meat grinder.
I wonder why Pete waited until I was 40 before going on this great follicular expansion project. It’s not as though I don’t have enough to worry about with my failing eyesight and the annoying white noise in my ears, not to mention the every shrinking-wardrobe. Life was so much simpler when I was young. Just jump into whatever clothes were lying on the floor that didn’t stick to it, grab my stuff, push the hair out of my eyes and go to school. Now I have to find an outfit that fits, find my glasses and pluck and trim so I don’t get confused with a homeless person.
And I guess that is the reason why we do it. We want to set the right impression. You know what they say, first impressions are lasting impressions. I guess it’s a good thing they don’t know what we go through to make those first impressions. Unless the people we meet are over 40. By then, they should have a good idea, having spent the better part of their morning going through the same ritual. Thanks Pete!