A sequel to #488: Almost Cut My Hair
GETTING MORE TALE #802: Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job
“No razor has ever been used on my head, because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.” – Samson, Judges 16:17
The Biblical Samson drew his great strength from his hair. He foolishly shared his secret with Delilah, who had his locks cut in his sleep. True to his confession, Samson’s supernatural strength was gone.
As a young rock fan, I once identified a lot with Samson.
As soon as I discovered rock and roll, I wanted long hair. Guys seemed to have so few options to stand out in a crowd. Looking at the gymnasium during class, it looked like groups of clones.* Different body types, different heights, but all the same. No individuality. I didn’t want to look like that. Like them. Like people I shared nothing else with. I wanted to look like me.
I admired the long hairs that adorned my rock wall of fame. I thought Adrian Smith from Iron Maiden, the blonde straight mullet style, looked best. I didn’t like Bruce Dickinson’s fringe, and Steve Harris’ curls would never come naturally to me. That was the thing. I wanted something that looked natural, not hair that seemed supported by an invisible superstructure like Bon Jovi’s. Nothing flammable due to excessive use of chemical fixatives. It had to look effortless – like you woke up that way.
I didn’t want my allegiances to be misidentified. I wanted it to be obvious: rock and roll, and only rock and roll. I didn’t want to walk down the hallway, mistaken for somebody who listened to Duran Duran. And so, starting in grade nine, I really tried to grow out my hair.
The major issue was, of course, parental guidance. Dad didn’t like my “long” hair. It never got that long; a couple inches tops. Then he would order it to be chopped. Bob and I sometimes went to the barber together, and we would always request to “leave the back long”. They’d explain they had to trim the dead ends, and so what we were left with rarely looked “long”. It did look very, very 80s.
Dad just didn’t understand. This wasn’t about looking neat and clean and tidy. It was about looking different from all the clones. There were very few long-hairs at our school, and once they had some length going, each guy looked different and unique to me. That’s what I wanted. Nothing that said “conformity”, but maybe something that said “Def Leppard”. Who, by the way, had not become the biggest band in the world yet.
The cycle went on for the first three years of highschool. Grow it, cut it, “leave the back long”. Eventually I developed a nice mullet that I considered a good start. This came to an end in late 1989.
It felt like the end of the world.
In October of ’89, my dad insisted it was time to get a job. He knew the manager at the local grocery store and put in a word. An interview was set up. I dutifully went to the mall and checked in at the barber shop. “Cut it all off,” I said despondently. None of this “leave the back long” stuff. Not this time.
I walked out looking like everyone else, self esteem made worse by my new glasses. Over at the grocery store, I was expected. “Your hair looks fine,” said the manager. He had already spoken to my dad, who told him I was just getting a hair cut before the interview.
It was only about 10 minutes before I was welcomed aboard and introduced to new co-workers. My first day would be the coming Friday. But before that, I had to make it through a day at school with my new hair.
For the last couple years, I had been co-authoring a sci-fi highscool comic book called Brett-Lore.
I was quite happy with my character, the evil Darth Banger. Most of my classmates were being lampooned far worse than I. David Kidd, who was obsessed with drama class, was Emperor Kiddspeare. Later when we decided to go after him harder, he became the Phantom of the Opera. My stalker Bobby was Bobby the Hutt. I got off easy. Whatever misdeeds he was up to, Darth Banger was always rocking a guitar. In fact, his starship was a giant Flying V. He was just a stereotypical metal head, but also leader of the Evil Empire, so I went with it knowing I could have had it so much worse.
When I showed up at school with the new short hair that I was forced to adopt, Brett-Lore had to reflect it. I couldn’t be Darth Banger anymore. Because I am Italian, and because I now resembled Mussolini more than Metallica, my character was briefly reborn as Il Duce, the Guido. Later on, I tried letting my facial hair grow in and suddenly my new character became Beardo-Weirdo.
This was all very depressing to me. I didn’t care that I had a job. All I could think about was that I had seemingly lost the only thing that made me different. Now my ears stuck out. I looked like everyone else. And now even my comic book was becoming something I didn’t enjoy anymore.
The one interesting thing about work: for me, in my life, every job introduced me to new music. The guys at the grocery store liked heavier music than Motley Crue and Bon Jovi. They liked Sabbath, and Zeppelin. As soon as I was able, I added We Sold Out Soul for Rock ‘N’ Roll to my collection. “Sweet Leaf” became my new favourite although I had no idea what it was about. A girl named Leaf, possibly?
I worked at the grocery store for about nine months, leaving before the start of a busy summer. The hair started growing back as soon as I could make it. The Duce character never worked for Brett-Lore, and as soon as I was able, I forced Darth Banger back into the story. The other authors agreed but under one condition.
Everybody in the comic got teased pretty mercilessly and so I had to pay more dues before Banger was allowed to return. Il Duce had to be put through hell, and so I drew all sorts of embarrassing shit for him to go through, before he finally transformed back into Darth, this time with a nice single-seater Flying V spaceship to pilot himself.
As my hair grew back, I started to feel like myself again! I was happier.
It reached record lengths by the early 90s. But the landscape had changed. Long hair was more common, and looking unique less easy. One day my dad made a comment about how he’d pay me $10 per inch if I cut my hair off, so I went and did it. He didn’t think I would, but I did. Some of my biggest rocker heroes had shed their locks. By this time I’d discovered something almost better than hair: beards.
The fact was, try as I might, I never had “good” long hair. It always wanted to curl up; get out of control. Without investing in styling and products, it would never really look “good”. And that defeated the whole “effortless” idea. But it took grunge to get me to the point where it didn’t matter to me anymore.
It’s funny how something as superficial as hair took up so much of my time and energy, but the fact is, these things used to matter. They used to matter a lot! Maybe not in the grand scheme of things, but when you’re in highschool, the grand scheme of things was limited to the walls of the school. I just wanted to walk my own path my own way. I think I did OK.
* Later on I wrote a tune about this subject called “Clones”, a bitter examination of all the ball-capped lookalikes in school.