Overheard in the 3rd floor women’s restroom in Franklin Hall:
“What’s with Sledzik and the hair thing. Is he going hippie on us — or hermit-y?”
It’s the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about. Unless you’re good friends, it’s impolite to ask about personal appearance. So, instead, we chat in the bathroom or whisper out of earshot.
Enough with the gossip. Today, I meet the elephant head-on.
What’s up with the #%@*ing hair, dude?
So glad you asked.
With long hair, I can hear better. Last summer, I sought treatment for a longstanding condition I call CHS, also known as “can’t hear shit.” Yep, the old man got hearing aids. I wearied of asking students to repeat themselves, and my wife grew tired of shouting instructions. Today, thanks to my friends at Oticon, I hear way more shit than I care to. It’s a mixed blessing.
I decided to grow hair over my ears a that point, but just long enough to cover the appliances. Vanity is motivator at my age, and I don’t fight it. The hearing aids followed laser eye surgery 5 years ago. Can a nip-tuck be far away?
Then, things escalated.
Long hair is seriously cool. I learned this during a 2-week trip to the West Coast last summer. Old hippies and burnt-out surfer dudes abound in NoCal. They have ponytails, earrings, and the occasional tattoo. I’m not big on piercings and ink, but my wife — she was diggin’ those old hippies. So what are my options? After 33 years of marriage, you gotta keep ’em interested, right?
Why not go for a ponytail? After all, there’s a little bit of hippie in everybody who came of age in the late 60s. That’s why I grew my hair and headed for the party school of the nation in 1971. It was “far out” while it lasted, and I intend to recapture at least some of that in my old age.
Long hair as a mid-life entitlement. OK, I’m past the mid-life crisis stage — unless I live to 112. But in the mid-90s, I did grow a cheesy mullet ponytail that looked like crap and tangled in the breeze. This time, I’m gonna get it right — a full-blown freak flag. All that can stop me is that awkward 12 months between “clean cut” and “duuude!”
I trust you’ll help me through the transition.
Because I can. You all know the dog joke, so I won’t bother. As a tenured college professor, I know being quirky is more or less expected. No problem. I’ve always been a renegade, just ask my mom and dad. They’re in their 80s now, and they’ll like my present mane about as much as the one I grew in 1971. They’ll get over it. They love me.
So there you have it: the elephant exposed. And you in the restroom — stop getting all WTF? over my hair. I’m old and increasingly eccentric. But if you pay attention, I can help you a get a job! Check the track record.
I know what’s coming next: What’s with Sledzik and the cargo-pocket pants? You’ll find the answer in my wardrobe mantra: “All khaki, all the time.”