Trimming the tresses

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A little Facebookish, here, I confess. This topic, my haircut, I mean. And I am not a fan of Facebook.  Well, I do enjoy looking at photos of my grandchildren posted there. I like that. Those kiddos are spread all across North America so I’ll take what I can get.  But sorry. I simply bristle against lining up like a lemming to be Mark Zuckerberg’s own store inventory, available for him to sell and sell again to the highest bidder. Enslave me, Mark! I can take my freedom no longer! I embrace my inner narcissist! Post me! Sell me! “Friend” me! No wait! “Unfriend” me! “Friend” me again! Give away my email address! No wait! Charge for it but you keep the cash! I insist! Make lots of money “mining” my personal information! Social media indeed.  Sounds so innocuous. Sheesh!

While we’re roaming about in this donkey pasture, I might as well tell you I just don’t really give a flying rip about any of my “friend’s” high scores on the “Pet the Cow While She Ain’t Lookin” or “Farmyard Hockey” or “Texas Turd Tossing” Facebook games. If I didn’t know better, I might think all of these “games” are really designed to keep a feller staying put on Facebook longer and longer, leaking and spewing more and more personal information into the “Data For Sale” pile. But, I’m an admitted cynic.

Pre-snip, not to be confused with a parsnip, which I may eat and write about some time.

Pre-snip, not to be confused with a parsnip, which I may eat and write about some time.

Personally, I prefer bull fighting anyway. With a real bull. With a real anything. Face to face, though, please. Then we can communicate, interact, and be friends.  Yes, me and the bull. Still better than an electronic post-trading with someone who may or may not be all-the-way real. What a digitally disconnected pile of that which comes out the rear of the bull I want to fight!

I know, I know. I have a Facebook page myself. Hypocritical, perhaps, am I? But here’s what I like…I am actually taking advantage of Facebook.  Yep. I have a Facebook page to promote my blog, something I control. My data is my data on my blog. So there. Okay. It’s not perfect. They’re still making money off me.

But hey, I’m a friendly guy. If you want to be my friend, great! Don’t “poke” me for I cannot guarantee a docile reaction to whatever the heck a Facebook “poke” may be. Just give me a call on the telephone. Email me for my number.  I’m serious.  Even adding simple voice-to-voice connection radically improves the communication experience between two people. Radically. From 5% to about 35% effective, studies show. So we’ll talk and maybe get together for some soup at Panera Bread. How age-56 of me, you might say. Ha! On the contrary. Face to face over soup, even broccoli-cheese or black bean if we must, is so much more powerfully effective for authentic human interaction than any of that digital doo doo. I’ll have mine in the bread bowl please.

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Ali Baba the Purple Sheik and the Shampoo Girl

But you won’t call. Not many actually want real communication or friendship. And in reality, I’m not all that friendly myself. Real friendship is too difficult and time consuming. These days, a telephone call is often considered rude. How dare I just haul off and call someone, interrupting their daily life without warning? Better(?) are Facebook posts which are simply one-way declarations, not conversations, creating an illusion of information-sharing—a false connectedness.  An overlay of pretend closeness, allowing a person to gather information…albeit carefully selected, monitored, groomed, and sometimes Photoshopped information, about another person and “feel” connected. Ahhh. Such intimacy. For some, I suppose, maybe that is enough. “I’m not alone. I’m not lonely. Look…I have 462 friends.” How comforting? No. How sad, I think. Come on, how many friends can one human have? Still, I’ve heard some say Facebook does help them feel “connected.” I do hope so. And I guess that depends on the definition of the word.

On top of lopping off most communication effectiveness by eliminating the vital nonverbal component of communication in email and texting, there’s the real danger that exists as people go on “friending” people they don’t know like they were baseball cards or comic books or Beanie Babies or little glass llamas or whatever gets collected these days. They often wind up with more than a few internet whack jobs pestering them seeking cash, handing out real estate in Africa, recruiting secret agents, proclaiming true love, asking for more cash, or just attempting to infect others with contagious insanity. It’s all a scam to sell Prozac, I think.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if Eli Lilly & Company (makers of Prozac) is among those buying boatloads of Facebook user personal data. By the way, how are you feeling, on a scale of 1 to 10? Facebook knows.

Okay, I’m done. I really am concerned about what digital communication is doing and will do to real face-to-face interacting. The truth is many people are lonely and I believe Facebook executives are working very hard to profit from that loneliness by offering an illusion of connectedness to lure us into giving them valuable personal information they can sell.

cut3But here I am. Back to why I showed up here today. Reporting about having my locks lessened Saturday. A stupid haircut. Who really cares? Probably just me.  Celebrating my own inner self-admiration. My malignant-narcissist father would have been so proud. At least it’s all here on my blog.

So yes, last Saturday I did what I’ve never done before…entered a hair salon and asked a hair stylist to do as she thought best with my hair. Be advised I’m telling this story because it marks the end of Phase 1 of my own little communication/sociological experiment in perception. I am an amateur scientist, after all. Okay, a mad scientist. Well, maybe just a little nuts with a hairstyle that closely resembled Albert Einstein’s.

I’ve already described in detail in past essays the many varied reactions to my barber avoidance for most of this year. The resulting hair growth was perfect for my two major acting roles and for studying the reaction of those around me as I wandered off the “script” of how I am supposed to look at this point in my life.

Actually, maybe it was more about people’s reaction to the change they observed. Unexplainable. Confounding.  After more than 20 years with a Marine Corps style buzz hair cut, all of a sudden I had long, white, “crazy” hair. “What happened to you, Bill?” I heard that question in many forms from many people. Directly and indirectly, as I became the subject of more than a rumor or two. I thoroughly enjoyed it all.

But I’m not without a modicum of common sense. And I can see without the help of glasses. And there is a mirror in my bathroom above the sink I use every day. As much as I tried to will it into existence, I could not make the hair on the top of my head get with the program and grow to match the rest. I couldn’t ignore the obvious. That crazy hair really didn’t look very good with nuthin’ on top. I made an appointment with a stylist.

cut5Yet I hate to just give up. Off to Costco I went for one last chance. I had a box of that miracle drug Rogaine in my hand at the checkout. As I waited my turn to pay my $50 for Hair Hope, I trembled with anticipation as I imagined the top of my head becoming a filled-in forest of fertile follicles (I like alliteration almost as much as I like puns and spoonerisms). I also used the time to actually read the Rogaine box. Oh. It only works for guys who are bald in the back of their heads, not the front like mine. Utterly dejected, I left the Rogaine box right on top of the special giant jar of pretzel nuggets infused with organic peanut butter. I did ease my sorrow with a “Berry Berry Sundae” from the Costco snack bar. Home I rode on my bike, with my long flowing white sideburns outside my helmet flapping against my face on the open road. At least I was cool.

But then the theater…the very place my hair was most at home, turned on me. I showed up for one of the last rehearsals before “Harvey” opened. I met the guy who was doing the lights and sound for the shows. Later, he came up to me and asked, “Do you know who you look just like?”

I thought, “Here we go…another adoring fan. He’s going to tell me I look just like a young Kenny Rogers, or at least Albert Einstein. I love my hair. I love being me.” So I said with a big smile, “Why no, good sir, tell me who do I look just like?”

He said, “You look just like Cookie the Clown from Bozo’s Circus! Your hair is just like Cookie’s!”

Cookie or me?

Meet Cookie the Clown

What???!!!  I was horrified! Not what I was expecting. Cookie the Clown? Not even Oliver O. Oliver, another of Bozo’s clown pea-dogs? Yes, I remembered Cookie from the Chicago Bozo’s Circus show. And I reluctantly realized the resemblance. Started hunting backstage for some clippers right then.

The last straw came while looking at the still photos of my character Dr. Chumley after the play. The hair I had come to love had now turned on me and looked like a rug that was slipping right off the back of my head in photo after photo. And me without a rubber anti-slip rug pad. The hair had to go. My friends at work were taking bets on what I would look like after “the cut.” One of them saw fit to announce my impending trim to our weekly meeting with company executives…that I would no longer be working diligently toward a pony tail. Important information conveyed with regularity. Power of perception.

Well, at least now I had something on my head for a stylist to work with. In I went to “Janeen’s on 45th,” for an appointment with Janeen herself. No second fiddles are going to manage my mane. My wife has been going to Janeen for many years so I had a reasonable amount of ease going in. Plopped down on the purple couch, looked around, felt way out of my comfort zone, strapped in to wait my turn, and hoped no Marine or motorcycle buddies would see me. Too late now.

cut7I picked up a “Men’s Styles” book. Laughed hard at the photos of 20-something blonde guys with hair styles that said, “I Just Woke Up, I Know I Look So Good, and You Will Never Make It!” Put the book down and hopped up to show Janeen just what I wanted…my picture at age 16. Sat back down for a few minutes to let her get comfortable with the idea, then jumped back up. “Janeen, if that one doesn’t fly, here’s one.” Now I showed her the Albert Einstein photo.  She said she could go either way. I liked her style. Okay, the stage was set.

You know the drill. One girl shampooed my hair. What? That’s never happened before in my whole life. Well, maybe my momma washed my hair when I was an itty bitty baby and my momma she rocked me in that cradle in them old cotton fields back home but that’s different.  Always just ran the bar of Dial over my own head, thank you. Later, when I became wealthy, I did move up to Suave Ocean Breeze. I didn’t really need shampoo…just kind of a controlled opulence. But it left my hair feeling so soft and manageable. See, I can adapt. Shampoo Girl tilted my head back into a bucket and soaped it all up and hosed it all down. It was sort of like some kind of portable baptism for evangelicals on the go. Then she stuck a purple towel on my head and just left it there. Can this get any more bizarre? I think she was as uncomfortable with me as I was with her. Fair enough. But I, Ali Baba the Purple Sheik, had already washed my hair that morning. Oh well. I’m in this thing now. Can’t be running around mistaken for Cookie the Clown.

Next was my own personal consultation with Janeen regarding “the cut.” She had me at a disadvantage as I sat there in her chair with a soggy head. Still, I gave her free reign. “No cutting it short. Longer hair fits your personality,” she said. Okay,  Janeen now had a new fan. Cut away!

You underestimate the power of the dark side.

You underestimate the power of the dark side.

The rest was a blur. Never did figure out what those metal clips attached to my head were for. I looked just like Darth Vader with his helmet removed. Or maybe Frankenstein about to get a much-needed shock therapy power jolt right in the noggin. Whatever it was, others in the salon found it entertaining. Glad to oblige. I was busy though. Busy thinking what I could still do to shake things up a bit. You know what’s coming. Yes, I did it.

Janeen explained how my hair in the back had a nice gray color….the front and sides were white. How about all one color? Here, Janeen was a little like Facebook…working on using the data she mined to profit with an up-sell. It’s okay. I’m on board. She’s not pretending to provide “friends” for me while secretly coloring my hair for a fee. Color for me…subtle, consistent, and different.  In the interest of shocking myself and others, I said, “Do it!”

So my hair is now much shorter but not even close to a buzz cut. And darker… gray with silver and white coming through a little. I jumped the first two or three times I looked in the mirror. Who is that guy! Yes, I got my hair cut and colored. I’m 56 but don’t look a day over 54. Amazing. So much action for one day. I needed a rest.

Darth or me?

Darth or me?

I may not do the color thing again, though I do like it. Some have noticed, others have not. They see the cut but not the color. Perfect.  And it was an experiment for future theater roles I may try for beyond the crazy old white-haired guy type. The shorter length is good…no more Cookie the Clown or Kenny Rogers either. Just me. My helmet fits better though I’m no longer looking like Einstein. And I’ve become reacquainted with my ears. They’re nice ears. I’ve missed them. And it is much easier to scratch them when they itch and insert my earphones into them when I’m watching a “Lie To Me” episode on my iPad. You know, give them the attention they deserve. Just looking for the upside.

I still find it fascinating that my hair length and style got so much attention from a wide range of people. Even got some “likes” on Facebook, a notion that is just hilarious to me. Click on a “Like” button to communicate my feelings about something? Unbelievable. Made me feel warm all over. Or something. Perception and its closely related companion stereotyping are interesting concepts. Powerful phenomena in the communication process. Something as insignificant as my longer hair altered how others saw and thought of me.

How easy it is to dismiss a person, to choose to disregard, ignore, or reject a person based on little more than a hairstyle, clothing, car, education, whatever.  How easy it is also to be dismissed by someone without even the opportunity to say a word of introduction.

All done.

All done.

Maybe that’s why Facebook is so popular. There, it’s easy to manage what I want others to see about me while eliminating other things I don’t want them to see, all in an attempt to be “friended.” In my admittedly silly hair experiment, I wandered directly into real life with hair that changed others’ perception of me. On Facebook, I can choose and alter photos and information that show me exactly how I want to be seen, not necessarily how I am. With my actual hair, I saw reactions and heard the comments personally. Risky, funny, and sometimes painful. Facebook puts it all at a comfortable distance with “likes” and little hearts and “friending” based on my carefully managed persona.

For now though, according to Science Daily, “researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have found that a prostaglandin known as PGD2 and its derivative, 15-dPGJ2, inhibit hair growth. The PGD2-related inhibition occurred through a receptor called GPR44, which is a promising therapeutic target for androgenetic alopecia in both men and women with hair loss and thinning.” Ahhh. Dreaming of defeating the evil PGD2 and ordering some androgenetic alopecia to slather on my nekkid head like barbecue sauce at a dry hog roast. Oh, and I’ll wait for your call, my real friend.

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