My hair is so gray it makes thunder clouds look bright and cheery. Being gray doesn’t bother me. After all, at least I still have a full head of hair. I don’t have to do comb-overs, shave my head or wear a baseball cap 24 hours a day to pretend that I still have hair. And it’s distinguished looking. Strangers might think I’m a doctor or a lawyer or a high school graduate instead of the boob I really am. At least they might think that until I open my mouth.
Like many men, for years I thought my hair had magical, mystical Samson-like powers.
“Who’s going to get the promotion? Let’s give it to the guy with the best hair.”
“Who’s going get into this exclusive nightclub? The guy with the best hair.”
“Who’s dating that supermodel? The guy with the nice hair.”
“Who should we arrest? The guy with the bad hair.” Look at those mug shots. Bad haircuts, every one.
The great thing about having gray hair is that it freaks out teenagers. Gray hair bothers them almost as much as nose rings and tongue studs bother me. Sometimes I point at it and say, “This will be you in 20 years.”
Gray hair can be rewarding. I’m always getting senior discounts at stores where all the cashiers are teenagers. Though I’m still a few years away from qualifying for most discount programs, teens see nothing but the gray hair and figure I must be getting birthday greetings from Willard Scott. My wife, who is a month older than I am but still has black hair, gets carded when she buys beer or wine.
Teens would certainly be surprised to learn the accomplishments of many grayheads. Do they know that it was a person with gray hair that invented the light bulb and the phonograph? Not a teenager. Do they know that it was a person with gray hair who built the local shopping mall? Do they know that it was a person with gray hair who invented the cell phone? Maybe it wasn’t invented by someone with gray hair, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t invented by a teenager. Charlton Heston’s Moses had gray hair, a huge impressive head of gray hair – kind of like mine, I like to think. Powerful. Manly. Strong. I’m gray and I’m proud.
So I’m immune to those commercials on television for hair products that color “only” the gray, gradually, so no one will notice. First of all, who’s kidding whom? Sure, no one will notice – if you work at home and your job is being a hermit. However, if you have a real job at a factory or an office, people will notice. They may not say anything, but they will notice. I worked at an ad agency once where a gray-haired proofreader named Brian took a month long vacation and came back as Betsy. No one said anything, but we all noticed that she was suddenly a blond.
My fantasy that my gray hair is an asset was cruelly shattered yesterday when a short, fat jowly man wearing a spectacularly ugly Hawaiian shirt two sizes too big for him came up to me at a picnic and introduced himself. He had a boil on the end of his nose with hair coming out of his nose and ears and a distracting piece of food sticking on the left side of his mouth, a tic in his left eye and he reeked of cheap whiskey. His hair however, was the same gray as mine and the same cut. It was spectacular. “I can’t tell you,” he hiccupped, “how many people mistake me for you.”
Now I’m wondering if there’s a product out there that will make me go naturally bald? Slowly over time, so no one will notice?
Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2008, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.