January 20th, 2021

Long hair a commodity to wear with pride

By Lethbridge Herald on March 14, 2020.

Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald
“Hair, huh, good god
What is it good for
Hair, huh yeah,
What is it good for”
If you remember the 1970 Edwin Starr anti-war anthem, you’ll know the original lyrics of the song I just referenced. You’ll also remember the era when long hair flowed like cheap beer at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert.
Those were the good old days when youth decided society’s ideas of what looked good and proper didn’t apply to them. I miss those days because in the hippie era, there was a sense of freedom from society’s constructs and a desire to quit judging people on their looks alone.
I miss those days because society now has become in some ways as rigid as it was in the 1950s and earlier when certain styles determined who people were or were supposed to be. That meant wearing hair short and keeping it that way.
But short hair has nothing to do with who we are. To say a person looks professional because of it is ridiculous. Being a guy who has always preferred long hair, I’m really noticing the prejudices of this world since I decided to let it grow before I turned 60 last year.
I’m a guy who grew up in the 1960s and ’70s when people were willing to stand up against the pre-determined ideals of how they should look. In the ’80s when the perm came into vogue, I embraced the look being a motorcyclist because permed hair is ideal when wearing a helmet. Just pull pick out of pocket, flick it through the hair a few times and voila, hat hair is gone. Ditto after playing ball or hockey. The perm can truly be a man’s best friend. For a man who still has hair, that is, and I have a lot.
I was originally going to have the hair done in a perm last year to freak people out but I could tell my stylist wasn’t that thrilled. As she told me last week, it needs to be longer to get the full effect, which to me sounded like a challenge. Since last spring, I’ve instead adopted a modified mullet look and mullets are coming back in vogue. Maybe not in Lethbridge except at Whoop-Up Days or a tractor pull, but they are coming back.
And I’d like to think I’m sort of leading the forefront here in southern Alberta because unlike so many of my friends and family, I still have hair. And for the most part, it hasn’t gone grey yet.
So I’m celebrating hair. I’m revelling in the fact I need a blow dryer in the morning, which has also come in handy when the car doors are frozen shut.
With a forehead as high as a billboard, hair comes in handy for me, too. It hides the fact that I could make money selling advertising on my head, which may not be such a bad idea now that I’m a senior.
That forehead has stood out in a crowd since I was born. I used to be embarrassed about it because I swear my forehead was taller than some of my friends in kindergarten. If I bent a little bit, my forehead could have been used to provide shade or rain protection on school outings. Or as a picnic table if I laid down.
I’m kind of surprised a free climber hasn’t yet offered to take it on.
So hair helps cover it.
Co-workers joke with me but outside the office I’ve heard some pretty snide remarks and gotten strange looks.
Now I’m starting to understand the grief people with piercings and tattoos suffer on a daily basis.
Society doesn’t understand — or isn’t willing to make the effort to understand — those who don’t march to the beat of the same drummer.
People who don’t conform with the anonymous throngs are mocked, belittled and discarded like trash on garbage day as being unworthy of a place in our world.
I’ve learned that in the past year and it’s really pathetic. I’m getting so self-conscious that when I hit the dog park I make sure the dentures are in lest my toothlessness and hair combine to scare away other walkers, even at the break of day when nobody else is usually at Popson Park except for me, my animals and the resident porcupine who even avoids me.
New neighbours, if they saw me sans dogs, might think I’m one of the unfamiliar people our block is getting concerned about emerging from and entering strange vehicles idling in alleys at night and before dawn.
People can be vicious to those who don’t fit their own personal ideas of what is an acceptable look.
I ignore the contempt hurled my way because like tattoos or piercings, long hair doesn’t make us unprofessional. It doesn’t make us uncouth, uncivilized or uneducated.
It doesn’t mean we are dealing drugs in residential neighbourhoods.
In fact, the people I see in these cars, trucks and on bicycles are way more clean-cut than me. They may even have real teeth.
Long hair doesn’t make us unworthy to run for office or sit in the executive office of a corporation. The look we choose is one which we feel comfortable with in our own skin. And we longhairs have as much right to be comfortable as someone who looks like they’re in army bootcamp or selling dope near an elementary school.
We have the right to walk the streets or go to restaurants without being subject to sneers and whispers simply because our hair is well over our collars. And now that the hearing aids are in full-time by necessity, I hear the whispers in public.
We longhairs are who we are and the length of our hair does not mean we are less worthy of kindness and consideration as others. If our world has become the type of intolerant, hateful place it could be in the era of our parents and our grandparents, it is in trouble. And we may need a revolution of longhairs to force change yet again.
The fact that a column like this has to actually be written in 2020 is sad. It’s an indictment on a society that needs to embrace all of us, regardless of our hairstyles or our fashion sense. Anybody know where I can buy a Kenora dinner jacket here? (Google it.)
We need to quit being so superficial and judgmental.
Looking forward to getting that perm in the spring. Watch out. Or look away.
THANK YOU: Thank you, Tony and Helen Giacchetta and your family for the card and the kind words about the column I wrote on my dad.
Coming back to the office on Monday and seeing that really made my day.
And also thanks to you, Flanagan family for your kind words. Sorry I missed you on Tuesday.
That column was without a doubt the hardest one I’ve ever written and I appreciate the kindness of all of you more than I can say.
Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter.

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