Sunday, November 4, 2012

Flow It, Show It, Long as I Can Grow It. . .

My friend Flutterby posted, not too long ago, about the history of her hair, which got me to thinking that there was probably a story or two for me to tell, along similar lines. . .


I grew up in the 60s (which really lasted into the early 70s, but that's a different topic for a different time). My senior year of high school and freshman year of college, I, uh, grew my hair long.

Before that, my dad and my coaches generally conspired together to keep said growth in abeyance.  It is difficult to describe to folks who weren't there for the fun, but the years of my adolescence were marked by seemingly endless conflict between young men and their fathers over the length of their hair (the sons' hair, not the fathers').  It almost seems comical now, but even the 1964-vintage Beatles haircuts could inspire men of my dad's generation to something close to apoplexy (and hey, how could I pass up an opportunity to embed a Beatles photo in my blog?).

Dad used to grumble, when he saw a 'long-haired' young man on the street, "You can't even tell he's not a girl, if you see him from behind."  If I pointed out that his butt was not nearly wide or round enough to be a girl's, Dad would get on my case for looking at girls' butts too closely.  It was seriously no-win.

My senior year, though, Dad took a new job in a city 500 miles away, and during the six months or so before the family moved to join him in the new city, he only saw me on weekends, during which he was pretty much sleep-deprived, and had other things to deal with than keeping track of the length of my hair.  And Mom was a bit mellower about it.  Through a rather convoluted set of circumstances, I also didn't play football that fall, so my football coaches also  lost such traction as they'd ever had on my fashion sense as pertaining to the length of my hair.  And, to be perfectly, brutally candid, if they all hadn't made such a fuss about the length of my hair, I quite probably wouldn't have felt the appeal of growing it long ('cuz, yeah, I'm just that kind of contrary, when I put my mind to it, although I was generally quite compliant toward the authorities in my life; but when that authority was no longer in force, well, then, woo-hoo!).  I promised myself that I would never fight with my kids over their hair the way my dad had fought with me (*sigh*; mohawks and piercings hadn't occurred to anyone yet. . .)

In the fullness of time, at its longest, my hair eventually reached almost to my shoulders, thick and wavy, and parted down the middle. Once, one of the ladies at church grabbed me and asked, "Who does your hair?"  When I told her that it just grew that way, and all I did to it was wash it, she made a sour face, and muttered, "I would KILL for hair like that, and you just get it for free. . ."  Well, didn't I just feel so blessed. . .

At its longest, I could just pull it together into a pony-tail.  Which, in the long, hot summer of '73, working as I did at a manual-labor-type job, was something of a practical necessity.  Sometime during the fall term at college, I got a girl I knew to cut it back to something more like jaw-length.  Between how hot it was, and how long it took to dry after I washed it (to say nothing of shampoo expenses; those 59-cent bottles of cheap shampoo could really add up), I decided to scale back on the sheer bulk of my hair, to something just a tad more manageable (at least by mid-70s standards; it was still long enough to keep my ears warm in the winter, without having to resort to a hat).   By the time I finished college, I had returned to parting my hair on the side, and even though it was still fairly long and thick by today's standards (the 70s were famously renowned for 'helmet-hair'), I was a much more conventional-looking young man by then (here is a photo from our wedding, in the summer of 1980).  And it wasn't many years after that, before I became engaged in a stubborn (and, alas, probably ultimately futile) holding-action against follicular attrition.


When 1F was somewhere around 6 or so (thus dating the event to the late 80s, when I'd have been in my early 30s), she was poking around in my desk one day, and found my old freshman ID card from college (reproduced here for your edification and enjoyment; the photo was taken roughly 3-4 months before max-length).

She checked it out for a minute, and couldn't quite wrap her young mind around what it seemed to be saying, that this was, by golly, a photo of her dear ol' dad.  She brought it to me, asking, "Is this a picture of you, Dad?"  When I confirmed that I had, in fact, looked like that in an earlier lifetime, she fell on the floor laughing, and said, "You look like a mommy!"

"Yeah," I answered, sighing, "that's what my dad said, too. . ."


  1. Excellent comment on those strange times. I was crew cut all the way, probably on your dads side. Now retiresd and mostly. Bald I am growing a rats tail....just because I can!! I don't really even like it, but the mrs does so....isn't that why we do anything with our please the Mrs.???
    And it pisses some people off!!

  2. That is some seriously thick hair!! It is amazing how men seem to get the thick hair and eyelashes, while women yearn for those things.

    Hair styles always look best to me when they are updated. I like your 70s style, but lets keep it in the 70s. And let's keep Mohawks in the 80s. Please.

  3. Gosh this brought back memories because my brother had long hair during that time; my dad died young so he wasn't an influence sadly, but my mom allowed the long hair somewhat reluctantly (something like choose your battles I guess). Funny thing is now he's bald. Same with hubby; he had long hair thathe grew after he graduated, after he turned 18, and he too had the father who would comment that long hair belonged on girls, etc. He has one picture left of his long hair. He likes to look at it occasionally to remember he had hair at one time because he too is balding. Me, with our son, he could pretty much do what he wanted with his hair; got his ears pierced, fine. Was a bit upset with the tattoo he had on his arm that could be seen, not because of content of it, but wondering if it would be a hindrance down the line with potential job opportunities. Time will tell.

    enjoy Sunday


  4. ha! your dad put 1F up to it! pretty funny though. my husband is bald. has been for a long, long time. the kids were stunned when they were small to see his senior portrait which included long hair.

  5. joeh - I know a guy who retired from the National Guard a year or so ago, and he's now sporting a silver-gray pony tail, just because for the first time in 40-odd years, he can. And his wife likes it, too. . .

    Bijoux - You should see my brother's eyelashes. . .

    We cut a deal with our two youngest sons, back when 7M was in 2nd grade. The night before the last day of school, we'd give 'em a mohawk, but it was gone before the next Sunday's Mass. . .

    betty - I'm not a big fan of the tats. I keep thinkin', what's that gonna look like when you're 75? And, like you said, the potential impact on employment.

    But when 3M got Micah 7:8-9 tattooed on his upper arm, I couldn't complain too much. . .

    And I always enjoy my Sundays, especially the one in the fall, when we get the extra hour of sleep. . .

    Lime - Hmmmmm. . . you raise in interesting possibility, that I hadn't considered. . .

    I think the best use of the youthful 'long-hair' photos is just to keep our kids off-balance, just a little. . .


  6. Tell 1F that if she ever sees a "mommy" with sideburns like that, run the other way.

    I have many similar tales, up to and including the current lack of foliage on top. That's what burns me up about the constant battles with My Dad. He was as bald then as I am now. You'd think he would have let me enjoy it for the short time I could have...

  7. Suldog - I'm tempted to make a smartass comment about some women and their mustaches, but I probably shouldn't. . .

    It wasn't this huge, festering thing that wrecked my relationship with my dad for years to come, but looking back, it was just so unnecessary.

    I like to think that Dad came around, eventually. When he retired, he grew a snow-white beard that made him look like Santa Claus; and of course, he got the idea from me (at least, that's my story, and I'm stickin' with it). . .

  8. OH my, this brought a smile to my face. I recall, as a child, first seeing pics of my own father with a hairstyle very similar to your "rebellious shaggy cut" and being flabbergasted. He also had voluminous, wavy, shiny hair. I agree with Bijoux about the unfairness of it all.

    There wasn't really any conflict in my family about hairstyle -- perhaps having grown up throughout that whole generation, my parents chose different battles. I'm sure they were just glad I wasn't self-piercing with safety pins, etc. (hahaha, fat chance of me remaining conscious for that!) but I do recall in Bible College, having one prof that was very adamant and vocal about the shame of women having short hair. Which, me, in the middle of my pixie-cut glory, could only roll my eyes derisively at.

  9. Flutter - Now that I think of it, I don't think you're a whole lot older than 1F. . . And choosing battles is one of the key parenting skillz, fersure. . .

    And rolling yer eyes seems about the right response. . . Us teenage Jesus-freak-types were very fond of pointing out that "Jesus had long hair, too, y'know". . .

  10. "Jesus had long hair, too, y'know"

    yeah, prove it mister! :-)

    my hair has always been beastly and like you i've been verbally assaulted by jealous women. including Mom. go figure.

    i growed it long for a few years just because i disliked haircuts. as in, Mom always HAD to do 'em and, um, skills were kinda lacking. but that's another story.

  11. Xavier - Well, yeah, OK. . . Aside from the universal tradition of Christian art, going back to the earliest Christian centuries, in which Jesus is represented with what would today be (and certainly would have been by my dad in the 60s) considered 'long hair'. . . (the Romans, at least the military ones, wore their hair short, but Jesus was certainly no Roman). . .

    Now, if I wanted to go all 'ultra-Catholic' on you, I'd reference the Shroud of Turin, but I'll refrain. . .


    My dad cut my hair when I was young, but by the time I was in my teens and had a paper route (and thus could afford my own haircuts; besides which, the barber shop was one of my customers), I was in charge of my own haircuts. Then I just had to avoid the bald barber, when I went to the shop. . .

    And, between Jen and me, we cut our boys' hair at home. Just the thought of buying haircuts for five boys (at $20 per) could make me break out in hives. . .

  12. don't feel too certain on any of that, none of it has origins from the time. some kinda close but none any more verifiable than the cardiff giant .....

  13. Oh, don't take anything I say more seriously than it deserves. . . But us young Jesus-Freaks DID say that. . .

    And besides, you know how us Catholics are about Tradition, right?


  14. true that.

    and yeah, i know all about that tradition stuff ..... take that whatever way you wish, it's all good