Once upon a time, I had hair.
That period—up to age 29 or so—was marked by several unfortunate hairstyles, ranging from a childhood “bowl cut” to the near-mullet that marked the extent of my teenage rebellion phase. (When you attend a Catholic, all-boys prep high school, the definition of “rebellion” is easily misconstrued.)
At an Italian airport in 2002, I happened to glance at a video screen showing an overhead view of passengers in the security area. Someone had a big bare patch on the crown of his head, and I distinctly remember thinking, “Wow, that guy’s really bald!” When the balding head on the screen proceeded to mirror my own side to side head movements exactly, I realized it was the end of an era.
Later that year, I was in Montreal, and decided to try shaving my head for the first time. If it didn’t work out, I figured I could at least partially grow back what I’d lost before returning home. Even though it was a bit of a shock to see bright white skin where before there had been hair, it was winter, so the contrast between my newly exposed head and the rest of my face wasn’t too extreme. (Hint: if you’re Caucasian and prone to suntanned skin, never attempt your first head shave in the summertime, unless you want to look like a giant bird just hit the bullseye.)
Having no hair was great. There was no longer any need to go to a barber—I could shave my head every day with a cheap razor. And that’s what I did. For a while.
Then I began working from home, and suddenly there was no longer a pressing need to shave every day. So why bother? After a few days of not shaving, the remaining hairs on my head grew to a length that allowed me to push them back and forth, like bristles. I told myself it looked rugged, but really I just looked like a guy who was too lazy to shave, and might serve as a giant paint brush in a pinch.
These days, I shave more often than I used to, mainly so my school-aged children don’t become known as the-kids-whose-Dad-looks-like-he-just-returned-from-a-week-long-foraging-expedition. If I do let my hair grow out, however, the sides get long, while a good-sized strip on the top remains bare, resulting in what I like to call “The Ben Franklin Look.”
Last year, my kids got Chia Pets as gifts (with Scooby Doo and SpongeBob ceramic planters—the Chia Pet product line has expanded boldly over the years). As instructed, we smeared wet chia seeds onto the characters’ smooth pates, and sure enough, within a week, Scooby and SpongeBob were enjoying lush, green, leafy hair.
I’ve often said that if I could afford electrolysis for my head, removing the need for shaving altogether, I’d do it. (Aside from being prohibitively expensive, there’s also the matter of safety. I generally prefer to avoid “electro”-anything where my skull is concerned.) But after 10 years of baldness, you kind of forget what it’s like to confidently emerge from a pool with dripping wet hair attached securely to your head, or to have a woman seductively run her hands through your hair. If these sound like images from a decade-old Men’s Hair Club commercial, well… guilty as charged.
Assuming an average lifespan, I figure I’ll end up spending around 1/3 of my life with hair, and 2/3 without. So why not tip that ratio by becoming a “Chia Pete”? Think of the benefits—growing chia seeds on my scalp would help soak up rain and harmful sun rays while also insulating my body, as well as being a ready source of healthful snacks (chia seeds are high in fiber and omega-3 acids).
I’ve never dyed my hair green, so there would also be the novel experience of getting to go punk for a while. And it would be good for the environment. They plant gardens on rooftops, right? Was it so crazy to consider one last dome-covering blaze of glory?
Yes. Yes it was.
The truth is, I’m happy without hair, and Chia Pete was just a passing fancy. Still… it can be tedious, shaving every day. So if you find yourself out on the streets come Halloween Night, and you see someone with a very authentic-looking bush of green hair—or for that matter, someone who looks uncannily like Ben Franklin—do be sure to say hello.
Peter Dabbene lives and writes in Hamilton. His website is peterdabbene.com. The print version of science-fiction graphic novel ARK (illustrated by Ryan Bayliss) can be pre-ordered through Amazon.com. His book Spamming the Spammers (with Dieter P. Bieny) is available through amazon.com and other online retailers. His poem “The Exorcism of Tom Bombadil” is currently viewable at Eunoia Review: eunoiareview.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/the-exorcism-of-tom-bombadil/