The gray hair piece
I’ve never been one to predict the future, but the aging process and its impact on my hair has given me a glimpse into divination. It will happen on week two or three of the fall semester. I’ll finish lecturing, and a back-row student will approach me to ask a question. He will hang back patiently until my attention is fully on him. Then he’ll look up, focus his eyes, and blurt out, “Oh my God, you have a lot of gray hair!” Yes, my previously jet-black hair isn’t so much sprinkled with gray as it is drenched in it — so much so that the aforementioned scene is as certain as death and taxes.
I’m not complaining. I’m more than fine with my hair, and I realize I’ve benefited from the sexist culture that somehow celebrates gray-haired men as “stately” as opposed to “old as fuck.” The terminology alone blows my mind. How often have you heard a guy’s gray hair described as “silver?” Really? A rare metal? An old guy’s hair ain’t a fucking necklace, people.
Supposedly, I worried about hair loss when I was a kid. My father — who has been bald as far back as I can recall — loves to talk about my hair-loss fears. Apparently, I’ve been a staple in his professional lectures for decades. See, my dad’s a geneticist. He loves telling the story about my inquiry as a 5-year-old — what were the odds of my black mop remaining on my scalp as a grown up?
But even lack of hair is oftentimes viewed as a positive — for guys. Bald can be sexy, though a couple of my female friends have informed me that NO GUY can match the bald hotness of Common.
My hairstyle has evolved significantly throughout my younger years.
As a grade-schooler, I donned the ultimate bowl haircut, and — as the one (half) Chinese kid who lived in the small Minnesota town at the time — perpetuated the stereotypical “Asian kid look.” In junior high, I parted my hair. That in itself isn’t a bad thing. The manner in which I tended to said part, though… I treated the part like a math equation — it was too precise, too exact. I’m sure that any young woman who saw the part worried about whether I would ever extract the large stick from up my ass. Perhaps my only praiseworthy hair choice was to avoid the feathered-hair rage that permeated the ‘80s. While my friends gained a couple inches in height from feathering, I refused to be a fucking Hardy Boy. I get a few points for that.
In graduate school, I veered in another hair direction. I went full ponytail. It made little sense. It wasn’t so much making a statement as it was me wanting to sing “Almost Cut My Hair.” There’s really no need to get into the aesthetic details other than to say the long-haired era didn’t last long, and there is absolutely NO photographic evidence of those days.
Now that I am older, I’m paying a bit more attention to my hair. Maybe it’s the ritualistic “gray hair event” that takes place every semester. I’ve definitely gotten more flexible with hair changes. In fact, I recently grew a beard.
Facial hair has been a conundrum for me in past years. When I was younger, I couldn’t grow a beard. My Chinese heritage gave me … patches of facial hair. Yup, when I was in my early 20s, I would eschew shaving for a few days…and look like a werewolf who needed a tetanus shot. I guess the Jewish side of my heritage finally got hold of my follicles, because I now have a beard. I’ve overcome a raised eyebrow from my teen son and the singsong teasing of my 9-year-old calling me “beard-o weirdo.” I no longer stop when I pass a mirror and think, “Who the hell is that guy?” Now I realize it’s just today’s iteration of me.
David Weinshilboum’s new hair look can be seen in all its grayness on his Instagram account “weinshie.” Or just email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.