by Douglas PageŠ
There is a phase early in a relationship, right after the kissing starts, when the female feels compelled
to renovate certain features of the male. The women can't help it; it's caused by some maternal instinct. Wardrobes and hair
Usually it's harmless. The guy always needs the help. I did. I'm in aerospace. I looked like Newt Gingrich
It started innocently, like pot in a playground. First I was offered T-shirts and hats. Within six months,
however, I was pulling pleated pants on over silk underwear, slipping into double-breasted jackets and mainlining vanity with
a Hollywood hairdresser.
I was ready for the hard stuff: a hair job.
Color was the issue. My hair had none. It was the color of moon dirt. I blame the job.
"Do I really look that old?" I whined, probing for reassurance from Bari, my girlfriend.
Instead of saying "I love how you look. Don't touch one hair," she told me it didn't have to be like that.
I knew what she meant. She works at a big-deal movie studio. She colors her hair.
"What did your barber say?" she asked.
"None of them speak English."
"Have you considered going to someone who knows what they're doing?"
"None of them knows what they're doing. That's why they're barbers."
"Come with me," she said, "I'll take you to Gary. He's very good. He does studio people."
I stalled. "I saw this new stuff on TV. In five minutes the gray is gone. Rinse and walk."
"Gary's a pro," she replied, ignoring me. "Tell him what you want. Don't do it yourself. That stuff is tricky.
You want to be the Dennis Rodman of aerospace?"
I went to Gary.
He said he could back the gray out. He said no one would notice. I said okay.
I watched him paint my head with a cold paste the color of oatmeal that he was afraid to get on his hands.
I felt a chill. I could end up worrying about root color.
When he finished I was shocked. My hair wasn't this dark when I was born.
"It seems a little dark," I observed, whey-faced.
"It's just wet. No problem."
Worse, it looked uneven, too, but what could I say? He's a Hollywood hairdresser and I'm a guy that doesn't
know whether to wear a belt with suspenders. Suddenly I couldn't wait to get out of there.
"Did you dye your hair?" Bari winced later.
"It's just wet."
The truth was, my hair was ruined. One side was solid black, the other dappled, like the coloring had been
caulked. The back hadn't been done at all. You couldn't tell if it was me, a mine worker or a dalmatian.
The next noon Bari took me to another salon, where someone named Lucy agreed to repair me. This required removing
the colors that were there.
I was taken to the back of the salon, by the sinks, away from the mirrors. Lucy patted me on the shoulder,
applied more cold paste, covered my skull with a shower cap, then left me to marinate.
My spirits were high. The USC-Notre Dame game was on later and Bari and I joked around with some magazines.
Nobody said how long it would take; I figured a couple of hours. I've had gum surgery that only took 90 minutes.
Around 2:30 I started squirming. "Can I look?" I asked.
Bari shook her head, then changed the subject.
Occasionally Lucy would appear, lift the beanie and baste me again, like a turkey.
Three-thirty passed, unobserved. Bari went for sandwiches at 4:30. I found a mirror. The black was all gone:
now my hair was orange -- lurid, incandescent orange.
I wanted to run. Lucy said she needed a bit longer. So did Communism.
Two hours later the hair was paler, in places having lightened to a citrus yellow. There was a random patch
of white now, near the roots. The back of my head was still untouched, a graying snood, attached below my garland of wildfire
This time I winced. "Cut it off," I told Lucy. "I've had enough."
She hesitated, then swung the chair away from the mirror and sheared me like a neon recruit. I watched as
a bouquet of prismatic pulp waffled off my shoulders and settled to the floor. Soon I was as bald as a banana.
One last, quick dye operation attempted to match the marbled skullcap to the gray snood by bringing them both
up to a human color, with little success. I have sinks with more color on them. And more hair.