Hair we go again: a family affair


MY ADULT SONS recently spent several days with me locked in verbal combat. Amid much laughter, the battle raged on and off for the length of their stay. The subject of the controversy was hair: theirs and mine.

No. 2 son, who is six years younger than his brother, now lives in Seattle. Before leaving Baltimore, his hair was closely cropped and he easily could have emerged from the pages of a Brooks Brothers catalog. Now he has shoulder-length tresses which are a mass of tangles and curls. He claims that the kind of women he likes would never have been attracted to him in his short hair days. They love his free-flowing black locks -- a symbol perhaps of the sense of liberation Seattle provides so many young people.

After much cajoling, he agreed to put his hair in a pony tail for the gala social event which he had come to attend. Below the neck, as in the days of yore, he was a model of sartorial splendor: the beige linen suit was elegant, the blue shirt provided a nice contrast and the flowered tie was perfect. In short, he looked quite handsome; a fact noted by several of my female contemporaries whom I had expected to frown when seeing the pony tail. Instead they loved it and told me to get with the times. And then I remembered that I had never seen an image of Jesus with anything but shoulder-length hair. And I'm sure no one ever asked him to tie it back.

No. 1 one son was another kettle of fish. The hair on his pate is kept short, but his facial hair bothered me. His beard was uneven and needed to be trimmed. I even threatened to get to it as he slept a la Samson. No way was he going to take scissors to the growth on his chin. His youthful Abraham Lincoln appearance suited him just fine and indeed he is an imposing looking man. Many years ago he announced that shaving was not for him; the razor hurt his skin and it was a never ending, time-consuming task. Amen.

Both sons were highly critical of their mother's hair -- with reason. For the gala event, I had had my roots touched up and then an overall rinse put on which resulted in a rust-colored helmet. I hated the color but it was too late to repair the damage. The sons lamented the fact that Mom goes to such expensive lengths to hide her gray hair. I promised to find someone who would do a better job next time. For the gala, I also tied my hair back and hoped in the early evening light no one would notice its unnatural hue.

In the end, there is only one member of the extended family whose hair we all adore. It is No. 1 son's beautiful chocolate brown Labrador whose coat is sleek and whose color is absolute perfection.

Janet Heller writes from Baltimore.

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