Dear Robin Lopez,

Please cut your hair. You look like American Idol Season I runner-up Justin Guarini.

You do.

You really do.


I ask you this with the sincerest of intentions.

Every time I watch a Phoenix Suns game, I think three things:

1. Aaron Brooks could be Chris Rock’s double should Chris Rock ever pull a Martin Lawrence (Rebound, 2005) and make a horrible basketball film;



2. If Steve Nash isn’t the spitting image of cigarette smoking, rebel bad ass Kelly Leak from the original Bad News Bears (1976) with Walter Matthau as Coach Morris Buttermaker then no one is; and



3) How you look like that guy from American Idol.

Justin Guarini.

And I’ve never even seen a full episode of American Idol.

Seriously, I haven’t.

No, I’m serious.

And it’s because of the hair.

Not mine. That’s not why I have never seen a full episode of American Idol.

It’s because of your hair that you look like Justin Guarini.

It’s not like you’re suffering from what Andrew Bynum suffers from or Brian Scalabrine. Bynum looks like Tracy Morgan because of the face.



The same as Scalabrine being Michael Rapaport’s doppelganger because of the similarity in facial features.



Although, I take back the latter in some regard. It doesn’t help Scals that he and Rapaport both sport the red do and that Rapaport takes part in the NBA Celebrity Game during each year’s All-Star break.

But Robin, don’t get me wrong. It’s not just you. Anderson Verajao looks like Justin Guarini too, which is why I’m making a carbon copy of this letter and replacing your name with his at every occasion.

I know, I know — the hair is your good luck charm and you can’t just go and chop it off like Iverson did with his trademark cornrows. (Look where that got ole AI: a roster slot with Beşiktaş in the Turkish Basketball League) Your hair is what helps you bring in those mind-shattering statistics you do night in and night out as the Phoenix Suns big man: .1 apg, 2.2 bpg, 3.3 rpg, and 7.0 ppg. Averaging 3.3 rpg as a 7’0″ center is some feat. Very Rodman-esque.

But this letter is the least I can do. I’m only looking out for you.

And hey, at least I didn’t say you looked like Sideshow Bob.

Because although you do somewhat, Varejao has totally got you beat on that one.



Sincerely,

A concerned NBA fan

Jeffrey Pillow


Hair

By Victoria Patterson

Essay

 


I was drunk one night after work, singing in a noraebang (Korean karaoke) with co-workers, when Robbie cornered me in the dingy little bathroom. It was awkward. I barely knew the guy, except that he was a co-worker’s boyfriend and a notorious alcoholic. He was a big solid Irish guy, and I couldn’t place his age – Thirty? Fifty? His face was wrinkled and only his bright blue eyes shone out from the mess of grey stubble.

“Your hair, David,” he said. “Your hair is shite.”

“Thanks.”

“I mean, you’re a handsome fella, in all. You look like Johnny Depp… But that hair… No… That hair has to go.”

I said that I’d been meaning to get a haircut for a while, which was true. The heat made my long hair heavy and hot.

I got my hair cut and then my grandfather died. 

I knew one had nothing to do with the other, but for some reason, for months after, I was unable to cut my hair.  I wore my hair mostly in a ponytail or crumpled atop my head, but there was no hiding the split ends, its drab dullness.  Sometimes I just let it fall where it may, flapping and resting wildly on my shoulders. 

My grandfather would never have let his hair get into such a state.  He was a classy guy.  Always impeccably groomed.  He could pair stripes and plaid and pull it off with grand ease.  Sometimes he wore funny ties, ladies lounging in martini glasses and that kind of thing, but it was never cheesy – just pure sass.  Even in the hospital when he had been ill a couple of years ago, hooked up to machines, stripped of his beautiful clothes, his only wardrobe a hospital gown and sheet, I couldn’t help but notice that his nails were perfectly manicured, freshly buffed.  He was sleek and elegant, unique but classy.  He had been in retail, head of Gimbels, back in the day when Gimbels meant something.  So he knew about appearance. 

I have never been that way.  Askew is a word my friends would use to describe my style.  Cute, funky, but never completely without a wrinkle or a rip.  I do what I can to not be a walking disaster.  My hair is usually something that while not blown, curled, teased, set or held together by product, is usually trimmed and neat.  That much I have been able to do.  But since that Sunday, many months before, the color was fading, the gray was showing and my hair bands were snapping at all the extra use.

Before that last haircut, my hair was finally getting longer, growing out after I had chopped it one day.  But it was just kind of falling there.  My baby fine hair didn’t swing and flow as I wished it would.  So I called up my stylist, Moses, to see if he could fit me in.  It would be layers.  All over.  They would add depth, movement.  Drama.  I loved it.  And so did the people I saw that night.  “Best haircut you’ve ever had,” I recall someone saying.

Then my Aunt called.  My grandfather was in the hospital.  Something had happened the night before.  I was assured I didn’t need to rush home.  I live in Los Angeles.  He was in New Jersey.  I asked my Aunt to tell him that I loved him.

I get the sequence wrong, but he fell into a coma, I was looking into flights and then the phone rang.  I didn’t answer it.  I made my husband get it.  I knew.  A moment earlier I had felt it pass through me.  Jay handed me the phone and I heard my Aunt say, “This is the phone call.”  I had dreaded this moment, but had been anticipating it.  He was in his nineties.  He’d been in the hospital before.  But he had always pulled through.  I didn’t really believe the call would ever come.

I fell deep into the couch, heaving and suffering, digging into its yellow color as if bad news did not exist within its cushions. 

We went to New Jersey, to the funeral.  I shook as we approached the cemetery, then stood frozen.  Two graves I could handle, but this now made it three.  I made it into the building with my family, his friends.  I actually felt pretty in my black wrap dress and new haircut as I greeted my family.  The prettiness provided me with a strength. 

There is something about funerals.  Something about the ritual and the routine.  There is a reason we travel 3,000 miles to hug our family and eat food together.  There is a reason.

Later, in the confines of my bedroom in my mother’s house, I turned to my husband as we prepared for bed.  “Let’s make a baby,” I whispered to him.  It felt mostly like a plea.  “Let’s make a baby,” I said again.  “And name it Bernie, boy or girl, okay?”

He took me in his arms and took me to bed and agreed, never divulging the truth that we both knew, that I was on the pill and baby making would not be easy.  But I needed to believe that in that instant I could create life on a wish and a demand.

I returned home and went about my routine.  I was in a fog but no one would know unless they asked.  I hid it well.  And fairly soon after my return, they stopped asking. 

There is a certain amount of grieving to be done for grandparents.  They were old.  It was expected.  Glad to have known him so long.  It wasn’t a parent.  I repeated these beliefs over and over until I myself started to spout their truths.  And then eventually I just stopped talking about it.  But in my car alone, I cried.  The streets would just pass by me as I drove, bright lights and other people going about their days.  And then I would arrive at others’ doors and I was fine.  See, I thought I knew about grief.  I was a child of death, after my father died when I was four.  I should know how to handle this.  My grandfather’s death had halted me but I felt I could not show it, so it showed in my hair.

My hair.  My wild mane defied how I seemed: together, rigid almost.  But my unkempt disarray actually defined how I felt: distressed, discouraged, stalled.  The mirror spoke a truth only I knew.  I felt I carried a secret everyone around me should know, but one I felt compelled to keep to myself.  Or maybe they all knew.  I did look a mess.  And yet I was unable to do anything about it.  Whenever I called Moses he was never there and I took that as a sign that I should not get my hair cut.  My grandfather’s death had stalled me so that I could not even make an appointment for the future.  If Moses was not there right then, there would be no haircut.

I have never taken hair that seriously.  I was never locked into a look.  I’d cut bangs on a whim, highlight with no worries or chop off my hair when a boy had made me cry.  There was a certain freedom to changing it up.  What’s the harm?  It’ll grow back.  It’s just hair, I reasoned.  Hair bounces back.  It is the only part of your body that you can change without any serious consequences.  It was something I knew completely.  But then at that moment, I knew nothing.

What is it that I fear will happen?  Will someone else die?  I don’t have that much power I remind myself.  If I go for a hair cut my mother’s plane will not crash, my grandmother will not die.  I know that rationally.  But what if I did have that kind of power?  What if this was the time my powers were turned on.  One action causes another action.  Coincidence is actually consequence.  Or what if it were pure coincidence and it happened again? 

But separate from that, hair carries our past.  My grandfather’s in there.  He’s in my DNA.  I had this hair when I knew him.  The hair on my head was created by his side.  And I am not ready to part with it.  It is my tangible access.  At times I just want to shave it all off, be done with it.  But mostly I just want to keep as much of it with me for as long as I can.

I woke up one morning and looked in the mirror.  Staring back at me with my hair falling where it may, I saw a different girl.  My hair had reached a certain length and wave at that moment that I looked earthy.  It struck me.  It was the first time for a while that I could remember thinking I was pretty.  And it had nothing to do with the mop on my head.  Possibly it wasn’t my hair that had been weighing me down, but me.  And maybe just maybe, that part of me was waking up.

I went to see Moses. 

I told him straight away about my hair, my grandfather and my phobia.  He greeted me with a sound in his voice of someone else who had gone through a recent loss.  I knew his grandmother had recently died.  He got it.  He did not judge.  It was perfectly reasonable to think if you cut your hair someone would die.

He wouldn’t cut much off he assured me.  Just clean it up, make me presentable.  Maybe fiddle with the color a little?

“Okay,” I said.  I needed to trust him.  I needed to just follow along.  I needed to know that I could do this.  The Police’s King Of Pain played above.

Then, he asked how he died.  That surprised me.  To tell the story.  Most people hear grandfather.  92.  Dead.  And they don’t need to know how.  It was hard to tell.  “Dehydrated…coma…cardiac arrest.”  I was unsure I even had it right.  But it also felt good.  Real.  I don’t know if I thanked him for asking but I meant to.

He continued to cut my hair, layers around my face. 

The world did not end.                                                       

My cell phone did not blare with bad news. 

He colored it to give the brown some unity and then lightened the top pieces that fell by my eyes.  He said he wouldn’t even charge me for the highlights. 

I made it through this part.  I took a deep breath as he twirled me into the mirror’s view.  My hair rested on the floor.  I rose up in the seat, lighter, as he revealed the streaks of blond racing across my head. 

That’s better.

I thought the story would end when he started cutting.  I wanted to feel all better.  I wanted it all to lift up and be done with.  I wanted to leave it on the floor with the hair being swept away.  As I looked in the mirror, I knew that was not the case.  The grief and the hair were two different things.  But I also knew as I gazed upon myself, with my new lovely hair that brought out my eyes, that I was in there somewhere.

 

Hair Today

By J.E. Fishman

Essay


By happenstance or predilection, I am generally surrounded by people who embrace change with the enthusiasm of a koala hugging a porcupine.  For example, my parents stayed on the same floor of the same hotel every winter in Boca Raton for more than a decade before moving there from Great Neck.  And for the past ten years, they’ve stayed in the same hotel in Great Neck every summer when they’re not in Boca.

My father has done the New York Times crossword puzzle every morning of my entire life.  My father-in-law has used the same style date book for as long as I’ve known him, and probably much longer than that.

My stepmother — whom I’ve known longer than I had my deceased mother — didn’t learn to drive until she was nearly forty and then did so only under duress.  My mother-in-law takes one of three identical walks on her Eastern Shore farm every day she’s there, rarely venturing a new one.

My wife kept the same cell phone until an AT&T store salesman informed her that replacement batteries could no longer be found.  For twenty-five years, she has squirmed when I mention that I’m thinking of revising my hairstyle.  For family peace, I never do.

Hair is one of those things some people change as frequently as their shirt.  My people, not so much.

A few weeks ago, my parents, ensconced in their Great Neck hotel — not a place they own, mind you, though, at a month at a time, by this point they might have — invited us out to brunch (which they eat daily) at a place called Bruce’s where we always meet at least once when they’re in town.

They were already seated when we arrived, and after forty-seven years I am pretty familiar with my father’s face.  So what was this thing under his nose?

I did a double-take and a triple-take.

He arched his brow.  “You haven’t seen the mustache before?”

“Before when?” I wanted to say.  “Before the seventy-nine and a half years you’ve been clean shaven?”

But my mind was at sea.  All I could think of at first was the line from Jerry Seinfeld, who once said he’d thought about growing a mustache, but then he’d have to walk around in a bathrobe carrying a pipe to complete the look.

When I recovered a few senses, I tried to put the mustache in a more personal context.  This mustache on the man whose prior attitude toward facial hair took inspiration from the ancient Romans, who, after all, coined the word “barbarian”?  This fresh mustache on the man who drove the same model car (though a new one every time his lease expired) for three decades?  This new mustache on the man whose every suit and sport jacket bore the Paul Stuart label for literally half a human lifetime?

Maybe the shock wouldn’t have been so bad but for an announcement that my wife had made three months ago.  “I’ve decided to grow my hair out.”

It seemed like an innocuous statement at the time.  In the quarter century I’ve known her my wife’s hairstyle has evolved at a pace so glacial that distinctions between periods lay beyond recognition by heterosexual males.  So I wondered, how long would it have taken me to notice if she hadn’t mentioned it?

“I like it short,” I said, “but sure — whatever you want.”

Well, three months later and my wife’s hair had become an entity unto itself in our marriage.  A tote’s worth of equipment attended to it: bobby pins and hair blowers; a brush with a giant cylinder at its center and dangerous-looking spikes coming out; hair clips that could eat the world.

One day, when we were packing to go somewhere, she called up the stairs: “Could you put my flat iron in the bag before I forget!”  I thought: So that’s what that thing is with the cord and the prongs.

Worse than the equipment is the disruption of routine.  A good quarter hour has been added to her prep time, and when we’re both pressed I find myself showering to the roar of what sounds like a three-stroke engine on the other side of the bathroom.

Similarly, my father — who shaved for his whole life with a manual razor — now travels with a Norelco for trimming the weed under his nose.

Thus we all become slaves to our own ornamentation.

One evening this summer in Williamsburg, my immediate family signed up to attend the re-creation of a small ball, the kind they’d have put together for fun in 1774.  It felt like two hundred degrees, no air conditioning, and the Williamsburg women were wearing layered silk dresses and gloves up to the elbows.  They plucked me from the audience to join in a dance, and I ended up paired with the one who was playing the role of eligible widow.

“Mr. Fishman,” she said in character, “what a pleasure to make your acquaintance.  Are you married?”

I could hardly deny it with my wife and daughter sitting in the audience.

“Do you know of any eligible bachelors, then, a friend or a cousin perhaps?”

“No straight ones,” I said.  “Aren’t you hot under all those layers?”

She’d been asked that question a thousand times, I’m sure, and had some diversionary reply ready.  And then the dance was over and I was back in my seat.

But it occurred to me that the authentic clothing they wear in Williamsburg, so impractical for hot and humid Virginia summers, wasn’t born here.  It was the fashion brought over from England, where the weather is, well, English.

These people, our Founding Fathers and their peers, were slaves to fashion just like the rest of us.  Maybe clean-shaven George Washington spent half the morning primping his wig.  Maybe he let his beard grow at Valley Forge when no portraitists were around to make a record of it.  Maybe he returned to Mt. Vernon for a long weekend and Martha took one look at him and laughed her corset off until he got the razor out.

As I’ve documented, though, the members of my modern tribe don’t change so quickly.  My best guess is that I’ll be lugging around totes full of hair supplies for the foreseeable future.  And my father will wear that mustache until some salesman tells him he can no longer find replacement batteries for the Norelco.