It is quite easy to get a charge out of my wife, Karen. A simple sentence will usually suffice.
"You need a haircut," she told me the other day.
"No, I'm letting it grow long. I want to wear a pony tail," I replied. The disgusted look on her face meant her quick mind had, in a single nanosecond, processed what I had said and made a mental picture of me with a ponytail. In other words, I would be so ugly she would be embarrassed to be seen with me.
The truth is, I always wanted long hair. Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, most everyone I knew had long hair, except, of course, the girls.
The look I wanted was a long ponytail with a tie-dyed handkerchief (preferably used) tied around it, and, of course, a paisley headband. That look, coupled with a necklace made of brightly colored beads, would ensure the masculine look that made the hippie girls swoon. My problem was my hair didn't grow down, it grew straight up.
I had tried to get the ponytail thing going once before, when I was about 17.
Yes, I had all the requisite nicknames like "Brillo Head" and the like, but I stubbornly pressed on until the thing rose into the sky like a dense thicket outside a haunted house, prickly and foreboding, a haven for mites and other living creatures.
Getting a comb through it was out of the question—it was impenetrable.
My mother, the more social of my parents, was embarrassed beyond belief.
"I can only wonder what the neighbors think," she would say, staring at my head and shaking her head.
After a couple months, my father, the silent type, chimed in with his two cents.
"You need a haircut," he said authoritatively.
"Why?" I asked. "Who cares what the neighbors think?"
"I don't care what the neighbors think," he replied. "I think you look like an ass."
Once, my friends and I were recruited in the schoolyard by an old pastor from the local Lutheran church. It seemed he had entered into a basketball league with some other churches and didn't have enough congregates to field a team. We showed up in the gym underneath the church, practiced for a half-hour, and then suited up to play the visiting team that had just arrived.
"You play center," he said to me. My opponent must have been six-foot-seven-inches tall. I did my best despite the height disparity, and we won. After the game, my friends asked me why the pastor made me the center. "Beats me," I shrugged.
Later, we all realized why: the poor guy was half-blind, and from where he stood, I was the tallest player on the team: though barely six-feet, I had eight additional inches of hair.
Anyhow, here I am, with another chance to look really cool. I figure with all the gels and gobbly gook available, I can force my hair into straightness whether it likes it or not, and avail myself of any number of hip hairdos, including braids, pigtails, cornrows, and the requisite ponytail.
The options are unlimited, except, of course, for Karen. It puzzles me, and frankly concerns me, that she is reluctant to embrace a husband with braids or pigtails. Whatever happened to standing by your man?
Worse, the thought of me au natural doesn't excite her, either. I tried to point out that had we lived on a desert island my hair would be about four feet high by now. She pointed out I would have never lived that long because I would have killed myself out of despair since there would be no television.
It all boils down to age discrimination. I know with all of the Me Too stuff and other political correctness, people lose sight of the fact the one-third of this country is made up of adults like myself. We are not senior citizens, the aged, or grandpas—we are virile men at the top of our game who crave nothing more than a braid or a pigtail to twirl while we romance the fairer sex.
And that, folks, is the real discrimination going on this country. Men like me can't be the people we want to be because we can't let our freak flag fly without being ostracized by the uncaring, hurtful people who rule society.
OK, so maybe I can't have my 'Fro ever again. Maybe I'll have to yield to the square-heads and conform. But dang it, no one can stop me from expressing myself in my own way.
"I'm growing a beard," I told Karen. "Like ZZ Top."
"Go right ahead," she said.
She must realize it'll take me 40 years for the damn thing to fill out.
Rick Murphy is a six-time winner of the New York Press Association Best Column award as well as the winner of first place awards from the National Newspaper Association and the Suburban Newspaper Association of America and a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee.