Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The ponytail guys

Yesterday I saw a couple of men with ponytails. Not uncommon,* but the guys under the ponytails were very different.

I saw the first ponytail at the library. The man was extremely short. When he was close I estimated him to be 4'8". He was older, too, about my age. Besides his stature, what defined him the most was his long hair, which was styled into a braid. It hung down to the middle of his back. He was with a woman, who was also short but still taller than him. She was probably his wife or girlfriend, and had probably fixed his hair.

Later I spotted a man and woman on the street, talking. The man was tall, at least 6'3", and extremely muscular. I could see that because he had no shirt. All he was wearing were cut-off shorts and flip-flops. Besides his muscles what distinguished him was long hair in a ponytail, which reached to his waist. For it to achieve such length I figured he must've been growing it for years. He also had a bushy beard that reached to his chest. Both his beard and hair were gray, which put him in a certain mature age category. It looked startling on top of his surfer's body. He appeared to be a 50-year-old man whose head had been transplanted onto a 25-year-old. When I saw him my immediate thought was if my body looked like that I'd flaunt it, too.

But the hair? Don't think so. In the '70s I wore a ponytail style. My wife's friend asked me if I'd grow one again, now that I'm retired. I said, "Hell, no." Long hair takes a commitment, and I don't have time or the desire to be fussing with my hair.

Long hair as a style on men has been around now for forty years or more, and because many of us Baby Boomers refuse to grow up and change, the men I just described to you will wear their hair long until our generation is all in their graves. I expect to see--if I live that long, that is--Baby Boomer guys wearing long hair at age 80.

A man I worked with in the 1970s, who was born the year my father was born, 1920, and had children my age, told me, "I tried to understand why you guys all went nuts and grew your hair long. When I looked at history I found out that long hair on men comes around every 100 years or so." Wow, Brigadoon! The city, in the musical play, that reappears every 100 years. Maybe we should call the long hair style Brigadoon. "Hey, nice head of Brigadoon you have there, pal!" Or, "Get to the barber, get that Brigadoon off your head."

Of course, at my age a large percentage of men have already lost their hair, so for them the question of growing their hair long is moot.

I don't mind long hair in a ponytail or braid, but it signifies a man's age, his generation. It's plain to anyone looking at my white beard that I belong to that generation, but to grow my hair long again, uh uh. Just wouldn't be worth it.

I took these pictures of longhaired men off the Internet for illustration purposes, but I wish I'd had my camera with me yesterday.

*Especially since I live in a conservative area, not Berkeley, California.

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