Hairy Tale Lost

Well, well, well. In the seemingly continual ways of an old man, i remain perplexed and frustrated. i started this thing about the beardette and followed up with a two columns entitled a “hairy tale” published a number of years ago. i found a third and will likely re-post it here soon, but none were the one i was thinking about. i can’t find it. So i am reinventing.

When one had spent three years in the Navy as an officer who had to enforce haircut regulations in the middle of the long hair hippie craze, you can become rather confused about this hair thing. That is what happened to me in 1971.

Fresh out of my three years of Navy active duty, i became a reserve at the Watertown, NY center when i became the sports editor in waiting at the Watertown Daily Times. When i reported aboard, my hair was regulation Navy. The older editors and reporters for the paper took me under their wing, and included me in activities, leaving out the younger long-haired guys. The younger set avoided me, thought i was some throwback to an older culture, which they disdained along with me even though i was more in their age group.

Then, i discovered the reserve center was concerned regulation hair cuts were not conducive to younger folks staying in the reserves and were very lax, i commenced to let my hair grow (i still had some then) to match the other young reporters on the Times’ staff. i did not cut my hair for six months, had it trimmed, and then let it go for another six months. It did not grow straight and long, but curled and was thick all over my head (remember this was a long time ago).

The older set at the newspaper began to exclude me and started treating me a bit more like an upstart. The  younger reporters warmed up to me. i became good friends with many of them.

Then came my active duty for training, a two-week period i spent on the USS Waldron (DD 699) out of Mayport, Florida. With four days to drive and report aboard and wishing to make a good impression on the Commanding Officer and Executive Officer, i went to a Watertown barbershop and received what today would be called a “buzzcut.”

When i returned to the newspaper after my two weeks of training, the older set once again warmed up to me and considered me as part of their clique. The long-haired set went cool and kept me at a distance.

By the time my hair began to grow longer until i left my dream job a year later (to ensure financial security for my wife and new daughter), i was accepted by both sets and all was well.

i have thought about this over and over. i did not change because i cut my hair or let it grow. i was exactly the same person. Yet there was definitely people judging me, assuming i was something i wasn’t because of my hair length. i found this strange. i no longer worry about what other people think because of my hair, whether it is short, long, gone on my head or my face…except what my wife and grandson prefer.

To judge people because of their hair seems very small to me. Had i not worked in a variety of cultures and disciplines and experienced that bizarre judgement of me, i might find a haircut or facial hair offensive, but not now.

So for all of those follicle challenged folks, all those folks with dreadnoughts, all Santa Clauses, all shaven souls, all those with scraggly beards, all those with long locks, do your thing.

And oh yes, Merry Christmas.

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