Grim hairy tales

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By Anthony Deyal

The government has decreed that hairdressing facilities are not essential services and despite a bald-headed prime minister, or because of him, this “barbaric” condition has been imposed on us. I almost got caught defying the ban and trying to get a haircut at the neighbourhood salon.  It was a close shave. So I vented my rage at the legislator and resorted to a home remedy that was neither epilator nor depilator but a manipulator.

My son Zubin, who found that paying twelve pounds for a haircut in England was too much, and who as a youngster drove me up a wall with his jokes about my hair-loss, had bought his implements which he handles with some dexterity and so, armed with his tools, he was prepared to drive me up a Wahl.

When he was younger we made all kinds of jokes including several about my hair loss. “Daddy you have atomic hair- plenty fallout.” “You’re so bald that even if we get you angry, you can’t afford to blow your top.”

“Instead of reading P.G. Wodehouse you should try Steven King. He writes some hair-raising tales.” I don’t think he was there when one of my friends recommended a new miracle drug for baldness that you rub on your head twice a day.  “It doesn’t grow hair like some of the others,” he advised.  “What it does is that it shrinks your head to fit your remaining hair.” I was told about the advantages of having no hair. “You will no longer have any use for keys,” one of my friends said loud enough for everyone to hear.  When I looked perplexed, he laughed and said, “Well, seeing that you lose your locks…”

My wife once got into the act when I was having some word-play fun with Zubin and asked him, “What’s the difference between an ape, an orphan, a prince, and a bald man?” We all laughed at the answer- an ape has a hairy parent, an orphan has nary a parent, a prince is an heir apparent, and a bald man has no hair apparent. When the laughter died down, Indranie said, “You know about hair today, gone tomorrow? Well yours left since last year.” My traditional response, though not as belligerent as before, has always been, “Just because there is a hole in the roof does not mean that the fire inside is not still blazing hot.”

When Zubin, with help from Indranie, made me sit in a chair and hovered over me, I was expecting him to excel at barbering as he has with everything else.  However, in this particular instance he was not a cut above the rest as is his won’t, but one below. He cut my “muff” off.

Let me explain before some of you head in the wrong direction. In Trinidad, we call that mass of hair that sticks out above the forehead, a “muff”. It is the “Mo” part of the “Mohawk”. Having that “muff” is important to bald men since they comb it over their bald patches. Even with youngsters, it was a big thing to have a muff. I used to teach a neighbourhood kid who was really mischievous and miserable in school. I spoke to his father about the need to discipline the boy. I was stunned at the difference in behaviour the next day and for a while.  When I met the father and congratulated him on the change in his son, I also asked what he did to cause it. He said simply, “I threaten to cut off his muff.”

Now, the English Language does not favour that term for hair on the head of men or in that particular place. According to one dictionary, a “muff” is “an article of women’s apparel shaped like a tube and used to keep hands warm”, a “slang term referring to female pubic hair” and “a slang sports expression for fumbling or dropping the ball”.  Regardless of race or interpretation, the Trinidadian man loves his “muff” and while what the Americans call “muff divers” are increasing in number, divers muffs are still very much in evidence. Zubin clearly did not ad-hair to my instructions.  This is why I looked at his thick-black hair and take consolation in the believe that when God “doesn’t like your head” he covers it up with hair.

Fortunately for me, COVID-19 has forced me to remain indoors so that I would not suffer the fate of the ancient Greek poet, Aeschylus, noted for his tragedies, who had one of his own when he became the earliest recorded death from baldness. An eagle, which had seized a tortoise and was looking to smash the reptile’s shell by letting it fall from a great height, mistook the poet’s bald head for a stone and dropped the tortoise on it. As a punishment, I could deny Zubin the use of the car, something that Erma Bombeck the humourist did to her son. She believed that you should never lend your car to anyone to whom you have given birth.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has caused me to be banned from leaving the house and he is the designated driver.  It is too late for me to do a Robert Frost. The famous poet said, “I cut my own hair. I got sick of barbers because they talk too much. And too much of their talk was about my hair falling out.”

What I’m left with is a dream and a nightmare. The dream is that someone will say to me what one of the friends of the writer Marc Connelly said after he ran his hand over the writer’s bald head, “That feels like my wife’s behind.” Connelly stroked his head thoughtfully and replied, “So it does.” My nightmare comes from what one of my friends said after he used Minoxidil to grow back his hair. Forgetting he had just applied it to his scalp, he passed his hand over his head to smooth the little hair left into place. It was a major senior moment for him because, as he said in panic, “What happens if hair starts growing on my palm?  How can I explain that at my age?”

*Tony Deyal was last seen remembering two quips he shared with Zubin, “What do you call a bunch of bunnies hopping backwards?” A receding hare-line. “What did the bald man say when he got a comb for his birthday?” Thanks, I’ll never part with it.”

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