Wigging out about new hair

By Dan Simons


Mouthing Off Editor

I’ve been feeling a little light-headed lately.

Not because studying and working late has robbed me of sleep, or because I played too much “trick or treat or Jagermeister” this Halloween weekend. No, I’m feeling light headed because I cut off and donated 16 inches of hair to charity.

People recognized me by my mop of locks, a mass of messy curls that I always kept pulled back in a ponytail. On Oct. 30, I chopped the whole thing off.

While it’s common for females to donate their hair to be made into a wig, for a guy to do it is something of an oddity.

The last time I had a haircut pre-donation was when I was a freshman in high school, getting a trim before yearbook photos were taken. That was in 2001, and I’m now a senior in college.

That’s eight years worth of hair. My last haircut was back when people were mad we elected Bush the first time, back when reality TV was just an annoyance and not a soul-sucking blight to the collective American culture, back when the first Xbox came out, and back when I thought a career in journalism was a good idea.

Initially I started growing it out because I grew to accept the curls that I spent my entire childhood trying to hide with hair gel, mousse, and hours of grooming. Once I realized chemistry does not win over genetics, I let the curl happen, growing it out to see what kind of swirls and loops this bastard mess of follicles would create.

As a boy in a small town high school, having a Shirley Temple and/or Jheri curls was slightly less humorous than it was embarrassing. This was around the time “The Osbournes” got popular on TV, and as a chubby kid with glasses and long curly hair, my new nickname became Jack Osbourne. And then “LOST” got popular, and I became Hurley. And then my hair got long enough to put back in a ponytail and if I ever dressed slightly more formal than normal, I became Penn Jillette, the taller of the Penn and Teller comedy/magician duo.

I went from rock star’s son, to marooned comedic relief, to the guy who plays with cards and hangs out with a silent fellow. My hair made me famous, sort of.

However, my hair also made me a girl occasionally.

From a distance, with hair that long, on more than one occasion I was mistaken for a chick. One time at Art Van furniture, when my mom and I were looking to buy a new couch, the sales associate yelled as we entered the store “Hello ladies, how can I help you today?”

“Mom, I’ll be in the car,” I said in a deep voice once he got close enough to tell I was a dude.

Another time I was bent over looking at a radio in a department store with a female friend of mine when a sales associate asked “How can I help you girls?” When I stood up and turned around, towering over him by a foot, he turned red and he bolted in the opposite direction. After these episodes, I grew a goatee so people could tell I was a man from a distance.

Old ladies always commented about my curls. Girls liked my hair, but they rarely date guys with long hair. If they found me in the right state of insobriety, I’d be willing to let them straighten it, or braid it, or threaten to color it some obscene color. And if the girl was less than sober, she’d be amazed that a guy had extra hair ties on him allowing her to put her hair back while porcelain worshipping.

Guys normally don’t have long hair because of an old military tradition. An enemy warrior could yank your hair, expose your neck, and slice your throat wide open. Thus, most men kept their hair short for battle. These days, bullets and bombs don’t care about how long your hair is, but male soldiers still buzz their noggins.

Men with long hair are often seen as unkempt and creepy. Mothers tended to pull their kids closer to them when I walked by, and security guards watched me like a starving hawk who saw a delicious mouse that they also assumed was going to steal something.

My friend’s dad only referred to me as “Hippie Dan.” I’m not going to miss people asking me if I’m in a band, nor am I going to miss people assuming I have weed, am willing to buy weed, smoke said weed, or asking how I avoid getting caught with the weed I never had in the first place.

So why did I grow my hair for so long? Honestly, I was just lazy. But by my calculations, I saved quite a bit of money too. The Post’s photo wizard Jason Willis said he gets a haircut every month, and at $15 a cut, that means if I had those same cuts over eight years, I would have spent $1,440 to get my monthly Willis cut. That’s a lot of hair gel.

What prompted me to lop off the locks, to cut the curls, to part with the ponytail? I’m about to graduate college, and if I’m going to get a job, I shouldn’t have hair that’s as long as my tie.

The real reason I cut off all my hair was because when my grandma Fran was going into chemotherapy, I offered her all my hair, seeing how it was her genes that gave me curls. She declined. October 30 this year marked five years since she passed away, and it was time to commemorate her life with some scissors.

I walked into the place I got that last cut as a freshman and asked if they did walk-in donations.

“All I need is 10 inches,” the lady said. I stopped myself from making an inappropriate “That’s what she said” joke. I sat in the chair and she put my hair in the last set of ponytails it will be in for years.

She took off 16 inches. Donated hair gets bundled up and sent off to be made into a wig for cancer patients who have lost their hair during chemotherapy.

Women wait until their hair is long enough to donate enough and still have relatively long hair. I knew I was going to go for broke and give it all, so my donation was also one of the largest.

I made no official announcement about getting rid of my hair, so I could surprise everyone. My mom cried. My best friend said it was about damned time. Most of the girls did that girl thing where they cup their hands over their mouth, get all wide-eyed and eventually say “Oh my god!” and then molest my head.

My head feels like a poodle now, it’s all short, curly, and thick. The new hairdo unfortunately accentuates my receding hairline that me and most of my male cousins can blame on my grandpa Doug. At the ripe age of 22, I had to ask the stylist if that new Rogaine foam was worth the money.

I keep feeling the back of my head and expect to find a ponytail, but there is nothing. Showers take a lot less time now. I have no idea what I’m going to do with these extra hair ties.

I’m not going to do anything with my hair this month, as it’s No Shave November, where men (and women too, I guess) stop shaving to raise awareness for male-specific diseases like prostate and testicular cancer. I’ve already mouthed-off about breast cancer, let’s see how many other tumors I can poke fun of.

Maybe I won’t be so light-headed by the end of the month. Unless the rest of my hair falls out too.