Hair Thing

categories: Cocktail Hour



Recently on Facebook I put up the following tongue-in-cheek but definitely heartfelt status:

Bill Roorbach would like every second American male born between 1946 and 1964 to grow his hair starting immediately. (Every second woman should go with tie-dyed skirt and peasant blouse. Peace sign pendants optional) There’s no longer a necessity to keep up appearances, folks. Remember how you said you’d grow it back when you reached 60? I’m weary carrying on the ponytail nearly alone in our demographic, hair thin as mine!

The answers were great, in quite a range, with a lot of likes, which I’m learning are fun to get, like pats on the back (can you tell I’m new at Facebook and too naive to know it’s the Devil’s work?):

    • Randy Roorbach I’m trying, it just doesn’t work…
    • Antonya Nelson You belong in Berkeley.

    • Randy Roorbach I was just with Bill and his family in Maine…went to a bluegrass festival and the Bangor Folk Festival…I can certify that Bill seems to belong in Maine. And I haven’t been in Telluride for four decades (!) but back then he certainly would have fit in there just fine…

    • Antonya Nelson Telluride these days is full of what my husband calls Body Nazis. Bleh.

    • Chris Hanson you and Hulk Hogan… 🙂

    • John Langell Me and my new beard are doing our part. Pontails R Us – NOT, sorry Bill you will have to carry the lonely burden in that dept.

    • Chris Hanson It suits you Bill. I couldn’t imagine you without it.

    • Sarah Sloane I’m proud to say my husband is resisting peer pressure……for the moment.

    • Samuel Snoek-Brown I’m a few years outside your range, Bill, but I’m a proud fellow longhair! 🙂

    • Kevin Gray My ponytail’s hanging in there, even though my wife keeps showing me very long blond strands she picks up off of our “hard” wood floors. Her hair is worn much shorter. Hum.

    • Dinty W Moore Damn hippie.

    • Harry Binkow You know I would, if I could!

    • Erin Coughlin Hollowell I’m slightly out of the age demographic, but I do my part with the long hair!

    • Chris Hanson In the back of my head I hear Warren Haynes “Almost cut my hair…”

    • Kevin Gray Hum, I know nobody caught my exclusion in my previous comment. I “forgot” to include gray-white blond strands. Oh boy the memory. And the guys I ran with did not care for the term hippie. Long hairs and freaks but not hippie, but this isn’t a battle worth fighting.

    • Kevin Morgan Watson I fall into this category, but… I really like getting out of the shower and running a towel over my head and forgetting about it. I’m gonna have to let you carry this flag, Bill.

    • Kevin Gray Okay – one more thing. I make my wife so mad because out of shower, hair towel dried, brush, brush, brush, flipped back into a tie and done. Less than a minute. Maybe a minute, but then my hair is thin and straight.

    • Bill Roorbach letting my freak flag fly-i-i-i… wasn’t that Crosby, Stills, and Nash? Kevin, I will race you in a hair drying contest–this scruffy ponytail holds no more than a quarter teaspoon of water… anyway, we only need every second man! It’ll be like the rapture! All the sad shave heads and trim burns left behind!

    • Bill Roorbach PS–Beards count, if not too tidy.

    • Kevin Morgan Watson I’ve got lots of hair sprouting from my nose and ears. Does that count?

    • Dallas Landry Christ, I’m balder than a billiard ball. I’ve got it growing wild in other places.

    • Bill Roorbach nose hair and in fact any hair counts if braided…

    • Hannah Stutz OK – growing out 1990’s hairstyle – back to braids and glowing “thingy’s” around my head.

    • Bill Roorbach it’s a good look, hannah…

    • Leon G. Bouteiller I’m with you in spirit, but I like my buzz cut.

    • Sheri Pinger Bill, it WAS CSN&Y – David Crosby sang Almost Cut My Hair – saw the band in the early 2000’s a couple of different times in Minneapolis. For the record, there are a number of aging jackpine savages the mister and I grew up with up here in Central MN who still wear their locks good n’ long…my husband among them – his is worn ponytailed, or braided, and has only been cut off short once – as a charitable donation for cancer patients.

    • Michael Martone Already there.

    • Barbara Shoup You have hair, though. What about all those poor bald guys?

    • Sally Reed Just beware of the neckhair ponytail.

    • Joan Braun ‎”A ponytail doth not a peacenik make”…Koan

    • Sari Friedman Not many ponytails here in Berkeley, either. We’ve moved on. We’re not even vermi-posting much anymore….

    • Tom Taylor Oops. I’m one of the every-other-ones who, being follically impaired, looks like Riff Raff from the Rocky Horror Picture Show on a particularly bad day. Then again, I’d have less trouble with head lice than the rest of you. Always a bright side, I guess.

    • Bill Roorbach Neck hair ponytail–that’s funny… We had some good ideas, though, didn’t we? The spirit’s the thing… An elderly guy in Palm Beach a few years ago asked me what the ponytail meant. I said it meant I didn’t work for Exxon. Good answer, he said.

    • Bill Roorbach Bald guys might consider a peace sign tattoo on the dome?

    • James Provenzano pony tales – could be a book..

    • Hal Davis Let your freak flag fly! (Heck Bill, you even kinda look like David Crosby.)

    • Michael Daniel Laus How about if every second American male born between 1946 and 1964 make their political/social values statement with their wallet (rather than a ponytail)? – there are a lot of people hurting right now that need support.

    • Bill Roorbach How about a check and a ponytail?

    • Michael Daniel Laus Let our freak wallets fly…in harmony with our ponytails!

My favorites are Hulk Hogan and the Body Nazis, also all the bald guys, and especially the warning about neck ponytails, gosh…

But there’s something serious in there, some thread of idealism that might just be shaped like a ponytail, or then again not, and it’s that not that Michael Daniel Laus lands on nicely, also Joan Braun: “A ponytail doth not a peacenik make.”  In Maine, the semiotics generally work–people assume a certain political outlook when they look at me, and they’re right.  Then again, I might be on my way to a tea party, or a Nascar race.  Perfectly milquetoast accountants brighten up and call me “Man,” and say stuff like, “I dig what you’re sayin’ about this whole Roth IRA groove,” a way of saying they’ve been around, but have had to go underground.  Many people also assume you’re looking for a joint or have one to offer, which I’m not and I don’t, not anymore.  Strangers call me “dude,” dude.  When I lived in Ohio, a ponytail meant something different to the good citizens of Columbus: it meant “hillbilly”–as in restaurant tables next to the kitchen, dentist asking if I’d like my tooth filled or pulled, people calling you “bud” and never “sir.”  One OSU colleague said she thought I was a biker, referring to the fact that she’d shrieked when we met in a hallway one late night.  Mostly though, what I think my hair looks like to people is unkempt, though if you wear pastels or khaki shorts or even just an ironed shirt you might pass as a Unitarian minister and get a little respect (do Unitarians have ministers?).  I like hair elastics–hair things, they’re called universally–wear a pink one and even the steadiest friends will say, Hey, pink.  Do they ever say that or really anything about hair things at all to women with ponytails?  No they don’t.

Go Willy Nelson: pigtails, braids, that’s the stuff!

I don’t know what it is about this ponytail of mine, but I’ve worn it from high school forward with maybe as much as a few years off total in spurts during this or that identity crisis.  I mean, it’s just a ponytail.  For a while, in the Clinton nineties, ponies were very, very, very uncool and the butt of many a joke, including mullet skits on Saturday Night Live.  This prejudice lives on, my friend.  A student I respected a lot said, “Stupidest song ever? ALMOST CUT MY HAIR.”  And I said, yeah, stupid song!  But full disclosure: I love that fucking song.  I love it in all its vapidity.  Feel like letting my freak flag flyyyyyy!  And surely I’m over whatever adolescent messages it once broadcast, though like the light from a star, the message travels on.

In the current number of The New Yorker there’s a curious piece about a fourteen-year-old fashion blogger named Tavi Gevinson. “‘Dyeing your hair a weird color ‘acts as a nice filter,’ she told [writer Lizzie Widdicombe]. ‘Based on people’s reactions, you kind of know who’s worth talking to.'”  Right?  Ponytail, same.  Guy at a party down in Connecticut: “I’d love to be able to grow my hair long again.  But you know, I’m a businessman!  Can you imagine going to a bank for loan with a ponytail?”  Yes, I can imagine that, you dingleberry.  But I didn’t have a snappy comeback, just knew I didn’t have to waste anymore time on the guy.  Later I thought of the right riposte: “Yes, many people mistake grooming for character, but they don’t stay in business long.”

Anyway.  I know this ponytail thing is pretty frivolous, plain vain (if you can be vain about something so unattractive), also adolescent.

But it’s not nothing.  Once in Palm Beach, Florida, coming off the beach I stopped at a bench to shake the sand out of my shoes.  At the other end of the bench was an elderly fellow, common sight down there, of course, whereas a (male) ponytail, not common at all, not in those precincts.  Out of nowhere this stranger says “I just turned ninety.”  That was good news, and the two of two of us got to chatting.  He seemed surprised that I’d been a professor.  “You don’t look like a professor,” he said. “Yes, I do,” I said.  He’d worked for Exxon his whole working life, allowed as how he was pretty happy to be retired–in fact, all the best years of his life had been since he turned 60.  “You don’t look petroleum,” I said.  My Dad had worked for Mobil, so I knew from petroleum.  “I’m enjoying our talk,” my new old friend said.  “My advice to people your age  is to make younger friends.  Make a lot of younger friends.  Because if you live long, all your old pals pass away before you.  It can be lonely.”  We talked a little longer (there are 65 miles of mansions between Miami and Palm Beach, he told me).  When I got up to go he said, “What does the ponytail mean?”  I said, “It means I don’t work for Exxon.”  “Good answer,” he told me.  And then one more piece of advice: “Cut your hair.  You got nothing to prove anymore.  You would look so nice.” And so I said, “How about instead you grow yours?  You’d look so cool.”  “Just what I’m talking about,” he said.

So I’m taking votes.  Cut it or keep it?  I’m not saying I’ll listen, but it would be interesting to hear.

  1. Richard Gilbert writes:

    Cut it, Bill, since you asked.

    But I’m not only bald, I shave my damn head, so take that into consideration. If I were better looking, I’d simply go short, or slightly unkempt, which is what I advise you to do.

    And, anyway, everyone you meet is going to know you USED to wear a ponytail!

  2. Bob Raposo writes:

    I think Samson had something to do with it.
    He had the power, he had the women at his feet.
    John and Yoke said it best: Hair Power!

    Here’s and example of hair power turning small men into giants.

    And Bill, don’t believe that shit about the pink shirt and blazer.
    It’d suck the life out of you.

    • Bill writes:

      Bob, Awesome. I hadn’t thought of the Samson angle, but you’re onto something… That photo is going in my next (or the next after) installment of “I Used to Play in Bands.” (Other readers should note that Bob is first on the left in the photo he links to!) My daughter says that I may never, never cut my hair, because that’s what I look like, and that’s what she’s used to. End of discussion.

  3. Peter Peteet writes:

    O.K.,I’ll give a vote to keep the thing;respect in the morning though is something I sometimes don’t have for much of anyone.I’ve worn a freak flag for most of the last 40 years(I got expelled from a “christian academy” for having my hair too long before that) and it does function as an interesting expression of otherness.I am ,of course,a businessman in the common sense of “you are what you do”,perhaps part of the function of the flag is to refute that.There are quite a few longhairs about here in the South,I share “not working for Exxon”with them though often little else.
    It’s a bit adolescent overall but the gray strands get me more”sirs” than I like anyway and like the old man says you need to have young friends – freak flags,FB,other devil’s work will help with that.
    Or cut it off like the lady sez,and put on the blazer and a nice crisp shirt(I flashback to my wedding);whatever gets you respect in the mirror in the morning is what matters.And write about about it -that matters most because that’s the way we really know you’re not on your way to a tea party or a Nascar race.

    • Bill writes:

      one day i’ll stop thinking about this altogether… but i do notice that the kids are coming up with long hair to go with their tattoos, etc… fashions come back around! soon we’ll have a president with a ponytail, perhaps tommy!

  4. monica wood writes:

    Sweetie, since you asked so endearingly: CUT IT OFF. You would be adorable-looking either way, but it’s time to update the look. I see you with really close-cropped hair that actually makes the whole hair thing look right, and then a crisp pink cotton shirt that fits nicely, with black jeans, and black shoes that are those comfy fake dress shoes–sorta like a dressy sneaker. And then, over that, a nice olive-green sports coat, like maybe one of those Dockers corduroy blazers (I’m serious, hear me out) that look really sexy, not professory, more young-man-about-townish. You will look snappy and cool and updated and totally put together and still like you. And you would rock the house in olive green, definitely a good color for you. With the pink it would be amazing.

    Just sayin. But I love you either way.

    • Bill writes:

      Oh, Monica, I’m going to get you a Ken Doll to play with! (Then again, you’ve got Dan, so….) The black jeans just fall off no matter how tight I make the belt. Nothing stays crisp around me for long, believe me… but a pink shirt? With my complexion? Olive green, okay… And I suppose I have to shave… I did see a guy with his beard in a ponytail recently, though…

      • monica wood writes:

        Dearest Bill: OK, now I am seriously invested. Try the pink shirt! I’m not kidding, it will look so good. (You can go with a really light pink.) As for the black jeans–if they fall off, then wouldn’t regular jeans also fall off?

        I’ll allow you a dove-gray shirt, how’s that? With a charcoal-gray jacket. Or a slate-blue shirt with ditto. And black jeans. And a gorgeous new close-cropped totally cool haircut! Whoo!

  5. Tommy writes:

    PS – I loved the “Just what I’m talking about.” exchanged with the spry old-timer who’s not afraid to talk to strangers. Also, I much prefer the braid to the ponytail, but I don’t know how to tie one. My wife prefers the “man-bun”, and sometimes sticks one in there when I think she’s just putting my hair up in a ponytail because she’s sick of looking at it. I hate the “man-bun”, and the whole Antonio Banderas look that I associate with it.

  6. Tommy writes:

    Michael Daniel Laus with the Bob Vila smile: since you’ve got nothing left to prove – Keep It!

    Boys, come down south, we’ve got plenty of long-hairs, and it seems to me, more than there were a five years ago, two or three times as many. Also seems to me we’ve got more and more young attractive women covered with tatoos, four or five times as many as a few years ago.

    I wear the ponytail reluctantly, much prefer the wild free-flowing unkempt look. I was elected to public office in the small Georgia town I resided in 7 or 8 years ago with long, wild, free-flowing unkempt hair, and at “Newly Elected Officials Training” or something like that, in Athens, GA several months later, another newly elected official came over to me during a reception to see which municipality would elect someone with my looks. I’m not sure if it was a compliment. Announcing my modest victory in a late-night email to friends and family out of town, far and wide, I included the election results. One good friend replied, “what did you say to get [whatever the number was] people to vote for you!?” I told him I’d said I would respect them in the morning.