Bad Hair Life


One of the big differences between men and women is how we handle the maintenance of our hair.

Hair is a vital part of women’s lives. Our wives have hairdressers who charge large amounts of money to make them look exactly like they did before they spent the money.

Hairdressers are celebrities who only need, and only have, one name.

“Oh my god. I love your hair!”

“Thanks. Carol did it Saturday.”

“Ohmygod, I love her!”

Men have barbers. My Sag Harbor buddy Richard Ferrera, who has passed on, learned to cut hair in ‘Nam. My hair needs were pretty simple: “Take it down,” I’d say, like we were talking about a diseased elm in the backyard, infested with bugs. When he was finished with the carnage, there was so much hair on the floor I’d have to wade out.

Carol washes Karen’s hair. In all my years of going to a barbershop, that has never happened to me. In fact, I barely wash it. It’s a production at home. I’ll say something like, “You want to go the afternoon movie?” and Karen will say, “I have to wash my hair first.”

Why? Is that old guy who checks the tickets inspecting it? By the time Karen is finished, the matinee has long ended and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is playing.

Typically, two hours of a running shower leaves a mist throughout the house. The hot water is gone. Then Karen emerges from the shower, looking very much like a sheik from an oil fiefdom with 40 pounds of imported linen on her head.

“How was your shampoo?” I’d ask.

“I knew you were in hurry, so I didn’t shampoo, I just washed.” Aren’t they synonymous? To me if you walk under the water it counts as a shampoo.

For the life of me, I could never master the nuances of the different shampoo brands. One I’ve had in the shower stall for years says: “For Dry Scalp.” Finally, Karen saw it and told me I don’t have dry scalp. Well, it was dry until I stepped under the water.

I’ve come to realize it’s all about dandruff. I’ve had dandruff every day of my life. It’s like snow. I like it. But there is a billion-dollar shampoo industry out there bent on destroying it. I’m like, “Can you recommend a good shampoo that will nurture my dandruff?” I like the look of gray flakes on my black velvet.

Which brings me to that question everyone always asks that we all lie about: “How often do you do it?” I always say, “Every time I soap up.”

I have bad hair. When I was in Catholic school, the cruel kids called me Brillo Head, but then again so did the priests and nuns. If our hair was too long, they would drag up to the office of the Dean of Students, which looked suspiciously like a dungeon. Then, they would grab a clump of the offending hair and cut it off with scissors. Except mine was like barbed wire; you needed shears to get the job done.

Karen called me from CVS the other day. “Shampoo is on sale! You use moisturizing, right?” she asked. Silly me. I thought the water did a pretty good job of that.

“I do have itchy scalp,” I offered.

“Then you have dandruff.”

“No, I think it’s poison ivy.”

“Do you have eczema?

“I probably did in the ‘60s, but I’m sure it’s cleared up by now,” I said.

“How about I just get you whatever is on sale?” Men, NEVER agree to that deal. It always turns out badly.

The label said, “This type of shampoo can reduce the fungus on your scalp that can cause conditions such as dandruff, seborrhea, dermatitis, and psoriasis.”

Jeez. I’m freaking dying.

And I thought dandruff was cute.

No, Richard never gave me a shampoo. He did, however, put Brylcreem on me once. It’s a memory I’ll treasure forever.

Rick Murphy is a six-time winner of the New York Press Association Best Column award as well as the winner of first place awards from the National Newspaper Association and the Suburban Newspaper Association of America and a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee.

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