Saturday, June 07, 2003

Kuwentong Barbero Part I*

As a child, I had little control over my hair. At an appointed time, someone (usually Pop) would cut it so I looked like a Beatle. Well, that was the intent anyway. But what looked good on an Ifugao brave never did look good on me, and I felt the sting of that for years. I wasn't athletic and only had proficiencies in Science, Art, Music and English at a time when these weren't expected of students (this was the 1980s). Add my funny hair to that, and you can imagine what my grade school life was like.

Things did not improve when I hit high school. Mom and Pop identified little with the imagery of the 1960's hippie movement, and they equated longish hair with unsavory people. Meantime I was being influenced by such New Age people as Jagad Guru. I was also developing an aesthetic appreciation of long hair. I was later made a guinea-pig for some of my "in-crowd" classmates, who were determined to transform me into a socially acceptable animal, beginning with my hair. But I was slowly growing a backbone, as the image of what I wanted my hair to look like was beginning to crystalize. Sadly, it could not be achieved without a ton of hair-spray or gallons of hair gel-- neither of which, I could afford.

College at Los Ba�os found me with a new hair-related threat: ROTC. There would always be some uniformed authority figure haranguing me about the length of my hair, threatening me with all the pains of hell if I did not capitulate and get a regulation haircut. I shut them up by adopting what I call the Pepe and Pilar hairstyle. Can't imagine it? Slap your hand on the top of your head and pretend it's hair.

Issues of Control

"But why all the fuss about your hair? Didn't we all go through that?" the Muse asked me once, echoing the girlfriend's perplexed question. I remember mumbling (to the Muse) something about free will. But what I really wanted to tell either of them amounted to something along these lines:�

"You see, Dearest, it's all about control. When you have control (or feel you have control) over most aspects of your life, you don't need to be touchy about every little thing. Like clothes, or hair.

"Honey, I don't have that control-- the kind that makes you feel so comfortable about life and your place in it.

"You're beautiful, coveted, accomplished, and on your way to a career. You'll go home to your well-furnished house, to your ablutions and your warm toast. You get along with your artist mother and you're not nagged for being who you are.

"Me, I'm broke most days and I'm still in college when I shouldn't be. Despite my best efforts, nobody at the workplace takes me seriously. I feel that nobody else will accept me for my skill. I cannot see far enough into the future to properly plan for it. I feel as if I have a world to fight simply because I believe people who work outside the system can make it better. Oh, and I know the only time you will like me is when hell freezes over: I cut my hair for you and you wound up taking Mr. Long-haired-loud-band-guy for a boyfriend.

Pardon Me for My Clay Feet

"In a life devoid of control, I will take what little of it I can get. Even if it borders on the use of magic-- for that is what it is. It's cave paintings, the athlete's unwashed lucky shorts. It's ritual. It's prayer. It's morning coffee. And the only time I will relinquish my the 'long' in my hair is when I have outgrown my need for it. That's when I acquire sufficient quantities of other means of controlling what is around me: wealth, influence, goodwill, acceptance, love."

Divine Intervention

I once boasted years ago that God himself couldn't get me to have my hair cut. When admonished to shorten my hair to acceptable standards in the name of Yahweh El-Shaddai, I would give an oratory treatise on how He was too busy inspiring nondenominational fundamentalist Christians to seek out new heights in aggressive evangelism, to have to worry about the length and configuration of my hair.

But trust God to screw with the loudest boasts of mice and men. Because somewhere along the line something happened to me, and while it didn't involve an epiphany on the road to Damascus, it was in itself, a miracle.

(to be continued...)

More Dex Words for the Week

Glamour 1. Alluring beauty, or charm, associated with sex appeal. 2. Archaic meaning: "a magic spell, or enchantment"

Psoriasis 1. A noncontagious inflammatory skin disease characterized by recurring reddish patches covered with silvery scales. 2. The nemesis of anti-dandruff shampoos.


* Translation: "Barbers' Tales" -Tall and/or funny tales that you don't take too seriously.
This is of course, an amalgam of the stuff I told both the Muse and the girlfriend later, in so many halting words and clumsy gestures. They still didn't get it.

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