in Columns Published in the Asheville Citizen-Times

Asheville Man’s Brush with Hair-Raising Hair Color

Asheville Citizen-Times 09/18/2013 –

Sal's ShoppeSal has been my barber for thirty years. He has more skill giving the score of any World Series game dating back to World War II than cutting hair, but he’s comfortable to be around and I don’t mind always looking like I’m in the infantry. Then one morning a glitzy ad leaves an impression: Calling all men. Sick of gray or white hair? Our new formulation for natural color restoration guarantees that you can look ten years younger in less than an hour. Wow! Where do I sign up?

I go to a salon and meet Emma. She recommends “soft, gentle black” for my hair. She adds that color restorations are very popular with the older generation. I thank her for reminding me of my position in the generational hierarchy.

Emma washes my hair and then mixes chemicals, creating some green, alien blend that would make Sigourney Weaver weep with joy. Before she applies the glop to my scalp, she puts on safety glasses, an industrial apron extending to the floor, and elbow-length rubber gloves. I’m thinking that before coloring my hair, she is either going outside to feed the hogs, or attempt a lunar walk. I’m wrong. She picks up the plastic container and heads toward me. “Ah, Emma, do you think I might need a little more protection?” “No worries,” she assures me, “I know it looks like toxic waste, but I’m very careful. I won’t allow your hair to fall out or for you to go blind.” Her words comfort me.

I place a shower cap over the chemical in my hair and sit under a dryer. I’m afraid someone will come in and recognize me. I pretend to read a magazine and hold it in front of my face so that only my forehead is showing. Emma graciously walks over and turns the magazine right-side-up.

I’m finished with the dryer. I’m in Emma’s chair again. My back is to the mirror while she blow-dries my hair. “Wow,” she says, “I’m surprised. This color is a little darker than I thought.” She spins the chair so I face the mirror.

A little darker? A little darker? I was staring at Ricky Ricardo. If I had a sword and a cape, I could have been Zorro. My hair is so jet black it has a blue glow. I look like jumpsuit Elvis, Count Chocula, Mr. Jiggs, the chimp, and Rudolph Valentino combined. I’m Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Fredo Corleone and Mr. Fenstermocher, my fifth-grade music teacher, who actually used liquid shoe polish to blacken his hair.

Emma tells me I look great. I’m not convinced. I head home. My wife stares with a hand over her mouth. She reminds me that I shouldn’t go anywhere alone. She departs and returns with a new chemical solution that corrects hair color mistakes. Her remedy turns my black hair into bright orange-gold hair. I remind my wife that she shouldn’t go anywhere alone.

I buy a rapper’s blue baseball cap that will cover my head and half my ears. It has a white B on the front for Brooklyn. I give myself the name Gold-Tea-Lox and am quite pleased with the cleverness of the food and beverage reference. I look in the mirror and realize I look like I should be put away. Plus, I can’t even say “Dude” with the right inflection. I ditch the cap.

I decide I have to face the music. How bad can I look? A lot of things could be worse than bright orange-gold hair on a sixty-year-old man. I have to measure people’s reactions.

I drive my Mustang into the supermarket parking lot, dismount, and head for the main door. Once inside, it’s all slow-motion. As I take each deliberate step forward, I watch to see who’s staring. I gradually realize no one is paying any attention to me—they’re all too busy shopping. I’m beginning to think I look hot. I swagger to the bakery section, pick up an unneeded loaf of bread and get in line to pay. I nod pleasantly to the cashier as I hand her the money, then saunter toward the exit. Suddenly, my worst nightmare: I hear a boy’s voice trumpet through the store, “Mommy, look, that man has circus hair!” I look back and see him pointing at me while at the same time fifty heads begin to swivel in my direction. I run. The automatic door doesn’t open quickly enough and I smash into it leaving a “Have A Nice Day” smiley-face imprint on the glass. I jump into the Mustang and screech out of the parking lot, barely missing a rolling shopping cart that advertises natural color restoration.

My wife is kind. She tells me she doesn’t mind living with Clarabel the clown for three or four months while my hair grows out. Sal is kind. He forgives me for straying and offers a play-by-play of the ’55 World Series as he gives me his standard military cut complete with whitewalls around the ears. Emma is kind. She sensed that I was unhappy and sends me a certificate for a complimentary natural color restoration. I’m kind too. I send the certificate to my ex-business partner, telling him all is forgiven. I include the Brooklyn baseball cap as a bonus.

My ex-partner is more than kind. He tells me of a great opportunity to buy one half of the Brooklyn Bridge for $500. He throws in the Brooklyn baseball cap. Wow! Where do I sign up?


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