Soap Opera Hair

Posted: August 17, 2013 in Uncategorized
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August 31st, 2010

I sit here in the barbershop, looking over the posters of coiffed twenty-something men (boys, I want to say, but that just makes me feel older) and I feel it slip tenderly away. Tender, not like ‘gee, what a tender scene in Tarzan when he bids his ape-mother goodbye.’ Tender like ‘I smashed my finger in the car door yesterday and it’s still pretty damn tender.’

I will never be on a soap opera.

I will never have that feeling they all must feel. To show up on the set every working day and stand in the lights. To deliver those serious, soap opera lines to all the beautiful people while the cameras roll; to joke around with all of them when the cameras are off. To step outside the studio and maneuver through throngs of adoring fans on my way to drinks at a co-worker’s penthouse.

Honestly, it’s not like I had a real shot at being a member of a soap opera cast. It’s just that I used to have soap opera hair. Thick, ready-to-be-blown-dry, with just a hint of a wave. My full brown mane flowed naturally from my scalp, its growth rate causing my father angst every time he ‘shelled out another $7 for a haircut’ — a fee that he felt was a necessary evil in the inflating economy of the 70s.

At the beginning, I didn’t care. I was just a kid; hair was just on my head. But then as barbers segued to hairstylists in my teens and $7 became 12, the professionals started making a fuss. “I’d kill to have your hair.” “Oh you have such thick locks.”

My hair pride grew.

Around that time I joined my older sisters watching soap operas. As the World Turns, Guiding Light, and the family favorite, All My Children. It’s not like I really needed to be a part of the cast. But as I saw all the handsome guys with their own thick locks and their polished smiles, I liked knowing, somewhere inside, that I too had the hair to be on a soap opera.

Not the star, mind you…but maybe an alcoholic gay son of thrice-divorced parents. Or an adopted teen of the town’s rich-and-widowed matriarch whose kleptomania kept him from really connecting with people. You know. Soap opera.

For a while in my own twenty-something years, I carried a torn out ad from the TV Guide in my wallet. It showed a guy and girl from As the World Turns, standing at a wedding. “I want my hair cut like his,” I’d say to the hairstylist at Regis Cuts, or at JC Penny’s Salon, pulling out the folded, slightly torn photo. They’d nod and cut, as though everybody pulled out a TV Guide ad. As though everybody had soap opera hair. But twenty became thirty, and thirty became forty.

IT happened in stages.

First, the top of my head became painfully sensitive while on a summer vacation. I couldn’t figure out why. “You got a sunburn,” an older, matronly traveling companion told me, after I asked her to examine my tortured scalp.

THEN the hairstylists stopped commenting on the thickness of my locks. How much fun it was to blow dry. Whether I would like gel.

THEN brown became flecked with gray. More grew in my nose and less on my head.

THEN people started commenting, not on my hair, but on my lack of hair. “You look so much like your father,” my dad’s cousin said when I visited her one day. My dad. A balding, overweight, average guy.

Back in the barbershop, I watch my reflection and think about him, my dad. He never seemed like soap opera material. I never saw anyone on All My Children like him. My spirits sink.

But then, in the mirror, as the Vietnamese barber runs his electric trimmer (“So easy,” he comments, when I tell him to simply cut it all at a setting of “one”)…then…

I spot a big clump of my hair as it plops on the floor.

The clump gives comfort.

Somehow, it tells me I’m still producing.

I may look like my father.

But I see me in there too, that former potential soap opera character. Something inside my head loosens.

Maybe someday I’ll still write a bestseller like Stephen King.

Maybe someday I’ll still sing a duet with a famous performer like kd lang.

Maybe someday I’ll still have lunch at the White House for an as-yet unrecognized talent.

And maybe, just maybe, I still have the chance to feel fulfilled.

Even if I’m never on a soap opera.

For fun, I put my stuff on

For serious, I put my stuff on

I invite you to visit my stuff.

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