number four 
by Jason Headley

In the time and place I grew up, there were a lot of interesting hair-related choices being made. This is West Virginia. This is the late 80's and early 90's. Boys get flat-tops at the barber shop. The mullet, the oft-scoffed 'do of the Internet elite, is another popular choice among the greasers and hardcore NASCAR fans. But it's the girls' coifs that come to mind on this day.

There was some unwritten, unspoken contest among the girls regarding the height of their hair. The sheer altitude some of these poor girls could achieve with a bottle of Aqua-Net, a blow dryer, and a few hours alone in front of a bathroom mirror was staggering. At any point in the hallways of my school you could look up from your locker to see a bevy of overly-crafted hair-tsunamis descending upon you. It was both awe-inspiring and frightening. But occasionally, if the weather was acting up, or a girl had overslept, her hair wouldn't reach its typical prominence. It would just lie there. Like hair's supposed to. So rather than looking like a hair beast from the Planet Puberty, she would look like a normal human girl. The term the girls used--with much disdain, I might add--to describe their hair in this state was "flat." I, of the school of positive reinforcement, would try to subtly cast my vote in favor of this look in conversations that often went like this:

Me: "Your hair looks nice today."
Girl: "Ugh. It's so flat."
Me: "Yeah, but it looks nice."
Girl: "But it's flat."
Me: "But it looks nice all the same."

Yes sir, I had quite a way with the ladies. But that's a whole different series of emails entirely.

The point is, I believe my hair has started to go a bit flat. I never really had much in the way of teasing and styling my hair. It sought elevation all on its own. But now, after three full weeks of not washing it, it seems to be settling down a bit. Still not remotely greasy or oily to the touch, but it does seem to have a bit of a High Pro glow to it. In a good way.

Also, I got confirmation from an outside party that my hair smells, "kinda nice." You can't imagine how good that is to hear once you've offered up your unwashed cranium to someone else's nose. I half expected to not even get the courtesy of a verbal reply. A groan, the loss of consciousness, or even a full-force retching atop my skull were responses I was prepared for. Instead, I got "kinda nice." Put that in your pipe and smoke it, clean freaks!

Unfortunately it's not all good news here. This morning, my research assistant reported seeing signs of light--I repeat, LIGHT--dandruff. These reports have yet to be confirmed. I tried to look for myself and saw no such thing. Which leads me to think that a) it's so light you can't even see it unless you're specifically looking for something to bust my balls about, b) she was lying, or c) she was drunk. As it was 8:30 in the morning, I can't put much faith in reason c. It the tables were turned, it'd be even odds on all three.

Further questions from the outside. Mike from Chicago asks:

You said that you recently cut it, but to what length? And how can I relate your findings to my own hair? Also, what are some ways to help "tame" my hair while it's going through those first couple of "wild" days? Should I just wear a hat all the time? Will people begin to suspect that I have lice?

Wow, you're a curious little critter now aren't you, Mike? My hair is currently just over an inch in length. I know this because I used the pre-measured clippers on my Wahl HomePro Adjustable Powerdrive home grooming shears. For the first few days or weeks, it's every man for himself. I can't speculate how your hair will behave in these first, trying days, so I'm gong to have to leave it to your discretion. Use as much common sense as you have. People shouldn't begin to suspect that you have lice. Unless you do. In which case, I'd recommend you give science the finger and wash immediately. Maybe even with some "special" shampoo.

This week: my first holiday with my unwashed hair. Somehow I don't think relative filth is going to register during Halloween the way it might over Christmas dinner.

We'll see.

Jason Headley is the author of the novel Small Town Odds.

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