I marked another one off the list yesterday.
As I sat, slumped, a lump of NyQuil-infused waste matter, watching more TV than I had watched all year, playing with a wad of mucus, coughing it up, swallowing it down, coughing it up, swallowing it down, another of life’s little disappointments came clearly into view. The sun parted the decongestant clouds in my mind and I sat up at the thought of it. The Kleenex, which I had wadded into a rocket ship and stuffed up into my right nostril, towards the moon, fell out onto my lap. The faucet that was my emptying nasal cavities began to drip ceaselessly but my grief over my great realization was so that I didn’t even notice. I was more engrossed in my life’s own shortcomings than in my own gross comings and goings. This was a moment. This was a turning point. It was time to mark another item off the list of things I will never do.
I realized, while watching college basketball, that I will never grow an Afro.
I hadn’t thought about Afros for quite some time. But yesterday, in the three games that I snorted through on my way to Mucus-Membrane-Player-of-the-Year honors, I must have seen a dozen Afros. Suddenly, they have returned. I remembered how as a kid, playing hoops, I dreamed of bouncing downcourt, playing for the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA, wearing a three-foot ‘fro. I remembered that fantasy from when I was 13 years old and I realized yesterday that all chances of it happening, both the basketball (obviously) and the Afro, are now gone.
You can witness “why” on a recent video of me on the ‘DVE website. I’m going bald. Losing my hair. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not obsessive like some about the inevitable thinning. I promise now not to spray paint, weave, glue, or otherwise hide the fact that I am getting older. If it wants to fall out, have at it.
But in between sneezes, looking at the back of my head, tempered by half a bottle of NyQuil and the bleating of Dick Vitale in the background, I came to the conclusion that any chance I had of growing an Afro is, like my chance of making National Honor Society, gone.
I will never be Shaft.
I may, someday, however, be forced to be Isaac Hayes. And while that thought is comforting, it’s not enough to make me any happier at this moment.
To me, a member of my generation, a white kid who dribbled up the court thinking he was Earl the Pearl Monroe, watching yesterday’s games was sheer joy. I honestly cannot recall a better day of basketball. Every game had drama. Every kid got their shot at the spotlight. Every tattoo got exposure. And every ‘fro.
I think my fantasy must have started with Dr. J. When the NBA was in it’s dullest form, Julius Erving and the ABA, with it’s red-white-and-blue ball, funky warn up suits, and hair out to THERE! Was the antithesis. Not only could Dr. J. outplay anything the NBA could offer up, but he could do so while sporting one of the baddest heads of hair on the planet. There was nothing cooler than watching Julius come down court, explode from the foul line and jam over a guy, his globe full of kinky bobbing and weaving like a huge appendage.
I used to imagine that I had a ‘fro. Nobody I knew had one. Nobody I knew was black. And the white guys that I knew, even the ones who had hair kinky enough to pick into a ‘fro wouldn’t do it. They wouldn’t grow it that long. I always vowed that if someday, my hair suddenly became kinked up, I would let that sucker grow until my father kicked me out of the house. And he would have. But I never got the chance.
Oh, I’ve done many radical things with the hair on my head. I’ve had the Page Boy. I’ve done the Prince Valiant. I’ve been a mullet. I’ve done the Jesus. I’ve been Louis the Fifteenth. Had wings so big I could fly. I’ve been ponytailed and headbanded. Cowboy hatted and tobogganed. I’ve had it short. Real, real short. Prison short. Marine short. Once, when I was in a punk band, I had it blue.
But I never had it permed. A couple of my friends did when I was in high school. They ended up looking, not like the guys in Funkadelic, which is the look they were going for, but more like the boys in the Brady Bunch. After watching that, I decided that I’d managed by that point in my life to get into enough fights over my personality, so why add my looks into the mix?
I had all but forgotten about this Afro obsession until last night’s game on ESPN. One of the guys on the bench had a huge one. The person who bought those front row seats directly behind the bench weren’t happy. There was no way they could see around this kid’s ‘fro. It was huge. I kept hoping that his team would get enough of a lead so that Afro man would get off the bench and into the game. It was like watching an episode of White Shadow. But no. He sat, obscuring the front row, taking up space.
Now, I realize how stupid I, a 53-year old white guy, would look in an Afro. I’m not here to say that I would be anything but. But it’s my hair. It’s my head. And if I want to look stupid, as my mentor Bobby Brown once said “It’s my prerogative”. He also said, “Dammit, bitch, I told you, Whitney. Stop smoking crack in the house!”
But that has nothing to do with my hair.
If I had the ability to grow a ‘fro, I’m sure that I would subject to a massive amount of ridicule. But the fact that I cannot grow one makes me think that I would, ridicule be damned.
Never stopped me before.