Life magazine was a staple in our home as constant as Walter Cronkite on the World News and Ed Sullivan on Sunday night network television. The only blurred lines were the dotted ones on the heavy-grade paper used to teach perfect penmanship according to the black-and-white border across the orderly classroom, where hands folded on desks with feet flat and minds still marked the elementary world of children who were seen and seldom heard.
Life was our life in sharp pictorials I perused without censorship to open doors of wonder and chaos – from our country at bloody war with Vietnam to the depth of violet in Liz Taylor’s eyes. I studied the pages obsessively.
Our booming fascination with space travel, the moon and the celestial heavens introduced an issue of some future predictions, circa 2000. All men and women were bald with elongated fingers that evolved in length to manipulate our buttoned-down technology. And feet, barely walking, had virtually no toes.
Some people donned decorative pastel head powders, and others caps and flowers to complement their metallic ensembles. I didn’t mind the clothes, but as a child, I was horrified by the chrome-dome noggins we were expected to adorn!
To imagine no hair during an era that glorified the revolutionary growth of it – the ’60s serenading us with flaxen waxen dreams – this musing dared to eliminate the movement that threatened the establishment of men. Shaving your head succumbed to the summer cuts of your father’s convention – brush cuts in barber shops, and worst of all shaving of the military draft in clean-cut reverie to remind us of a sorrowful fate. How could we venture to retrograde?
But here we are. Bald is beautiful if not necessary, and sometimes a gesture of benevolence. Lavish locks on a salon floor is not foreign to me, descending from a family of hairdressers. I spent many happy Saturday afternoons unpacking wigs and stocking product shelves at G.A. Kayser’s and Sons Wholesale on Oak Street. Vanity surely colored my wistful desire to dye like a chameleon! But what prompts the yearning for a hairless, naked self?
Perhaps our long deployment in the Middle East has created a new human persona in all of us – strong, shaved, tattooed, inflexible and decidedly masculine. Since we adapt to environmental stress as the original homo sapiens did, our lack of hair must shed a light on our own direction. A blank canvas collects no ticks, but ink fades with age.
Consider the biblical renderings of Delilah in which she betrays Samson, the Israelite hero, in the 13th century B.C. His hair is shorn to rob his strength, for his extraordinary power consecrated by God was in the magic of his hair. What dictates the magic of our personal identity?
Following the runway in herds, the leader of the pack finds our image in the pool of reflection, the Instagram account of our soul. To veer from the norm is to become a victim of ridicule – a target for trolls – and we are bald.
So, Life predicts reality in our Jetson era of accelerated growth, one of fantastic measure to unite the world and separate it in webs of fanaticism. Losing our toes along the way as posture sags, cursive vanishes and social graces die, we are, collectively, hairless brutes of information technology.