I swear I’m not a vain man, but I do have one little vanity — my hair. This is rather difficult, as I have nearly no hair on the top of my head, and I’m sure that some of the reason I treasure the hair I have in the back is because of the lack of it on top. I’m not all that thrilled with either getting old or being bald, but I’m sure I should plan on both as time goes by. I rebel against all kinds of things, and time is one of them, but that doesn’t make me unusual.
People fight age in all kinds of ways — modern clothes, earrings, tattoos, hair coloring, and of course liposuction and tummy tucks. Those are the things that make people vain. Those people are in denial. I live in reality all too much so I’m aware that my haircut (though others won’t say it) looks pretty dumb, but I like it anyway.
I used to try to hide the length of my hair by putting it in a little ponytail, invisible from the front. That looked good, I suppose. It wasn’t until recently, I started not caring how long it got, whether people saw it or not, and whether it was in a pony tail or not. Translation: I don’t care what people think of it, I like my hair long. (See, I am vain — some.)
At various times, it looks dumber — when freshly cut and sticking up on the top, it looks like an inverse mullet. I never had a mullet when I was young enough to do so, so it’s odd that I might have one now. Luckily it grows out. In any case, after it does, I let it keep going, and now (in the words of Crosby, Stills, and Nash) I “let my freak flag fly”.
Why, you may ask and I suppose if I’m going to be the only person on the bus that looks this way, I should probably explain. I want to hold back the tide of history, I want to make a statement, I want to say “in your face!” to society and make people think — but in a quiet little way.
I’m frankly too young for this hair, though people who don’t know the difference can’t tell. While I have been getting the senior discount for some time, I’m not old enough to actually be a hippie. I just wish I were. I’m just a few years late for being an actual hippie but have always felt a kinship with that generation. I was three years old when John Kennedy died, and eight when Bobby and Martin Luther King died. I was twelve when the Vietnam War ended. I am, in fact, my peers and I produced the disco years, Southern Rock, and the return of The South under Jimmy Carter. Yecch.
As a kid, I always hung around with older kids, and felt far more connected with the “elders” in my Youth Group as a kid — tail-end hippies — and the adults I ran across (actual hippies) than I did with my own peers (until we were all seniors, then it was ok. Besides, there weren’t any of those “elders” left by that point. When I went away to college, I attended St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where they were ten years behind the time which made it perfect. I don’t remember disco ever making it there — or that new popular drug cocaine — we were way too into being mellow and enjoying life, not productivity, for either of those things. We wanted to be good people, not members of the Rat Race, and those things were just too “shallow” for St. Mary’s in 1978. I liked being stuck in the sixties as a value system far more than I liked the seventies, and by the 1980’s, I didn’t know where my country had gone.
More than that, though, I was amazed at how the new “spin doctors” had re-written history and were speaking about the people I knew through a glass darkly.
Hippies were no longer mellow, anti-war, anti-racism, pro-democracy, people. According to the press, now they were the people that ruined our country — druggies who didn’t care about anyone but themselves and making tons of money while being so lenient with their children that they were now out being psychopaths. “Hippies” had become “yuppies”. Really? What planet was I on then? There isn’t anyone I know whom I would call a hippie who became any of those things. Certainly, some became stuck in addiction, but the same percentage as any other age group, especially when you factor in alcohol as a drug.
Hippies in the media were caricatures of the people that I knew — or the actual opposite of the people I know. Vietnam was a war we “should have won”, rather than a war we shouldn’t have fought. “Radicals” weren’t even conceived of, and “liberal” was so derogatory that nobody wanted to admit to even being that.
I remember being thrilled when my seminary Youth Group “kidnapped” me and took me to see “Platoon” — which showed Vietnam as I remembered, rather than “Rambo” which everyone else wanted to see. The mood and surrealism of the 1980’s has never really been corrected yet, leaving the (American) world to think of the 1960’s and the people it produced as anti-American when, it seems to me, nothing could be further from the truth. Hippies were true Americans in the sense that they took democracy seriously and engaged in it. Three of my favorite people of all time, Bob Kyte, Peter Wells, and Charlie Hartman were, I believe, hippies — people who cared and wanted to see the best in Americans, not just the best for Americans.
If the people who have re-written history and don’t like hippie values were correct, no one should want to be a hippie or have long hair. That is why I have long hair right now (at least in the back) — because I don’t want hippies and the values they held to be eradicated from the landscape of America. I choose to be one, if such a thing is possible. I want the world to think about what they “know”. I want them to ask, “Why would anybody want to be a hippie?”. I want them to ask and I want to tell them that values of being anti-hate, anti-war, pro-ecology, pro-women, are all good things, rather than things to scoff at. I want not just my freak flag to fly — I want everybody’s freak flag — those good values in their hearts — to at least be on the radar.
So that’s the little rebellion that is my hair. Ask me about it sometime.