As a teenager, I wore a ducktail; the rage in the 1950s. A signature of rebellion, adults damned them. Ducktails, ministers thundered, were tickets to Hell.
If a ducktail defines sin, I am now a saint.
Preachers did not get into t-shirts and belts. That was the bailiwick of high school principals. In my case, it was Marvin Smith.
Smith was in high dungeon when it came to belts and t-shirts, but to his credit, he went easy on ducktails. Our amazement invited hours of speculation as to why he bypassed ducktails. But, Smith was an odd duck.
His gray, short-cropped hair, swept back. Metal framed glasses perched on his nose. Smith wore bow-ties, white shirts, and suits. Students respected him, not because of his outward projection of sternness, but for his fairness and razor humor.
When Smith was on the warpath, and tapped the microphone, we were in for vintage Smith. He was a master of wit, buried in sarcasm. His most eloquent reprimand emerged from an incident in which a cat was locked in the ticket booth.
Five minutes of sarcasm generated gales of laughter. Smith’s delivery was eloquent; his timing, sublime. He was peerless. Few principals could match Smith on his best days. The boredom of school was shattered.
I stood in front of the mirror several days ago, counting a thin crop of 245 hairs; when the wig incident came to mind. A few years into my “fake news” newspaper career, my hair lost its roots. As the loss accelerated, a bald spot appeared.
It was in its infancy, but as men do when the comb crosses empty fields, I felled prey to the machinations of my editor’s girlfriend, who happened to be a stylist. She noticed my plight and offered me the sanctuary of a wig.
It reminded me, for some reason, of a mop, but it offered shelter from the elements, and – I supposed – from comments related to my bald spot. The police chief, a friend of mine, had commented incessantly on the hairless island, and inspired me to contemplate murder.
When I walked into the newsroom the first morning sporting my wig, I was regarded with more than curiosity; the reaction was fixation. Questions thrown at me bordered on the “Why in the hell did you do that?”
Interest in the subject declined within a few days. The chief got on with his focus on crime; firemen – I am convinced – expected at some point to be called to extinguish a burning wig. The news of the parking place of the wig spread throughout the community.
Wigs were not designed for comfort in those days. They consisted of something like chicken fencing plugged with synthetic hair. Although, it made for great insulation during the winter time when howling winds laid siege, it was not comfortable. But, I managed.
Summer came, trailed by high humidity; my wig trapped more heat than the Ozone layer; sweat rolled down my face. At some point, concern over baldness gave way to visions of heatstroke.
One day, I pulled the thing off and sold it to a lapsed monk.