Poor baby boomer Perry Block of Havertown, Pennsylvania. There he was, sitting with his son thinking he looked pretty cool. Until, in a cosmic case of role reversal, the son spoke up.
The other day my 19-year-old son Brandon and I were watching TV when he turned to me and said, “Dad, I think it’s time to get a haircut.” The thing is, he didn’t mean him, he meant me!
For anyone who grew up in the late 60s or early 70s who has ever encountered a similar remark from someone of a dissimilar generation, this was indeed a moment of role reversal of cosmic proportions. If the child is father to the man, how did the millennial child ever come to make the same statement to the Baby Boomer father that the Greatest Generation father made to the Baby Boomer child some forty-odd years ago?
It began the day I went to get the picture taken for my new driver’s license. I saw sunken eyes, dark circles, shriveled skin, minimalist hair, and a weary paleness that begged for a rocker and warm buttermilk, and not only did the Pennsylvania state photographer look like that but the picture affixed to my new driver’s license did as well!
The best way to deal with all this unsightly sightliness, I determined, was to cover as much of it as possible, and as it had been years since I danced the Dance of the Seven Veils, the second best cover-up seemed a beard. And thus, a month-and-a-half and a couple of applications of Just for Men (dark brown) later, the first Perry Block beard of the new century was born.
Now to me, as well as to many of my era, a beard equals long hair like E = MC2, and one and one and one is three. So I began to let my hair grow, ignoring the two major concerns that (1) long hair wouldn’t work with my old face, and (2) I didn’t have enough on top to carry longer hair on the sides and would wind up looking like Clarabelle the Clown from the Howdy Doody TV Show of my youth.
But I pushed on, aided by a myriad of hair-thickening products and the resurrection of a hair dryer that had been dormant so long, the instruction book was written in Middle English. And over time, as my hair grew, I was beginning to feel serene in my perhaps fool’s paradise — but paradise nonetheless — of my latter-day return to hippie dippie freakdom.
That is, until that express moment of cosmic role reversal when while watching TV my 19-year-old son told me to “get a haircut.”
“But why, Brandon? Do I not look retro-sixties? Do I not look … dare I say … cool?”
“Yes, Dad, you look retro-sixties for a guy in his sixties. Cool? I’ll leave that up to a woman in her sixties.”
“What I take it you’re saying, Brandon,” I countered, “is either the long hair doesn’t work with my older looking face or I don’t have enough on top to carry the longer sides.”
“Yes, Dad, both of those. For starters.”
“For starters?! Brandon, I think you’re being kind of unfair!”
“And I think you’re being kind of unkempt. And I think you wanna be kempt!”
“I think I see the problem,” I said, now full-on exasperated. “You’re assuming that my longer hair is some kind of political statement, which it is not.”
“Dad, long hair hasn’t been a political statement since, well… since you had enough of it. And the only political statement your hair could possibly make is “Seize the Power of the Condo Association!”
The Cosmic Fates were now fully aligned. Would I stand tall, or would I sell out to the man… or in this case, to the boy?
“I’ll get a haircut, Brandon, when I’m good and ready!” I shot back defiantly, just as I had so many years ago.
“How about 9:30 tomorrow morning?” said Brandon, picking up the receiver and beginning to dial.
“I won’t be good and ready” I replied steadfastly, “until at least 10:30! Maybe not even till 11:00.”
I guess the even the most cosmic case of role reversal will only go so far.