Friday, November 12, 2010

The Heir and the Spare and the Spare's Hair

I have two brothers, and they couldn't be more different. My oldest brother (SMS), from last week's blog, is an Accountant who tells me that he's brilliant simply because Einstein once said, "The hardest thing in the world to understand is the Income Tax." And... since SMS does my taxes for free, every April 15th, I even let him believe he's right.

My second brother (KPS), on the other hand, took Timothy Leary's advice and "tuned in, turned off, and dropped out" of life for a while. It ended up OK, I guess (given that he really is the gentle genius in our family). Because, unlike SMS, KPS actually understands all of Einstein's relevant quotes (like E = mc2) and graduated from Penn State at the top of his class with a degree in Electrical Engineering and another degree in Biomedical Engineering... a truth he finds less relevant than the fact that, regardless of his credentials, he had to cut his waist-length hair to get a job.

Me, I have a degree in Anthropology, and when I told my parents that I dropped out of Political Science and Pre-Law to study Liberal Arts, my mother said, "That's a hobby, not a major." But, at any rate, this week isn't about my oldest brother or my mother or even my sister (who can only escape my keyboard for so long). It's about KPS, to whom I have always been incredibly close. Actually, it's about his hair.

However, as always... before I can tell you that part of the story, I have to tell you this part first.

You know, contrary to popular opinion, a degree in Anthropology has unique advantages
. Sure, it doesn't really qualify you for "employment," but it certainly helps you identify how closely some of your blind dates swing to the tree. Seriously, when you're sitting at dinner with someone, and you're wondering about his cranial capacity... and not in a hot way... you know you received more than a college diploma. You received an education. Seriously, thanks to Evolutionary Biology 101, I've dodged a second date with more than one Piltdown man, and not every woman can say that.

But I digress... The point is that, outside the obvious benefits stated above, Anthropology has its own unique set of perks, one of which is field school. And two decades ago, as a college student, I got to study in Sardinia for a semester when Italy was hosting the World Cup. It was an AMAZING experience, complete with NO drinking age. Anyway, one weekend, I went to Rome with a group of friends to watch a soccer game. And, because we also wanted to see the Vatican again and do some shopping, we decided to go early and stay late - which gave me just enough time to get a desperately needed haircut.

Unfortunately, after scheduling our appointments, we didn't head to the Spanish Steps as planned. We went to a cafe next to the salon and watched various soccer games and proceeded to get drunk instead. After several hours, beers, and matches, the time came, so I stumbled next door, sat in the stylist's chair, and tried to explain in slurred Italian that I wanted my hair, “all one length.” She said she understood, and she started cutting.

Now, of course when you’re sitting there getting your hair cut, you make small talk, right? And of course when Italy is hosting the biggest athletic event in the world, the conversation leads to futbol, right? WRONG! Cause here’s just a good piece of life advice: Never insult Italian soccer players to an Italian fan when Italy is hosting the World Cup… especially if she’s cutting your hair… and you’re drunk.

She shaved my head.

I was, quite honestly, almost bald, which wasn’t truly awful until I got back to the States at the end of the summer. See, I’d told my parents that I’d gotten my hair cut in Italy and they immediately assumed it was chic and European, and it was – if you consider Sinead O’Connor to be chic and European (which I do). So, there I was... at the end of the semester... still bald... heading home to Pennsylvania... with a bandanna wrapped around my head. I'll admit it, I was a little nervous, but I was also home-sick, and when the plane landed, I quickly de-boarded and ran straight to my family, who was standing at the gate, dying to greet me.

Like any reunion, we were hugging and laughing and talking over one-another, when my mom said, "So let's see this haircut." As I took the scarf off my head, my father literally stopped dead in his tracks and said, "GET back ON the PLANE... go BACK to ITALY… and GET YOUR HAIR!” On the drive home, he kept looking in the rear-view mirror, shaking his head, and telling my mother, "I don't understand. I just don't understand. Our son has hair down to his ass, and our daughter's head looks like a bowling ball." My mom, trying to maintain the peace, simply replied, "I'm sure it's just what kids are doing these days. It'll grow back."

Now, for the record, if you ever find yourself in a similar boat... it's WAY better to let your parents think you're "going through a phase" than it is to tell them the truth: that you were the drunken victim of a passive-aggressive hair stylist. Because honestly, how does one even begin to explain that... especially right after it happened. Hell, it was twenty years ago, and I'm still a little bitter that she had the nerve to ASK FOR A TIP. When I said, "I'm BALD." She actually replied, "Si, but it's all one length." So I gave her a tip, "Next time you put money down on a team, pick Germany."

In my defense, she turned me into a skinhead. She had to expect a hateful reply.

Anyway... unfortunately, my timing couldn't have been worse (well, for my parents anyway), because that summer - my father had chosen to retire, and my mother had chosen to have 150 people at our house to celebrate that fact. At any rate, the day and time of the party arrived, and I was standing with my brother, catching up, when our father came up to us with his friend and said, "John, you remember my youngest two children, KPS and mkromd." And no shit, the guy turned to me, shook my hand and said, "KPS, you have turned into a fine young man." Then he turned to my brother, kissed him on the cheek, and said, "You, mkromd, have become a beautiful young woman."

My father looked at his friend, then looked at KPS, then looked at me, then looked back at his friend and said, "The one whose head looks like roll-on deodorant is my daughter. Now if you'll excuse me... I need another Scotch."

Thank God that, before it could get awkward, my beloved, laid-back brother said, "It's OK dude. Even though I'm straight, I'm six feet tall, I weigh 130 pounds, I have long, blond hair, and I'm working this party like Twiggy on a catwalk. You're not the first guy here to want my number." To which the man replied, "And if I weren't a heterosexual man of the cloth, I'm sure I'd want it, too." Turns out, we had just been re-introduced to the minister who performed our parents' wedding ceremony in December of 1962. I guess Einstein understood more than Physics and Engineering. He understood life - as evidenced in his quote, "Logic will get you from A to B, but imagination will take you everywhere."

Talk to you next week.

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