Thirty-one years ago my life really began. It was also the beginning of the end. I wish I had never been voted “Best Hair, Class of 1988.”
Maybe the problem was that I didn’t know how great my hair was, until senior year superlatives were announced. I mean, I knew great hair—for fuck’s sake I had basically worn through my VHS of St. Elmo’s Fire—I just didn’t know I was a possessor of it.
Then send him out into the world for the first time, and see what kind of blessing and curse that is.
All summer, the girls at the ice cream shop gave me extra scoops. My boss at the town pool assigned me the cushiest shifts. I couldn’t prove it, but it seemed like green lights stayed green longer, just for me. All because I won a plurality vote from 137 of my mid-pubescent cohorts, I cruised all through summer, no red lights.
I learned the hair tousle could get me out of a lot of the things I dreaded doing. It was like putting on a cloak of invincibility before I entered a room. The friends, grades, and girls were measurements of my successes. The lights stayed green for me, as I snagged a cushy job out of college, and kept coasting.
My vanity grew to unheralded heights, and it was somewhere during my twenties where I completely lost my way. The decade ran together as a blur of getting ass and forgetting names. I was Patrick Bateman, without the creativity for murder or the delusions of insanity.
I hadn’t made small talk in years, but somehow I found myself chatting with our former class president. Saying he had a funny story for me, whateverhisname called Daniel Jacobs over and explained that during senior year, he had made a mistake and I, Jacob Daniels, hadn’t won best hair, but Daniel Fucking Jacobs had.
For 10 years I’d lived on a foundation of lies and now quickly, my walls were crashing down all around me.
I went back to Chicago and tried to shrug it off, but like the dark shadow that it was, it followed me everywhere. My performance at work suffered and my bachelor pad grew quiet and lonely. I dumped an entire bathroom full of products for full-bodied, rich hair, down the toilet. They couldn’t help me and my coif of thorns. I ceased being anything but a clerical error from a pimple-faced yearbook editor.
My therapist says I need to stop blaming others for my problems and start accepting blame for my own actions, so let me try that: I wasn’t ready for the responsibility of great hair. I hadn’t practiced and I didn’t know how the role was supposed to be played. I thought I was a background extra, a wallflower, someone raised to work hard for things. When the velvet ropes lifted for me, I ran through, never looking back.
Looking back now hurts. Actually, looking anywhere hurts because I catch my reflection in everything and hate what I see: mediocre, unspectacular hair. At least the emperor could throw on his old clothes.
Now, I’m the guy at the bar in the baseball cap, and worse, sometimes I’m the guy at work in the baseball cap. Eventually, maybe, the curse will end and I will lose my hair completely. Unlike losing my blessing, I’m looking forward to losing my curse.