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Five Greasy Pieces

My boyfriend of two years is a terrific guy and very attractive. I know this sounds petty, but last week, he started slicking his hair back, and it looks terrible. Im mad hed do such a thing, but he says he thinks it looks good! While I guess Ill get used to it, it still feels like a slap in the face.

--Wigging

Bad hair is not a revenge move. That’s why characters on The Sopranos generally bump off their enemies with handguns or blunt objects -- they don’t make them stare for hours at men in toupees. Like your boyfriend’s hair mistake-over, the toupee is proof of a common blind spot in heterosexual men: the inability to see reality, as perceived by the rest of humanity, while looking directly into the mirror. A man sporting a head-rug is under the impression he’s hiding hair loss. Of course, he could be running down the street, naked and on fire, and it’s the first thing anybody would see: “Mommy, Mommy, look at that man with the dead ferret where his hair should be!””

Your boyfriend’s greasy downward spiral probably traces back to one or both of the two main reasons for hetero male hair-fussing. First, there’s Mob Envy: Inspired by the swagger of some gangster (or gangsta) on TV, a regular guy decides to danger up his image. One midnight drugstore run and a handful of Gangster-In-A-Bottle later, he’s feeling more thug than tax accountant -- and you’re staring, speechless, at “The Man Who Mistook His Head For A Salad.” Still, it could be worse: He could be one of those blond white guys with gangsta braids (Kennebunkport corn rows) and 25 pounds of electroplated bling.

Such salon-style executions aren’t so much about playing mobster just for kicks as they are about playing mobster (or metal-head, or cowboy industrialist) for an audience. Unlike women, men don’t change their look simply because they woke up feeling, say, a little goth-erella one morning; they do it because they’d like to feel a little goth-erella in bed next to them that afternoon.

The other big makeover motivator is, of course, Fleeting-Hair Phobia, the leading cause of the Extreme Comb-Over, aka the Comb-Around. That’s when a guy nurtures his one remaining strand of hair until it’s 26 miles long, then wraps it around his head thousands of times (clueless that the sexiest hairstyle, under the circumstances, is the confidence to say “I’m bald”).

Beauty may be truth, but one approach to this problem could be making your looks lie a little. Apply to be the first case of reverse plastic surgery on reality TV. Your issue will certainly take producers by surprise: “How ugly do I need to be to keep my boyfriend? Add a hook nose? Eye bags? A weak chin? And maybe hire a trainer -- a pie-eating contest coach to help me pack on some pounds.”

Are you getting the sense that maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t about giving you a greasy slap in the face? If the guy was trying to tell you something, it was probably “I want you to want me,” not “I want you to buy a used car from me.” Unfortunately, he slipped and fell into a vat of hair goo, and that’s how it came out.

Those who “know what REALLY matters” (have totally let themselves go) will blather on, ad sentimentalum, that what’s in your boyfriend’s heart, not on his head, is all that counts. They’re wrong. In fact, your future together depends on whether you can find your way through his head lube to your libido. Just remember, you don’t criticize a man into changing; you compliment him into doing it: “Can I confess something? I really miss how you used to wear your hair. It was totally sexy.” (In other words, “I get completely hot for you when your hair is the other way.”) Don’t forget to mention how much you miss running your hands through his hair (just bite your tongue on “...and not having them come out feeling like one of the birds in the wake of the Exxon Valdez”).


Copyright ©2003, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.