Hair Genes

Happy DNA day! I was listening to the DNA day story on NPR just as I was trimming my beard, so my thoughts turned to hair and heredity.

My beard is just like my hair has always been. It has the same unruly, impossible nature my head of hair has.

I grew up envying kids with straight hair. Hair you could actually style instead of just tame. Hair that would obey. Back in the seventies when I was a kid everyone had “wings” ala Farrah Fawcett and Shaun Cassidy. I wanted “wings.” What I had was more like “tentacles.” My hair was thick and curly and ruled by waves and swirls and cow-licks that made every single barber I ever had remark about my hair. I had thick Black Forest Hair.

There were two times in my life I was satisfied with my hair. Once when I just let my hair win and it let it grow out unabated. The waves and swirls, about six or so inches out, turned into a thick curly mane of hair. And nowadays, when I cut it back so short that my hair has no freedom to get swirly on me.

Same goes for my beard. If I let it grow out, I look positively Hassidic, and my wife is after me to shave. And when I trim it very short it looks uniform, but kind of retro ala Miami Vice, and my wife says it’s too short. But at medium trim, you can make out the patchy shocks of thick whiskers and the unpredictable sparser areas, like an uncharted geography of follicular distribution. And so I am rarely satisfied. But it beats shaving all to hell.

The one time I shaved my beard (egged on by a particularly aggregious beard-shaping mishap) I hopped into bed with my wife and she saw me and screamed. Once she figured out it was me and not some bed-jumping marauder who vaguely looked like her husband, she said immediately, with urgency “Grow it back.” So I’ve had a beard ever since. And probably always will.

Girlzilla has inherited my thick forest hair. And she has the same love-hate relationship with it. At its current length, when she does nothing with it and lets it hang, it looks like a blonde version of Rosanna Rosanna Danna’s hair. (Old SNL reference) She wants straight hair like the other kids too. Last night she was up past her bedtime trying to straighten it with a curling iron, frustrated to tears. We had to send her to bed in mid battle. Poor kid, she has my hair genes.

Now with Mr. Freshpants, who is African American, we have ahead of us a whole new hair adventure which will require some training and adjustment. I wash the oil out of my own hair. I put oil in his hair after I wash it. It’s a whole new territory.

Petunia’s hair is like her. Wispy and petite and eminently stylable. Looks good with bows.

But neither of them has my hair genes. Girzilla does. Sorry kiddo.

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