Monday, July 05, 2004

So I was halfheartedly flipping through the channels and I decided to nurture this show called something like, "Not-in-the-mainstream-of-sexual-orientation Eye for the Pretty-much-would-schtup-anything Guy," and they got to talking about "product." For awhile, I thought they were talking about drugs because of the hushed and reverent way they were speaking but it turns out they were talking about stuff you put on your hair after you wash it.

Now, I am not exactly a slave to such things. I am that guy in the office for whom every day is "Casual Friday." My collection of pants includes blue jeans, black jeans, khaki jeans, and jean shorts. On the three or four occasions per year when I have to wear dress shoes, I whine about it to everyone I meet. I do not own a necktie. My belt has been known to not match my shoes.

So for the most part I am as blissfully unaware of fashion as George Bush is of nonviolent reconciliation. But I knew that. What I didn't know is how completely oblivious I was to the whole world of "product." The first thing I learned is that no matter how many of them you use, product is always singular. You can (and you will. Oh, you will.) use a dozen product but they will always be product, never products. Also, whenever you talk about your product, you should always drop your voice as if you were discussing the Immaculate Conception or a large cocaine deal or the towers coming down or a co-worker with an unwanted pregnancy or someone recently deceased. For instance, if you buy some hair-care items, then go out for a few beers with the guys, you might whisper as if slightly awestruck, "Dude, I just scored some new product." (By the way, "dude," like "product," is always singular.)

One reason I was oblivious to all of this is that I went for approximately twenty years without what most reasonable people would call a "haircut." I don't know why; it just never seemed like the time. For much of this period, I glistened with the lubrication of youth and my hair shone with the moisture of a L'Oreal model after a rosemary mint conditioning rinse, regardless of the fact that my life was product-free. My grooming routine consisted of shampoo, rinse, shake, and go. When my hair got in my way, I'd put it in a ponytail.

Somewhere in there -- I'm guessing during Reagan's second term -- I started conditioning. It was my first true experiment with product, though of course we didn't call it that back then. We didn't know the street names. I didn't really notice a difference in my hair, but I stuck with it. It was probably peer pressure. What can I say? It was a time of just saying no. And then rolling your eyes.

I continued to use conditioner loyally, believing I was doing my part for both proper hair care and the economy. I was pretty happy with the way things were going. But one day a few months ago it seemed like time for a haircut, so I got one. My hair isn't short now, but it's not long either. I can no longer put it in a ponytail. That's when the problems started. One day after a walk my hair was windblown, giving me a slight serial-killer or grunge rocker 'do. When I grumbled about it, Mary suggested I use some gel. I'm not sure, but I think I heard Jefferson Airplane music playing faintly in the distance.

Of course, I fought the idea. The way she said it sounded a lot like a scene from Dazed and Confused. But the problem didn't go away, so I finally tried some of her Citre Sheen. I was instantly sold. My hair did exactly what I expected it to do. The experience was just a tad bit more David Schwimmer than I liked to admit but that was a small price to pay for not looking like an extra from Night of the Living Dead.

I was still in denial but I'd already become a heavy product user. I was shampooing, conditioning, and gelling. I caught myself comparing product in magazine ads in the dentist's office. I found myself watching back to back episodes of "Not-likely-to-get-legally-married-or-even-access-to-decent-benefits Eye for the Can-barely-bathe-himself-but-drives-a-Porsche Guy." I was becoming strung out on product.

Then one day, Mary scored some new product. This time she had this tiny vial of product called miracle serum. I sneaked a peek at the label. It claimed to help "damaged" hair. I gulped. Could my hair be damaged without my even knowing? I thought I'd better give the serum a try. I felt silly because I didn't even know how to use it. The label said to apply just two drops. Two drops to my entire head? How was I supposed to do that? Finally, I squeezed two drops into one palm and rubbed it all around my hands. It seemed to disappear. I rubbed my hands through my hair anyway, figuring it was probably a scam. When my hair dried, I could not believe the difference. It was specTACular.

So now, I'm in deep. I'm shampooing, conditioning, gelling, and seruming. I have fantasies about revitalizing, detangling, pomading, balming, laminating, retexturing, emulsifying, curl-boosting, and reviving.

But the truth is, my hair has never looked better. And I think I could quit at any time if I thought things were spiraling out of control. I could go cold turkey. Sure, it might be rough for a few weeks, but I could tough it out. Maybe there's even a clinic where I could dry out without getting damaged.

But until then, I'm totally into product. So... anybody got a line on some loofah? I hear good things...

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