Moderate closeup, indoors in a rustic cabin, a young man with short bleached white hair making a cryptic smile

The Guy I Used to Be

Published 2007-05-29

When I was in college, I used to have long hair. Not quite shoulder-length, but maybe 6 inches. It hung over my eyes in a way I thought jaunty. I used to worry very much about my hair and to a certain degree my clothes. My girlfriend and I would spend hours shopping for conditioner and polo shirts.

For someone in his late teens I owned a lot of Things, and I was really proud of my Things, because they were all Brand-Name Things. I had a big aquarium and a pet lizard and all the books I'd ever bought and a comic book collection and a CD collection and a cactus garden and a big Macintosh computer. I never rode my bike or did any other kind of exercise. I never drank alcohol because I thought it would make me lose control. My biggest concerns were What other people thought of me and Staying in control. My life wasn't particularly out of control, having as I had a really pleasant childhood, but I guess I was just wound really tight.

I think back now on that guy and I wonder, who the hell was he? I wouldn't like that guy if I met him now.

The summer before my Senior year of college, my girlfriend dumped me and I discovered getting drunk and working with my hands digging in the dirt, and I had to move all that crap out of the dorms and into a studio apartment. I have spent the rest of my life getting rid of all that stuff. I still worried a lot about my hair, though, even though it was evident my hair had long since given up on me. Ten years after that summer, my ex-wife left me and I was again living in a studio apartment, but this time with totally different hair product. This time around, I had short spiky hair and it was dyed white because I thought it was harder to see that I was balding. I was still obsessed with What people think of me but what I wanted people to think about me was more complex. I wanted them to think I was a kind of a daredevil, a Fun Party Guy and also a Ladies Man.

Who the hell was that guy?

Just before I met Jenny, I shaved all the hair off my body except for my eyebrows, as an experiment. It was liberating. I realized that I was secretly a hippie, and that people's opinion of me rose when it was apparent I didn't give a damn about their opinions of me. Or, more specifically, their opinions about my hair.