Posts Tagged ‘fashion’

Lindsay Lohan confused by new developments

October 26, 2011

She seems even more troubled and confused than when she cut a stolen diamond necklace off her calf, then attended a movie premiere wearing an alcohol-monitoring shackle around her neck.

Actress Lindsay Lohan, facing multiple criminal charges and hoping to restart a sagging career, began a new phase of recovery yesterday with a bit of a hiccup. She showed up for community service at the Los Angeles county morgue ready to pose for nude photographs, then went to a Playboy photo studio to scrub toilets and wash floors.

“At least she was on time,” said county spokesman Ed Winter. “And, admittedly, she was kind of hot. But lounging on a corpse with her shirt off was not the kind of community service we had in mind.”

Lohan apparently is struggling with two big developments in her life: her sentence to spend 120 hours working at the morgue, and a reported $1 million offer to pose in Hugh Hefner’s men’s magazine. When the two events were scheduled to start the same day, Lohan reportedly became disoriented.

“I don’t think it was really that big a deal,” said Lohan’s publicist Steve Honig. “Those bathrooms at the photo shoot had gotten pretty scuzzy.”

Lohan arrived promptly at 6 a.m. at the coroner’s office as paparazzi’s helicopters buzzed overhead. She checked in with the community service coordinator, and was scheduled to start her day washing soiled linens. Instead, she doffed her clothes, wrapped herself in the blood-encrusted sheets, and began striking a series of provocative poses.

“You’d think she would’ve noticed that the only cameras around were the video security system,” said Winter. “But that didn’t stop her. She spent the better part of the morning romping among the corpses, teasing them with her discarded outfit and pretending to act surprised she was caught naked.”

Lohan spoke briefly with reporters after the morning-long session.

“They already had dozens of unclothed people in there, though I’ll admit they weren’t as animated as I was. And I was pert where they were sagging,” Lohan said. “The session was fun. I thought I’d be nervous exposing myself like that, but the crew was totally professional. They said nothing at all to make me uncomfortable. In fact, they were deathly quiet.”

After leaving the morgue, Lohan drove across town to the photo studio. There, she spent the afternoon wiping down equipment, cleaning bathrooms and taking out the trash.

“I have to admit, it was a difficult session,” said one Playboy photog who refused to be identified. “It was hard to get her to sit still. We had to follow her around the office and watch for opportunities where she would bend over, then quickly snap the shot.”

“I’m not sure how provocative our readers are going to find pictures of her dumping the garbage,” he added. “She had a real good technique, and always managed to empty every last scrap of paper. But I’m not certain that’s what our readership is looking for.”

By the time Lohan had finished her busy day, the court official supervising her probation had been notified of the mix-up. Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sautner, a veteran of Lohan’s excuses for why she acts like a crazy person, sounded frustrated with the latest outrage.

“Didn’t she notice the smell, the cold lockers, the toe tags?” Sautner asked. “And the Playboy thing doesn’t sit well with me either. Next time, she gets more than a monitoring cuff on her leg. I’m putting her in a whole-body jumpsuit. If she tries to take that off, it’s back to prison for Miss Lohan.”

"Oooh, that smell," Lohan noted. "Can't you smell that smell?"

Out with the combover, in with the summer ‘do

July 25, 2011

The combover haircut I never asked for but got anyway (see was taking over my life.

My daily jog had become an exercise in awkwardness. I could pump my left arm as usual to help me power up the hills but the right hand had to hold my hair in place. While shampooing, I dealt with this big ungainly clump on one side that felt like something fished out of the drain trap.

It felt like the long sheaf of hair my previous stylist thought I’d use as a blanket to cover my bald spot had gone to seed. Maybe that would explain the patches of new hair growth I was seeing in my ears and nostrils.

So I spent my lunch break from work Friday back in the barber’s chair. This time, I wanted a true summer cut. Not the fully shaven look that’s become so common, what my son used to call “bald hair” when he was a child. Not the short stubble we named a “crew cut” back when The Three Stooges’ “Curly” was rocking the style.

It had to be long enough that I could still comb it and part it, but no longer. I wanted something that was easy maintenance, perfect — as the women’s magazines might point out — for that “casual, on-the-go, wash-and-wear look busy gals everywhere are turning to.”

I tried to explain my dream-cut to my Great Clips barber. Arturo, the forty-something Cuban-American I had worked with once before, didn’t seem to get what I was going for. He appeared confused and disoriented as I fingered the offending strands and laid out my plan for getting rid of them.

Just don’t give me what you’ve got, I wanted to say. He sported the oiled pompadour so popular in Miami’s exile community, a squared-off ‘do favored by many Cuban men that my childhood friends had called “The Cubic.”

“Just make it short all over, but not too short,” I finally suggested.

When I noticed perspiration starting to collect on his brow and upper lip, I finally realized his bewilderment might be due more to early signs of heat exhaustion than to my poor description. It was a little toasty in the salon, and when I saw that the back door was open and several fans were rotating nearby, I realized the air conditioning was out. On one of the hottest days of the summer.

I thought about up and leaving, especially when he draped the black plastic tarp over me to begin his work.

“Yeah, it was so bad last night, we had to close early,” another stylist was telling her client. “The sweat was getting in my eyes and burning. I was dripping on the customers.”

Arturo was a more quiet type than Amanda, and he began a slow, deliberate clipping that looked like it might take till the first cold snap of fall to finish. I told myself to be patient, that this short-term discomfort would soon be over and my scalp would be properly shorn.

I felt like someone sitting in one of those old-fashioned portable steam rooms, the kind you see in old movies where only the person’s head is sticking out of a box while their torso tosses off excessive water weight. Only I was even more uncomfortable, what with the prickly hairs sneaking down my neck and Arturo’s labored breathing in my ear.

I thought about making conversation to better pass the increasingly distressing time. On the last visit, I remember him mentioning that he was indeed from Miami, where I had lived until leaving for college in 1971.

“Your countrymen pretty much took over my home town,” I could say. “The Miami I knew before Castro came along was a nice, safe place to live. Sure, you gave us Gloria Estefan and 50 years of myopic foreign policy toward the island. But it would’ve been nice to have left at least a few English-speaking pockets in the county.”

Instead, I kept my mouth shut, and counted every snip-snip as another sign of progress that I’d be freed soon. (Much like the Cubans counted every head cold Fidel came down with since 1961 as a signal they’d soon be returning to their freed homeland).

Such was not the case, however, with the new client who had just been seated across the aisle from me. His name was Martin, and he couldn’t have been more than three years old. His mom accompanied him into Amanda’s chair, which I at first thought was a loving show of support but soon turned into a mechanism of constraint as the kid screamed his lungs out.

Now, despite my curmudgeonly outlook on life, I’m actually a big fan of kids. It’s one of the few things in life that cause me to break out in a big smile, right up there with nitrous oxide and the laughable politics of the current GOP presidential candidates. I believe that children are not only our future; I believe they are also our past and present.

The screaming continued unabated, raising the stress level in the room to almost unbearable heights. In normal situations, when you encounter a misbehaving child in public — hollering in a restaurant, scooting through your legs at Target, appearing on “America’s Got Talent” in a performance of Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You” — you can look daggers at the parents and get some satisfaction.

But a child’s first haircut is seen as a sentimental right of passage. You have to chuckle at how the blond baby locks cascade to the floor as a girlish toddler is transformed into a little boy. Seriously, you have to; it’s an unwritten law of modern society.

So Arturo and Amanda smiled through clenched teeth, Amanda offering the obvious observation that “I don’t think he likes me.” A collection of customers in the waiting area sweated and fidgeted, while simultaneously grinning at Martin’s antics. Even the AC repairman, working quietly in the back, resisted the temptation to throw a heavy wrench at the bawling youngster.

“I HATE YOU!” the little boy bellowed. “GET ME OUTTA HERE! WAHH! WAHH!”

Fortunately, Martin was getting a buzzcut, and almost before he could say “I WISH YOU WERE DEAD!! AHH!! AHH!!”, he was tumbling out of the chair, his mom all apologetic and the rest of us grinning our insincere smiles.

Back on my own personal head, Arturo finished up a few details. He did my brow work, he shaved the back of my neck, he proudly held up the mirror that displayed how expertly he had evened the hairline in places I’d never see.

“Looks good,” I said, though I would’ve accepted anything short of a mohawk at that point to escape the raucous, sultry hell that Great Clips #426 had become.

Revisited Website Review:

July 15, 2011

No no no no no no no no no no,
no no no no no no no no no no no no no no
Nobody can do the shake like I do
Nobody can do the boogaloo like I do
–”Nobody But Me” by The Human Beinz (1968)

We’re at an awkward moment in the long history of humankind. We’ve mastered the land, inventing agriculture to free us from all that tedious hunting and gathering. We safely harvest critical resources from the sea (sort of). We fly through the air with the greatest of ease, the rocketpacks and balloons and zeppelins and superheroes nearly blotting out the sun at times.

And yet we still face this issue of unwanted hair. Fashion magazines have made it abundantly clear that hair is to exist only in a luxuriant and lustrous state flowing out of the top of our heads, and in smaller strips in and around the eye, on the brow and lash. Our ancestors from millennia past needed all kinds of body hair for protection from the elements, but now that we have condos and ballcaps and the cutest tops from TJ Maxx, the remaining fur is vestigial and has almost left our bodies entirely. Except for some embarrassing patches that we hope evolution will eventually get to, though frankly we have a date at 7 tonight and can’t wait much longer.

For these people, commerce has developed a number of caustic solutions and tiny gouging devices that will remove unwanted hair, if you don’t mind unbearable pain and a moderate fee. They work pretty well, as do most torture regimens eventually. However, the modern consumer longs for a more high-tech approach, i.e., one they can order over the internet.

So in today’s Website Review, I’m going to tell you about a product called the “no!no!’. Deliberately lower-cased to distinguish it from the industrial-strength “NO!NO!” being used at secret CIA rendition centers, the no!no! is a small machine offering “professional hair removal at home … finally, a pain-free long-term solution for hair removal!” Offering no hair and no pain, it virtually named itself.

Using the Thermicon™, a thermodynamic wire to transmit heat to each individual hair, the shaft becomes superheated, basically crystallizing the follicle. This both pulverizes the part of the hair that shows above the surface and cripples the cell communication below the skin that grew the hair in the first place. A buff, which comes “free” with your $284.40 purchase, then turns your skin from a bombed-out Dresden to a soft, barren desert. Self-tasering has never been so easy.

The home page of is packed with moving graphics, pink backgrounds and a spray of bullet points that would make an armed and disgruntled former employee proud. The “smart skin solutions” people at parent company Radiancy tout the no!no! as “•cordless and convenient,” “•cord-free operation,”  ”•removes embarrassing facial hair too!” and  ”•great for men and women.” It’s InStyle magazine’s 2008 beauty product of the year, and has also been seen in Vogue, Shape and Self magazines, because that’s what happens when you pay them money to run your ads. There’s also a tease of some of the other heartfelt testimonials to follow elsewhere in the site:

“As someone who struggled with unwanted hair, it is so wonderful to sit here proud and hairless,” writes one satisfied customer. “Thank you no!no! for coming into my life!”

Under the “How It Works” section, there are more details about the three distinct processes involved in permanently mutating your pores. During “First Contact” (not to be confused with the 1996 Star Trek movie), a super-heated wire separates the hair shaft at the point of contact. At the “Crystallization” stage, the uppermost part of the hair becomes coarse and prickly, and you can stop at this point if you’re into that. Most, though, want to proceed to the “Disruption” phase, where the actual “miscommunication between bulge and root” takes place, slowing future hair growth. A phase four, as-yet undiscovered but certain to be announced in the next year or so, gives you fatal melanoma.

The overly punctuated “Why no!no!?” pulldown uses an easy-to-read spreadsheet to dissect the problem women everywhere face about what methods to use on their face. Current techniques all have their shortcomings. Short-term solutions like razors, depilatory creams and electric shavers get a “no” in the pain column but a “daily” in the frequency column and all kinds of nasty stuff in the “side effects” column including razor burn, cuts, odor and allergic reactions. For mid-term remedies like “epilation (rotary)” and the tasty-sounding “wax-sugaring,” you can trade painlessness for bi-monthly convenience, though now you’re also looking at burn potential, a mess, and a lot of time and money. The long-term effects of the laser include pain, skin inflammation, odor and a costly, long-term commitment, but on the plus side you’ll be recognized by most grocery store bar-code scanners.

The no!no! option is not a miracle cure and does require commitment. For your effort, you’ll “make the dream of less unwanted hair a reality.” The simple and pain-free technique involves “no pulling, tearing or scraping, just a slow, smooth slide”. There is something called the “hot blade” involved but it’s encased in a cate little handheld device (comes in pink or silver) that you can take with you almost anywhere. And, that convenience means you can no!no! “at home or wherever,” sitting on the side of your bed, after a workout at the gym, or while running for statewide office in California.

There are some Testimonials included in one section. Frankly, they’re rather lackluster. “I will definitely recommend this to girlfriends with thick, stubborn hair,” says one woman, about to find herself seriously defriended on Facebook. “I first saw no!no! in a magazine, then heard rave reviews from a friend,” says Kennedy of Omaha. “I thought what the heck, I’ll give it a whirl. The no!no! did not disappoint. I love my no!no!” (Imagine this woman’s poor dog, trying to be a good boy but constantly hearing “no!no!”)

The best testimonial of all comes in a video format from “celebrity” Kassie DePaiva, a daytime TV star who loves her no!no! She prattles through about a dozen different 30-second clips showing her compensated enthusiasm for the product. “I’ve got a great body, it’s just the hair I don’t like,” she says. “I might’ve shaved in the morning but by 5 o’clock I’m doing a love scene and the actor says ‘gee, Kassie, do you ever shave your legs?’ I was mortified,” she confides. “It’s taken care of a huge issue in my life, a universal problem that people don’t want to talk about,” she adds. “The pain (before no!no!) stopped me from living,” she says. “I was tired of being the hairy girl I’ve been all my life.”

Finally, Kassie DePaiva has been liberated to pursue a Hollywood career that has her IMBD STARmeter rating up 22% in just the last week. After a long career on “One Life to Live,” she got her own show called “Knit & Crochet Today,” thanks in no small measure to her reduced bushiness. After being universally panned by critics — “she asks silly questions and makes comments I would expect from a ditsy teenager,” wrote one — she was canned, but not because wool-knit scarves and afghans didn’t glide smoothly across her skin.

The last piece I’ll cover is the standard “Frequently Asked Questions” section. “Does it really work?” is answered “Yes, it really works.” The question “Is the no!no! treatment safe?” brings the confusing but definitive response “Yes, no!no! is safe.” Someone asks “Can I use it with other hair removal products at the same time?” It seems you can throw the whole inventory of procedures at your upper lip if you want to — lasers, tweezers, waxes, acids, a make-out session with Zach Galifianakis — but these could interfere with no!no! benefits, so don’t come asking for your money back.

There’s a handy online order form for a deal that’s only available through June, so try to claw your way out of your hirsute prison and type on a computer if you can. They accept all major credit cards and you can make three easy payments. Obviously, certain billing information is also required but they’re polite enough to exclude a pulldown requiring you to categorize your hairiness on a scale that ranges from Alec Baldwin to Robin Williams to the Wolfman.

One final important point about the no!no! that’s contained in the fine print at the bottom of the website. “The no!no! is not recommended for use on the genitals.” I myself can’t imagine that possibility even entering my mind, though I understand that desperate people may consider desperate measures. My response to the thought, however, is much like those timeless words from the Human Beinz — “No no no no no no no no no no!”

Thinking of wearing shorts to work

June 13, 2011

With blazing temperatures predicted into the indefinite future, discussions have begun in my office about appropriate attire for the summer.

More specifically, I wonder, is it okay for me to wear a sundress?

I work in a pretty standard office environment. We all sit at desks in front of computers, but in the parlance of the company, we’re considered a “production environment.” Even though many of us — I won’t name names — spend most of the day knitting and doing crosswords, with their “production” limited primarily to carbon dioxide emissions.

The air-conditioning in this facility is spotty at best. We’re basically a retrofitted warehouse, carved out of the corner of a cavernous storage room. If you’re lucky enough to sit under a vent, you stay cool. Otherwise, it may take a small fan blowing directly into your face to stay comfortable.

Women have an unfair advantage when it comes to clothing options. They can wear open-toed shoes, skirts and shoulder-bearing tops. They can wear pants of virtually any length, short of short-shorts. They don’t even have to wear socks!

Men are pretty much stuck with full-length slacks. One rebellious second-shift proofreader showed up in shorts the other day, but he was given a pass, probably because the shorts were a camouflage print and management feared he’d go commando if confronted. (I feared he’d “gone commando” in another sense as well, but fortunately knee-length britches prevented any unintended exposure).

My desire to show up some morning in a flowery frock doesn’t mean I’m a would-be cross-dresser. Just because I’d feel a lot cooler (temperature-wise as well as fashion-wise) in a sleeveless minidress doesn’t make me weird. In fact, I’d probably be covered by some kind of anti-discrimination statute.

I just want to be comfortable, to have fresh air swirling about my privates, to have nothing but a thin layer of cotton keeping me decent.

Why is our society stuck with these old-fashioned notions of what is proper clothing and what isn’t? We should look to the natural world and to indigenous societies for guidance.

Peoples who live in tropical jungles and whose “office” is the wild-running stream or the open savannah have the common sense to dress in simple thongs. Communities of the far north wrap themselves in layers of fur and blubber to protect against the cold. There are no human resources managers telling anybody they are not dressed appropriately. You’re not going to see bare-legged Eskimos unless you visit the porn site.

I’ll admit that some advances in comfort have been made. We’ve come a long way from those Victorian times when civilized society was dressed head to toe in restrictive outerwear. But I want to see the progression completed. If shorts and T-shirts became acceptable in polite society as early as the 1960s, you’d think by now we’d be well on the road toward widespread public nudity. Especially when you throw in global warming.

But I see nothing in Company Policy No. HR-4-18 (“Dress Code”) that sanctions nakedness.

“Employees should present a professional image to customers, prospects, and to the public and their attire should be indicative of the type of work being done at each facility,” reads the policy. “Employees are expected to, at all times, present a neat and appropriate appearance.”

Can’t a person be neat and nude at the same time? Wouldn’t going “full frontal” eliminate the need to specify all that we can’t wear? “No tank tops; midriff tops; shirts with potentially offensive words, cartoons or slogans; halter-tops; torn or frayed clothing; see-through apparel; revealing slits; beach sandals are allowed,” reads Procedure D. Note that they didn’t mention togas, codpieces and raw animal pelts as forbidden attire. Does that mean they’re allowed?

The only potentially negative effect I see of working in the buff is that male employees may be inserting extra spacebands into their word processing files. But only when they first sit down and only if they’re fully aroused.

I do acknowledge that there may be safety issues that would be of concern in some of our production environments. The guys working in the pressroom, for example, are not allowed to have beards longer than four inches, lest they get caught up in the machinery. I agree that our clients have every right to expect they can turn to page 68 of their annual proxy statement and not find the lower half of Bob’s face imprinted atop the executive summary compensation table.

So I am willing to be reasonable. I understand that there are other societal forces at work that quite properly sanction 57-year-old men from coming to work in the altogether. And I know that I don’t really have the figure to do proper justice to all those kicky sheaths I saw in the Misses department while shopping at Target yesterday.

But I think I am going to see if I can get away with wearing shorts. Perhaps if I approach it incrementally, my manager will never notice. One day, I’ll wear standard slacks but it’ll be a pair I borrowed from my slightly shorter son that end an inch or two above my shoes. The next day, I’ll wear Capris. The day after that, it’ll be clam-diggers. I’ll let those sink in for a week or so, then make the next step to basketball shorts. Then, it’s just a short few centimeters up my leg to knee-length trunks, tennis shorts and, my ultimate goal, “Daisy Dukes” short-shorts.

If I’m going to spend this awful summer of record heat panting to catch my breath, I aim to do it panted appropriately.

Might this still count as "business casual"?

Revisited: An editorial to myself — you need to wear scrubs

June 4, 2011

When I came home from the hospital with my newborn son 19 years ago, I was filled with joy. Yes, Daniel was everything you could ask for in a baby — spherical, compact, Homo Sapien, vaguely orange. But the really cool thing was that they let me keep the green pair of scrubs I had worn while staying in the hospital.    

This loose-fitting outfit that instantly identifies you as being somehow associated with the medical establishment was exquisitely comfortable. This was a necessity while I spent three nights “sleeping” at the hospital as my new family recovered from the trauma of cesarean childbirth. The scrubs were also the properly sterile fashion statement for the stint I spent in the operating room during the delivery itself, and so much more appropriate to the setting than the pilot’s uniform or sumo thong that some dads wear.    

Once back at home, I lounged around the house for several days in the scrubs, feeling every bit as special as a new father deserved to feel. I welcomed the well-wishers who brought us casseroles while wearing the scrubs. I made quick trips out to the store in the scrubs. I even attended at an emergency scene in the local market when a woman slipped on a grape in the produce section. I helpfully rocked her prone body back and forth while we waited for more accredited medical personnel to arrive, since I knew how critical it was to “shake it off” when dealing with possible spinal trauma.    

Now, it’s almost two decades later, and I want to go to the medical supplies store and buy myself an entire wardrobe of scrubs. But, no — my wife and son think it’s a stupid idea. I just want to be comfortable as my middle-aged spread plays itself out around my mid-section and, simultaneously, be admired by any onlooker who thinks I might be a neurosurgeon. Scrubs are like sweatpants, except without the whole giving-up-on-life vibe. And if you dangle a surgical mask around your neck and spring for the little cloth booties, you’re ready for a shift in the trauma unit, except for the eight years of medical schooling.    

Davis, I really think you should buy yourself some scrubs. Don’t pay attention to those who don’t want to see you cool and comfortable.    

Another thing I might want to consider as I remake my closet for the summer is one of those wearable babies. You’ve doubtless seen these cute little guys and gals, strapped in a harness to their parent’s chest, staring wide-eyed at this strange new world before them. With their adorable little faces only a few inches below yours, they make a truly eye-catching accessory. There was a young mom in line in front of me at the drug store the other day picking up her prescription, and the pharmacy tech waiting on her couldn’t stop smiling. I think the mom was just picking up some Lipitor for her husband, but you got the distinct impression she could get anything she asked for. All the cash from the register? Sure, and take these checks too. An armload of diabetes test kits and cases of beer? You’ll probably need a cart. Controlled substances with a street value in the thousands of dollars? Certainly, and don’t let me forget to swipe your frequent customer card so you get credit for those.    

Davis, you deserve a wearable baby.    

And let me just mention a couple more things while we’re in this mood of celebrating my individual “me-ness” and catering to my every whim. I’ve been wanting a wide-brimmed hat for some time, one that will keep the summer sun off my ears and neck. I mentioned this to my son a few weeks back, so he actually got me one for Father’s Day. The problem I’ve traditionally had with all hats is that my head — so chocked full of brain matter that it’s swollen to an almost inhuman size — is too big. I’ve managed to special order a couple of properly fitting hats from a large-headed Slavic nation. One is a baseball cap I wear while mowing the grass and the other is a tall, black top hat that I’ve yet to find the right setting for. (My niece’s recent college graduation is the most formal event I’ve been to in years and even that didn’t seem right for a top hat).    

So I’ve already got this new hat, a dandy of an outdoorsman’s bonnet of extra-large capacity ordered direct from the Amazon (or so says the box). The slight problem is that it barely fits. I can jam it onto my crown and tell that it’s not going anywhere until I’ve got the most terrific headache imaginable, but I’m not sure it looks good on me. You be the judge.    

Hatted, happy and healthy

On second thought, I don’t want you judging me at all. Davis, you ought to feel proud that your son gave you a hat for Father’s Day and that you have enough sense to protect yourself from damaging UV rays, regardless of how dorky you look.    

Finally, I want to note some issues I have with sunglasses. As you can see from the hat picture above, I wear eyeglasses to correct my near-sighted vision. I once sprung for a pair of prescription sunglasses, back in the days when employer-provided eye-care insurance seemed like a good idea for professional proofreaders, but now that’s a luxury. So I have two choices: I can wear just the stylish unprescribed Raybans that protect my eyes from glare while exposing the rest of my body to the potential of being blind-sided by a car, or I can wear a pair of those gigantic overglasses so popular among the geriatric set. Like these…    

Sign me up for some of that “assisted living” I’ve heard so much about

Davis, I call on you to wear whatever sunglasses you see fit to wear. This is not a time for caving to the passing fads of a fickle public so obsessed with not looking totally ridiculous. Be your own man. Wear what you want to. I urge you to adopt this position.

The curse of the combover

May 11, 2011

I stopped into Great Clips last week for a haircut and ordered the usual. I always go to the same location, so they know me. Or, rather I should say, they know my phone number.

When they punch those digits into the register, they access a vast database about all the hundreds of haircuts I’ve had over the years. A composite of recent trends emerges after several moments of high-powered computing, and the stylist is given specs that will transform my head into the shape I prefer. A “four,” I think they call it.

My idea of a good haircut is usually synonymous with a fast haircut. I want to be in and out of the chair as quickly as possible, so having essentially pre-ordered what I want tends to expedite the process greatly. Just in case there’s been some mix-up, though — in case Chinese hackers have broken through the Great Clips firewall and scrambled my data so I’m down as a “seven” or a “fourteen” or, God forbid, a “Ryan Seacrest” — I’ll offer some extra guidance as I settle into the chair.

“Same basic style as I have now, just shorter,” I’ll say. “But not too short. Just a trim, really.”

The stylist made some chit-chat as she worked, and I grunted the standard responses. She observed that I had particularly wavy hair, adding that most women “would kill” for the kind of natural curls and body that my greying locks exhibit. I was taken aback for a moment, considering all the sharp instruments she had at her disposal and how close those instruments were to my carotid artery. I suppressed a few seconds of panic before convincing myself she was just making conversation.

In no time at all, we were done. She gave me a hand mirror and twirled me around in the chair so I could admire the fine handwork she’d done on the back of my neck. “Looks good,” I said, eager to move out of the shop and on with my life. I paid, pocketed my free Dum-Dum lollipop and exited into the parking lot.

Just before getting into my car, a gust of wind blew and I felt a curious pull on the top left of my scalp. I settled into the driver’s seat and took a quick glance in the rear-view mirror. Now, I know that objects in mirror are closer (and therefore larger) than they appear, but I didn’t think that could explain what was happening on top of my head. A giant wayward strand of hair was jutting high above my scalp where only a few moments before there had been neatly organized hair.

I had been given a combover cut! Rather than looking like the hip young host of “American Idol,” I had become Conrad Bain, star of the 1970s sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes.”

Not me, but close

My “wavy” hair was more like a tsunami of errant tresses. I had the male equivalent of the Snooki poof. The windy spring that I had looked forward to throughout the harsh winter was now going to be a nightmare of chaos as I struggled to maintain some kind of order upstairs.

Like most men my age, I do have some thinning in the area where male pattern baldness tends to occur among the fifty-something set. But it’s not as bad as a lot of guys have. So I’ve tended to swallow my pride and live with the unintended consequences that medical science has wrought by extending our lifespan beyond the 40 or so years our ancestors survived.

As soon as I realized what had happened, I should’ve marched right back into that Great Clips and demanded satisfaction. I have never, ever asked for the combover; in fact, I’ve specifically mentioned on other visits that I didn’t want it. I’d rather have a spot of old-growth stubble down the center of my skull than affect a more youthful ‘do that in reality isn’t fooling anybody.

But instead, I’ve resolved to live with my new handicap until my next styling a month or so down the road. I’d rather try to figure a way to regain control of a windblown combover than face having to spend another five minutes in the barber’s chair.

So far, I’m considering wrapping my scalp in Saran Wrap, applying heavy daubs of partially hydrogenated whale blubber, or placing my right hand on top of my head in a constant signalling that an ineligible receiver is downfield.

Anything to gain control over this awful combover.

Maybe I should get a tattoo

April 20, 2011

Watching the NBA playoffs on television this week, I can’t help but wish I had some tattoos. I also wish I were young, athletic, adored by millions of fans, making tens of millions of dollars, and had a cool name like Nenê or Luol Deng or Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

Unfortunately, none of these things are going to happen to me. Including the tattoos.

As a 57-year-old middle-class white guy, I am too old and too out-of-it to get a tattoo, even if they could find some skin that still had enough tone and elasticity to hold the ink. I’d be laughed out of the tattoo parlor. Especially if I called it a “parlor.”

Still, enough of the spirit of rebelliousness and nonconformity I had as a youth has survived into late middle age that I think I’d get me a “tat” were I about 35 years younger. Sure, there’s a big part of me that scoffs at the foolhardiness of those who permanently mar large swaths of their body, creating a youthful indiscretion that will long outlast their memory of why they did it. There will be some awkward explanations to the grandkids of the future about why “Pop-Pop” has a deformed vulture on his back — “It’s an eagle,” the elderly Zack answers. “Okay, then why do you have an eagle on your back?” responds little Sarah.

But today’s youth live for today, as well they should since their parents’ generation have virtually destroyed the earth and economy they’ll inherit. They want a sign to show the world that they’re cool. And nothing says “cool” like enduring hours of painful injections administered by a quasi-surgeon wearing a sleeveless black T-shirt extolling the virtues of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Tattoos have been around since the Neolithic era some 7,000 years ago. The remains of a fellow nicknamed “Ötzi the Iceman” (not to be confused with Ozzy the Osbourne) were found frozen in the Ötz valley of the Alps with 57 distinct carbon tattoos on his back and legs. The word itself is derived from the Samoan “tatau,” chronicled in Capt. Cook’s journal as he explored the South Pacific in the mid-1700’s. The custom of sailors sporting skin art began as a way their families could identify them should they drown at sea, and their bodies just happen to wash up on a shore near their home.

Despite some taboos surrounding tattoos, they have experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years. A 2008 poll found that 14% of adults in the U.S. have a tattoo, with the percentage soaring to more than a third of all American adults under age 29. Only a tiny 8% of those aged 50-64 sport the tat, with most of these consisting of parolees, carnival workers and weird uncles.

Besides making a statement about what a staunch individualist you and 42 million other Americans are, there are many other advantages to having toxic chemicals inserted about four skin layers deep. For one, you don’t have to worry about the appearance of cleanliness. If you have the urge to flop around in a mud puddle, you can still head straight to that business meeting afterwards and few will be able to distinguish the dirt from your body art.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, which dryly notes in the caption that "conspicuous tattoos can make gainful employment difficult in many fields"

So, if I could get some tattoos of my own, what are some of the options I might consider in defacing myself and doing it in a unique fashion?
  • I’d like some cryptic symbols. Everybody gets the symbolism if you’ve got a heart or a butterfly or barbed wire, but I’d like some artwork that’s a bit more mysterious. I think I’d put the image of a handheld calculator on my back, a hydroelectric dam on my chest, and a pair of Shake-Weights on my posterior.
  • Being a writer and a proofreader, I’d obviously like to throw some words in there too. It would be really cool to have the word “TATTOO” tattooed on your arm. Then, right next to that, I’d have the words “ANOTHER TATTOO.” Then, further down toward my wrist, I’d have “THIS ONE’S A SKIN CANCER”.
  • I’d like to permanently wax off my eyebrows and replace them with a tattoo in the likeness of perfectly groomed brows. I’m at the age now where the eyebrows tend to grow a bit bushy, and I hate to risk poking out an eye trying to trim them with scissors. Also, I eagerly await the tattoo technology that will make it look like I don’t have Afros growing out of my nose and ears.
  • I’d like a slacks tattoo covering the lower half of my body so I can stop wearing pants.
  • Keeping with the literary theme I’d try to convey, I would have an entire short story tattooed onto my belly, and a map of the world etched into my lower abdomen. When I revealed the map (at the beach or by the pool at the Y), I could then enjoy people coming up to me and pointing at various locations they’ve visited around the globe. (Hey, ladies: Any of you ever seen Antarctica?)
  • I know it would be tremendously time-consuming and unimaginably painful, but I’d like to replicate a healthy, full-body tan with the use of permanent pigments.

Who knows? Maybe, someday I’ll work up the courage to recapture the heady days of my youth and become one with the “In Crowd,” as I understand they call themselves. A couple of radical tats, a few pieces of random metal piercing through some assorted appendages, and a shock of purple hair spiked into a mohawk may be all that stands between me and the life of the hip. Showing an image like that may stop the mailman from delivering all those AARP solicitations.

A look at my own personal 2011 fashions

March 7, 2011

Warm weather is right around the corner, which means it’s time for the Fall Fashion Preview.

I don’t know if anybody truly understands why the fashion industry unveils its spring and summer collection in October and its fall and winter line at this time of year. I’m sure there’s some kind of “official” explanation involving the difficulty that sensitive artists have in understanding concepts of time and climate, and how much lead time is necessary to get the latest trends into boutique. Not to mention the tricky logistics when some of the clothing is made of perishable foodstuffs.

There’s much that I don’t know about fashion, a fact that is self-evident if you’ve ever seen me in real life. I guess people buy clothing not only to hide their shameful nakedness and to keep warm, but also so they can feel better about themselves. They want to feel “kicky” or “sophisticated” or “chic” or “trendy” in addition to feeling “not in violation of local obscenity ordinances.” There’s an emotional connection about being properly clad that can’t be fully explained.

Me, I’m all about rationality and efficiency and simplicity. If I were appointed king of the world and could rule by unchallenged fiat, we would all be wearing grey one-piece jumpsuits day and night, spring and fall, to cocktail parties and to kids’ soccer matches and to wife-swapping orgies. If instead of king, I was only made a military strongman yet still had to deal with a legislative or judicial branch, I might be willing to concede that a lighter grey could be permitted during the summer and a darker grey in the winter, but I’d hold the line there.

If I have a personal style at all, it could probably best be characterized as “distressed.” A few seasons back, when the trend toward ripped jeans and hole-pocked tops first made the scene, I might have been all the rage. Now, there are people prancing down the catwalks of Paris wearing giant lion masks as headwear. There are models wearing tattoos that mimic Sansabelt slacks. The fashion statements among the avant-garde set range from couture chic to “I love Hitler”. There’s very little that a 57-year-old man can relate to.

So I rock what I want, and I roll with what works for me. If fashion is really all about individuality, then my theories about wearing clothes until they fall apart make perfect sense.

Let’s take a look at a few of the pieces in my own personal 2011 line.

This is a favored shirt that I actually wore to work just yesterday. Since it was Sunday, I figured casual was the order of the day, and nothing says casual like a frayed collar and faded pastel stripes. Actually, I was hoping my boss would send me home for inappropriate attire, but no such luck.

These socks may have seen better days, I'll admit. The holes at the heels are barely noticeable though when you wear shoes. While I appreciate the cool airiness that ventilated clothing offers, that has to be weighed against the fashion sense of bloody blisters sending a crimson stain down the heel of your shoe.

Underclothes may not be visible to the outside world, but style is still important to your individual self-esteem. These gently worn boxers (circa 1987) were recently retired when the two leg holds were joined by a third opening in the crotch. I probably could've gotten another year's wear out of them but I was getting tired of putting my foot through the crotch-hole when I donned the shorts in early-morning darkness.

If our truest self if comprised of our spirit, our emotions, our heart and our mind, then the physical body is really just another thing we wear. Mine is just about as vintage as they come. If you look closely, you might spot a chic stubble. I call it my "March Sixth Shadow," similar to a 5 o'clock shadow but instead the result of not shaving for the entire weekend. I wonder if Goodwill would take this off my hands.

Revisited: website review

December 29, 2010

The billboard rising up in the distance along the interstate looks enticing at first. Hard to tell exactly what it’s advertising, but you can make out a great swath of bikini-clad flesh from a mile away. Your attention perks up in anticipation of some provocative treat amidst all the signs showing fast-food options and diesel prices at Truckland Truckstop ($2.93 a gallon; up a little from last week).

Soon you can see more detail on the billboard and there are actually two scantily clad torsos, the first trim and sexy and the second — whoa! — it’s got a huge sagging appendage where the abs should be. I’m repulsed, and that’s apparently the proper reaction, because it’s an ad for The Refine Institute, a Charlotte-area plastic surgery practice, trolling for patients along I-77.

The tagline reads “Changing the shape of Charlotte one person at a time,” which sounds like it’s going to take a while, if you’ve ever seen the line for biscuits at Bojangles. The “REFINE” logo is graphically intriguing too; the “R” is extra bold, the “E” a semibold, the “F” merely bold, the “I” roman, the “N” light and the “E” extra light, a progression from fat to thin type suggesting how you too could stand a little font change after all that cake you ate.

All of which makes me want to learn more about plastic surgery and leads me to the subject of today’s Website Review,

The home page is a simple affair, a black center square containing the company name and four shaded squares surrounding it, suggesting perhaps how the surgically improved will be the center of attention among her fading friends.

The box on the left tells about “Technical Expertise,” how the surgeons of the practice bring a “sharp” eye to their craft, using “cutting-edge” technologies, subconsciously setting you up for the scalpels that will inevitably follow. The bottom box, conversely, promotes the “High Tech/Less Invasive” nature of the work, including laser-assisted liposuction and something called “fractionated CO2 skin resurfacing,” in which I’m guessing they remove some fraction of your skin, probably using a carbonated beverage. The right box is “Core Consultation,” about holistic wellness and treating the “whole person,” not just the sagging parts.

It’s the top box that has the pulldowns going into more scintillating detail: body contouring, facial sculpting and “breast aesthetics” (hubba-hubba.)

But first, of course, we want to hear about the institute’s philosophy before we learn about the expensive fees, the pain and, ultimately, the slight enhancement of your frankly disgusting eyelids. Refine believes that cosmetic surgery is “rooted in gentle precision and polished elegance.” They offer a “unique 360° approach to restoring your image,” so much better than that earlier business model where only 180° of you was fixed, and you constantly had to triangulate and shift positions so people would only see your front.

We read about surgeon Dr. Ralph Cozart, who did much of his residency in Minnesota, where it seems the extreme cold would give any tightening efforts a nice boost. In his current practice, Dr. Cozart uses Vectra 3-D technology to take “before pictures” of your troublesome body part, then he does NOT — I repeat, NOT — put these on Flikr, then he creates a three-dimensional image of your projected outcome. It’s not mentioned whether your husband will have to wear Avatar glasses after your procedure, though you’ll probably have to go to an IMAX theatre to be fully appreciated.

This is also the area of the website that features “summer specials.” I was fully prepared to make a joke about buy-one-get-one-free, but Refine beat me to it with their SmartLipo offer for “50% of an additional area after first at regular price.” It really does say “of,” not “off.” I hope that’s just a typo and not a special to fix all of one breast and half of another.

Under the “Body Contouring” section, we learn about the various liposuction techniques. “LipoSculpture” is good for small stubborn areas of fat that resist exercise and diet. It’s laser-assisted and only requires “tumescent anesthesia,” which I hope isn’t what it sounds like. “SmartLipo” uses twenty-first century technology to remove fat and tighten skin, so much better than the eighteenth-century technique some surgeons use that involves lopping off as much as a flank. There’s also the “tummy tuck,” requiring your navel to be moved (can you put it on your forehead?) and the “minituck,” wherein your navel stays put.

Special mention is worthwhile here for the “Brazilian Butt Lift.” Developed deep in the Amazon and expected to be an exhibition sport in the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Brazilian Butt Lift takes fat from a part of your body where you don’t want it and transfers it to your bottom. The fat can be harvested “from any place” — I’d choose the Food Lion meat department — and can create a very natural look and feel. You can’t sit down for a week, not all the fat will “take” and it could require more than one visit, but an increase in gluteal volume is virtually assured.

Under “Facial Sculpting,” you can get a “blepharoplasty” to fix your eyelids, the “SmartXide DOT Laser” to resurface your skin with the help of the Department of Transportation, or the “FineLift,” using “fillers to restore lost facial volume.” There are also fat transfer options for the face. You can use that saggy neck to enhance your lips, or you could simply run into a door. Aesthetic services are mostly facials, massages and relaxing acid peels.

Obviously, it’s the “Breast Aesthetics” pulldown (ouch) that you’ve all been waiting to hear about. Augmentation uses silicone or saline implants that can be shaped, much like balloon animals, into any style you like. These are somehow “adjustable” and I’d be glad to volunteer for that. The Breast Lift doesn’t involve any insertion of foreign objects and instead focuses on tightening to create a youthful profile. The website’s use of terms like “droop,” “sagging” and “pendulous” struck me as a little insensitive but I guess it does get the point across (ha-ha). Breast Reduction services are also offered, including a special procedure for men suffering from what Dr. Cozart describes as an ”emotionally devastating” condition I’ve rarely thought about, though now that he mentions it, maybe I’m a candidate for “complete removal of the breasts.” On second thought, no.

The final section is “Patient Information” and contains some handy Q&A. You’re told to look for board certification in any doctor you choose, so as to avoid those amateurs in the mall kiosks. “Does this surgeon care about the rest of me or are they just selling a procedure?” you should ask, and if they don’t care, avoid them too. A forum writer asks if saline implants are subject to evaporation and it turns out they are, but usually not condensation or precipitation.

This is also the area that offers online consultation, in which you can chat with Dr. Cozart and send him your picture. Though he maintains a strict “no fatties” policy, the doctor will give you a free initial estimate of how much work you might need. Financing is also discussed in this part, including a gentle reminder that it’s standard to require payment up-front, and that you’d be better off turning to a firm called rather than waiting for Obamacare.

There’s also a list of products the practice sells that must be effective, or they wouldn’t have names like Skinceuticals and Glominerals. One of these is a skin lightener with the following explanation: “The enzyme tyrosinase converts the amino acid tyrosine into melanin. Hyperpigmentation can result. Ingredients such as arbutin, kojic acid and thymol can suppress tyrosinase.” The only part of that I understand is the “kojic acid,” which I believe Telly Savalas used in his TV cop show of the 1970s to maintain his smooth baldness, and is now available for home use to remove unwanted hair.

All kidding aside, is a well-constructed website providing valuable information about a service for which there’s a legitimate need. It would be easy to make fun of plastic surgery and tummy tucks and boobies, and forget how many women and men are helped by these practices. I hate to be shallow or superficial and think of beauty as only skin deep.

But I did it anyway.

Kojak: “You mean I don’t have to look like this?”

I get a Snuggie! Then give it away!

December 20, 2010

It started innocently enough as a trip to Best Buy to pick up a few electronics gifts for my teenage son. By the time I left the store, I was equipped to conduct secretive raids on Taliban strongholds while enjoying hands-free comfort and warmth.

I impulse-bought a Snuggie while standing in line at the check-out. Not just any Snuggie, mind you, but one printed in a classic camouflage pattern.

Like the entire civilized world as well as several adjacent planets that get cable, I was familiar with “The Blanket That Has Sleeves!” from its ubiquitous and intentionally corny television advertisements. Long before I joined the trend Friday, more than 4 million Snuggies and another million or so “Slankets” — a bastard relative that you can wear without becoming dehydrated by excessive perspiration — had been sold. Marketing gurus who realized that combining a desire to stay toasty while making a kitschy fashion statement was a formula for success in these ironic times have made manufacturers millions of dollars since the product was introduced in 2008.

(It is important to note here that, while additional knock-offs go by the name “Snuggler,” “Toasty Wrap,” “Cuddlee” and “Freedom Blanket,” do not make the mistake of ordering a “Snugli.” This is a completely different product that also requires the purchase of an infant, who is hung on display from your chest. I suppose you could use the baby-hauling Snugli as a Snuggie for a small amount of warmth, but would not recommend vice-versa usage unless your baby is really tiny and can fit in the small Snuggie pocket reserved for the TV remote.)

For those of you trapped in a Chilean mine or holed up in an deep-woods lair for the past several years, the Snuggie is a body-length blanket with sleeves, usually made of fleece, and similar in design to a bathrobe except worn backwards. Models pictured on the box I bought show that you can enjoy a hand-held game, answer the phone or even play cards while wearing the Snuggie, tasks that would be otherwise impossible while wearing other cold-weather gear. More vigorous activity — rodeo events, scaling Mt. Everest, chairing the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee, or going to the kitchen for a drink — are not recommended, despite my above-stated desire to assist in the War on Terror.

Proclaimed the “ultimate kitsch gift” by the Associated Press, consumers have (wink-wink) fallen in love with the Snuggie. The cast and crew of NBC’s Today Show all donned the Snuggie for a segment in which they were described as looking like a gospel choir. Mass Snuggie-wearing has appeared in pub crawls and at large sporting events. Earlier this year, over 22,000 fans showed up at a Cleveland Cavaliers basketball game to claim the “world record for sleeved blanket wearing” (and they wonder why LeBron left), which was broken a month later when 40,000 spectators wore the outfit to a Los Angeles Angels baseball game. And just last week, the lame-duck session of Congress passed the massive tax-cut compromise while wearing Snuggies.

The display I selected my purchase from offered two designs: the camouflage print I chose and another version covered in pink and yellow peace signs. Seems both warmongers and peaceniks alike could make a statement about their politics and worldview, in addition to the statement that they are complete idiots for spending $19.99 on what is basically a slightly thicker, slightly furrier, slightly larger plastic dry-cleaning bag.

Later that evening, after I smuggled the Snuggie into my home past a spouse whose respect I had hoped to maintain, I began to feel a slight chill and wanted to try out my new purchase. I reminded Beth there were several items we needed at the grocery store and, as I watched her drive away, I broke open the box. The Snuggie was a massive swath of fleece (a.k.a. 100% polyester, according to the fine print in the corner of the box), measuring four-and-a-half-by-six-feet. I flung the piece about like a manic matador, trying to figure what was up, what was down, and what was that static crackling sound that was lighting up my bedroom like a late-summer thunderstorm?

I finally found the armholes and donned the garment. My first impulse was to break into a Gregorian chant, since I felt suddenly monk-y. The next impression I got was that I was in a military hospital and had just put on one of those backless hospital gowns. Drafts swirled up my back as I did my best to gather the voluminous drapery that hung from me on all sides. I cinched and tucked the fabric as best I could, and settled into a favorite TV-watching chair, just waiting for the bliss to kick in.

You may not be able to tell amidst all the camouflage, but it's me wearing a Snuggie!

What has made the Snuggie such a success is the fact that at first blush, it really is quite comfortable and warming. With just my head and hands protruding from the mound of camouflage I had become, I was a cozy camper, snug as a bug on a drug that gives you night sweats. But it only took a few minutes to realize the advantage of breathable fabrics versus the disadvantage of being virtually shrink-wrapped in plastic. What had started out as toasty comfort very quickly evolved into what I imagine yellow fever feels like.

I peeled the Snuggie off the front of my chest as it hissed in protest, and thought I might try wearing it like a conventional robe, with the opening in the front. Again, a few minutes of inviting comfort was quickly followed by a fast-forming prickly heat rash starting at the base of my neck and working its way toward my lower back. Pinning the synthetic fleece between my skin and a leatherette Barcalounger gave me a few ideas for possible  nuclear-fusion-inspired energy research but little in the way of relaxation.

By now on the verge of heat stroke, I stripped off the Snuggie, gasped for air and slung it over the back of a nearby chair, never to be worn by me again. I may keep it around in case I ever need to start a fire, as I imagine it’s as flammable as a pile of kindling. Or maybe I’ll toss it in the back of my car, in case I ever get that job as ice-road trucker I’ve always dreamed about. Or maybe I’ll hold onto it as an investment, in case world polyester prices spike and I can cash in on the ensuing bubble.

Or maybe I’ll give it to a friend at work. Arnie is an occasional hunter, and would probably appreciate the camouflage design. He’s also a big fan of taking advantage of recycled merchandise, from out-of-date foods at the local discount grocery store to half-disassembled hi-fi’s from the Goodwill shop. And, he told me once, he absolutely loves to sweat like a farm animal in the noon-time heat of a South Carolina August.

My Snuggie can provide all this and more …

These guys stay toasty while apparently joining each other on the can

You can also wear the camouflage version while fishing, though don't expect anyone to find your body if you slip off the bank and into the river