It almost seems like just yesterday that I was a high school senior, settling back into the normal classroom routine following the Christmas break. That’s when just prior to my physics instructor beginning his lecture, he took me aside to inform me of my summons to the assistant principal’s office. The incredulity in his voice was both palpable and justifiable since I’d never given anyone any reason to peg me as a troublemaker.
At that point, my only option was to close my books, make my exit and walk “the final mile” through the now deserted hallways. Peering into the countless classrooms I was passing by, my mind flooded with envy. Why? Well, unlike my classmates, I was being denied my education.
My clear conscience notwithstanding, I was also keenly aware that that assistant principal… let’s refer to him by his initials, CC… was a school rulebook hard-liner. Which raised the big question…
Just which of HIS infinitesimal “i’s” had I undotted and which of HIS teensy “t’s” had I uncrossed?
Upon my arrival, I counted myself amongst the approximately one dozen students… all male… all standing in a semicircle before our judge, jury and executioner. That morning, the bug up CC’s ass turned out to be our long hairstyles, which were in direct violation of the school’s oppressive, grooming code. To paraphrase “Da Man’s” gruff, grunted out ultimatum to each of us… Either get a haircut or get the Hell out… and stay out!
From my side of “The Bench”, His Dishonor’s edict flipped off strict Federal and State statutes which, btw, explicitly state that attendance is MANDATORY for all school aged kids.
Well, the next morning, thanks to Mom’s barbering skills, I wound up passing CC’s inspection. He next handed me a re-admittance form. This required signatures from all six of my teachers… their acknowledgement that they were required to “award” me Fs for all incomplete assignments and/or missed tests.
Admittedly, how two of those six handled this signing “ceremony” certainly turned out to be priceless.
My cool physics teacher, Mr. S (who, btw, sported a much longer hairstyle than what I’d been expelled for) just glumly shook his head side to side while delivering his tongue-in-cheek “tsk tsks”. In guarded, hushed, more serious tones, he expressed both his disbelief and outrage that such a good student could’ve ever been treated so shoddily. When I lamented over how the previous school day’s “Fs” would mess up my GPA, with a conspiratorial smirk Mr. S informed me that I hadn’t gotten any Fs from him. He had had my classmates spend the entire hour quietly reading the next chapter in our textbook. He had also set up a chess board in his office where he had matched wits with anyone who had already read ahead.
My not-so-cool English teacher, Ms. D couldn’t wait for her golden opportunity to gleefully and publicly humiliate any of her students… especially longhaired “hippies”. Yep, I hadn’t even made it halfway to my assigned desk, when, with her stern “So-where-do-you-think-you’re-going-mister” glower… she goose-stepped over to block my path. Had I not first waived CC’s form before her very eyes, that gestapo officer-in-training could’ve easily snarled, “Papers Please!”
It wasn’t until the next day that several of my fellow, readmitted exiles told me how, on the very day of our suspension, our town’s barber had “conveniently” kept his clip joint open for biz well past his regular 5 p.m. closing time. Ah yes… corrupt, small town politics had apparently, heavily influenced CC’s ruling. You see, that barber also moonlighted as one of our school board members… and likely also moonlighted as an author whose self-serving, potentially wallet fattening verbiage had mutated much of our school’s grooming code.
The good news here… mere days later, Judge Damon Keith had ruled to strike down our school’s grooming code. You see, a fellow longhaired student (and friend of mine) had also recently faced down a similar expulsion. But, instead of knuckling under to CC’s BS, his parents… with an assist from the American Civil Liberties Union… had successfully argued that our entire school board and administrative staff did not have the legal right to deny an education to their son or anyone else.
On the upside… from that day forward, I regrew my hair until it reached waist length. And even on the occasions where I’ve opted for substantially shorter “dos”, I’ve always made damned sure my style would, in some way, remain in violation of CC’s code. Why? Just because that’s what freedom is all about. It also feels so good to get the last laugh. And, ever since my retirement, I’ve been free to maintain my mane in all of its lengthy splendor.
On the flipside… my long hair has flipped folks out in varying degrees. Must I point out the obvious… namely that the Y chromosome does permit such hair growth? Just who, beyond that local barber from out of my past, felt they had the right to countermand nature and restrict any man’s individuality? Why the hell should my personal grooming choices ever open me up to profiling… e.g…
- One man, who couldn’t contain his intolerance, called me a “GD hippie!” Had he been packing heat, he’d have likely blown me away!
- In an era where customer service within brick and mortar establishments is nearly non-existent, I’ve experienced retail managers and salesclerks first swooping down upon me like buzzards and next shadowing me. I’m almost tempted to (truthfully) claim, “Hey, buzz off! I’m not now… nor have I ever been… nor will I ever be a shoplifter”… but such reassurances would only make them more suspicious.
- I recently dealt with an Urgent Care physician who, while removing three stitches from my thumb, asked me if I was a musician. True, I do play piano. But, mercifully, I choose not to do so before a captive audience.
- This past summer, while seated on a park bench, a man mistook me for a homeless person and actually offered me money. Since I’m still solvent I rejected his donation, commended him for his attempt to extend a helping hand, encouraged him to remain philanthropic… BUT… in the same breath… offered my friendly reminder, “Don’t be too quick to judge the book by its cover”.
This would also be a good time to offer up yet another friendly reminder. It’s just as easy for folks to misjudge a well groomed person to be electable. Throughout human history, this has resulted in grotesquely, corrupt regimes headed by the well coiffed, fashionista fascists… such as Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.
Of course some might point out how Donny’s “do” does appear a bit unkempt. Hmm… maybe we could coax CC out of retirement to expel him?