John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to jemcintyre@gmail.com, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Product placement

When I go in to get a haircut, I am always asked, "Do you want some product?" (They always offer to sell you stuff, but they never offer to comb out the loose clippings that subsequently land on your shoulders.) I always say no. I pay, tip, and go away for six to eight weeks. I was a child of the Sixties.

When I hit adolescence, I was a regular user of Vitalis or Brylcreem, in a vain attempt to make my curls and waves ruly. Considerably more than a little dab did me. Over time I developed a distaste for having a greasy head. But today, with product undreamed of in the hair-oil-and-paste era of my youth, I see men every day whose hair glistens, who have evidently been persuaded that little oily spikes are attractive.

Women, bless their hearts, have long been accustomed to this commodification of appearance. Pope wrote about it in Rape of the Lock: "To save the Powder from too rude a Gale, / Nor let th' imprison'd Essences exhale, / To draw fresh Colours from the vernal Flow'rs, / To steal from Rainbows ere they drop in Show'rs / A brighter Wash; to curl their waving Hairs, / Assist their blushes, and inspire their Airs."

And now men as well. There is a mention in today's Sun of a collection of unguents, oils, and powders costing in excess of seventy dollars to make shaving an enterprise as complicated and expensive as exploratory surgery. No wonder some have chosen to go about in public sporting two or three days' worth of stubble.*

Yesterday I was offered the chance to buy some exotic shampoo that would prevent an ugly sheen from appearing on my "lovely silver hair." No sale.

Most of us are not Adonises. I certainly wasn't in my hot-blooded youth, and there is no prospect of it at this late date. Being washed, combed, shaven, and decently covered is about the best I can expect, and I recommend it to my fellow Y-chromosome bearers. Save your money for the things that matter in life, and books and good liquor.



*Incidentally, you do not look like Brad Pitt; you look like you're coming off a bender.


5 comments:

  1. "Product" can either take dirt with it down the drain, or it can do something to your hair. It can't do both. I wash my hair about every four days, and I would use dishwashing detergent if I were living alone -- it's the same stuff as shampoo, actually.

    I wear a beard, which I have trimmed at the same time that I have my hair cut for a mere extra $5. In between, my wife trims my mustache once, just to keep hair out of my food. Simplicity itself.

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  2. The lovely woman who admired my hair long before she began styling it, once again commented on how much it had grown since last she saw me.

    I thanked her and directed her, as always, to make me pretty.

    She reduced my locks to the length of the hair of a newly shorn sheep and asked if she could put "some gel" on it.

    "What could it hurt," I replied looking forlornly into the mirror.

    There was no attempt .to seduce me into a gel purchase

    Two hours later a hairbrush hid any remainder of the gelatinous treatment.

    P.S. - I am oh so glad you have managed to get over, under or around that pesky and offensive paywall.

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  3. Well I think you are all *so* last century. My shampoo promises me a "dazzling shine", and not only is that a promise it fortunately fails to deliver, but it is also the second cheapest on the shelf. The cheapest has the look of something veterinary.

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  4. John, nobody rocks a bow tie like you do.

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  5. Not Adonis? I seem to recall that you're the sexiest man in the world. That's what they're saying at all the ACES conferences these days.
    carol

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