Retorts: Cut your anxieties short

THE GREAT Barbershop Drought has led to this (OC Tribune photo by Marilyn Tortolano).

“When you lose your ability to laugh, you lose your ability to think straight.”  – Jerome Lawrence.

When you join a military unit one of the first things you lose – in addition to your privacy and your ego – is your hair. It gets buzzed off in the process of making you a New Person, squared away and never, ever “ate up,” as the term goes.

We are now said to be in a “war against coronavirus” and are undergoing something analogous to a military existance. It’s a drastic change in our lives. We are told what to wear, where to go and what to do. The penalty for failing in those areas very well could be a loss of life.

The streets are deserted as you might expect to find in a combat zone. You find yourself wary of strangers. The possibility of perhaps having to wrestle over that last bottle of hand sanitizer is not all that theoretical.

Many of the places you used to frequent are closed, and the common pleasures of dining at a restaurant, seeing a movie or going to a barber or hair stylist are gone.

My regular barbershop is shuttered, waiting until a cease-fire with the virus is proclaimed. So I have been getting more and more shaggy. I don’t like the feel of curled locks on the back of my neck and the more hair I have on display the more opportunities for treacherous gray and white strands to peek through and announce my candidacy for AARP.

So I cut it all off.

That is, Marilyn and I got an electric razor and tag-teamed my follicles. And I like it.

Not only is the buzzed head more popular these days – look at Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis – but it also feels good. It requires little upkeep, no styling and never gets in your eyes. You don’t worry about getting a virus in your hairdo.

It does have its drawbacks. Your head gets cold. Your loyal dogs look at you strangely, wondering who the heck might you be?  Additionally, if you bang your head into something – or it bangs into you – you don’t have any cushion.

But I am enjoying it, getting a laugh out of how strange and a little sheepish I look. Being able to smile through adversity is a very real possession. Americans have always been good at that.  Humor calms us down and pushes back our darkest fears or at least helps us cope with them.  It reboots our logic.

In social media, our skill at mocking our misfortune is on display. You’ve heard of the quarantini, which is a martini you drink alone. How remarkable it is to walk into a bank or store wearing a mask and gloves and not be suspected of contemplating an armed robbery. Those of you being forced to “home school” your child are wondering how to get your kid transferred to another teacher.

We do this to keep our spirits up in the face of calamity. Personally, worries about COVID-19 hit home recently when my goddaughter Erin came down with a double-whammy: coronavirus plus pneumonia. She works in uber-crowded New York City for the U.S. State Department and the news made all of our hearts skip a beat.

She will be OK; she’s one of those who will recover with moderate symptoms.  With luck, she and we can laugh at this one day. Or why not start now? Remember what Jerome Lawrence said.

Jim Tortolano’s Retorts is posted weekly on Wednesdays. He does plan on letting it grow out, eventually.





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