What have you done to your hair?
I was sitting at my desk one recent morning when an old and dear friend came in for a visit.
He looked at me kind of funny, then blurted out: “What the h--- have you done to your hair?”
Everyone in the room looked at me kind of funny as I snapped to attention and raised a hand to my head.
My hair, much to my dismay, was sticking up every which way like one of those spiky hairdos the kids wear to look oh, so cool.
I felt so uncool.
Just like every other morning, I stumbled out of bed, took a shower, gave my hair a vigorous Dutch rub with a terrycloth towel and got ready for work.
Somewhere between “Dutch” and “work,” I usually do the rote mundane things like brush teeth, comb hair, put on pants.
This time I left out the combing.
As soon as my friend alerted me to the faux pas, I raced to the restroom, sloshed some water on my hair and tried to tame it with a comb. All day long I had to live with a few sticker-outers.
I know, “What’s the big deal?” you’re thinking.
The big deal is I was sitting there for a couple of hours, talking with lots of different people, and not one of them said a thing.
A simple, “Pat, I think you need to comb your hair” whispered into my ear would have been nice. Nope, not a word. Thank goodness for friends who tell it like it is: “What the h--- have your done to your hair?!”
I was raised in a family where it was OK — no, a duty — to point out whatever is wrong. But we did it in a non-demeaning way.
“Barn door’s open,” Pop would say before we left for church on Sunday. “Hope the cattle don’t get out.”
Translation: One of the Kuhl boys forgot to zip his zipper.
Mission accomplished — before it really became an embarrassment when he walked back from communion.
“Mary Lou, it’s snowin’ south of the border,” was another of our favorites. That meant my sister’s slip was showing.
She wiggled up the slip or wiggled down the skirt a little, heading off the problem before it became a big deal.
See, there are ways to point out people’s foibles without hurting their feelings.
Tie crooked? All you have to say is “The Noose is Loose” and I’ll have it straightened up in no time. “You’re out of the loop” means you better reroute that belt.
I once went a whole day with one brown shoe and one black one. Mum’s the word.
When I was working in Texas, one day I forgot to shave. Nobody said a thing all day until one of our printers, who happened to be deaf, signed to me: “Is your wife out of town?”
“Huh?” I signed back.
Theron rubbed his chin. I rubbed my chin.
“Nope,” I said (because I knew only a handful of signs). “I forgot to shave.”
Now, whenever I see Liev Schreiber on the “Ray Donovan” tough-guy TV show with his 2-day-old stubble, taking on Hollywood’s power brokers, I just want to yell at him “Yo, Liev, is your wife out of town?”
Of course, it’s a lot easier for a guy to tell another guy about the barn door thing. And it would have to be a female relative or a very good friend before I’d say, “It’s snowing south of the border.”
On my bad hair day, I asked several people if they noticed. They did. Why didn’t they say anything?
I posed the situation to a female co-worker, who came in after all the commotion. She was aghast that no one spoke up.
“I definitely would tell you,” she said piously. “I think you have to tell people so they don’t look stupid all day.”
“In that case,” I said, “Did you mean to leave that button on your blouse open?”
Should I have said, “There’s snow north of the border?”