I think we need some kind of public-service advertising campaign to remind the public of the dangers of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of a new hairstyle. I realized this while I was driving to work this morning and many of my fellow commuters were honking at me and making digital gestures, which frankly I deserved, because I was dividing up my mental capacities as follows:


So I apologize to you fellow commuters, especially whoever was driving the BMW that wound up in the river, but I had no choice. I have to monitor my new hairstyle at all times to make sure the gel is holding. I never had gel in my hair before. I never even really had a hairstyle before. For 41 years I have gone with a very natural hair "look" that was originally popularized by coconuts, wherein you have extremely straight strands of hair or coconut fiber radiating from a central point on top of the head or coconut, proceeding downward via the most direct possible route and forming themselves into "bangs."

The thing about bangs is, they are not a grown-up hairstyle. They do not inspire respect in people. There has never been a United States president with bangs. If passengers boarding an airplane were to glance into the cockpit and see a pilot with bangs, they would injure themselves diving out the emergency exits. They want a guy like Chuck Yeager, a guy who is not even CAPABLE of bangs.

Nevertheless I have been able to wear bangs right into middle age because I work for a newspaper. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifically states that, to ensure objectivity, male newspaper employees should not be even dimly aware of fashion. Modern newspapers are Fashion-Free Zones, protected by invisible protective Anti-Style Shields that prevent dangerous Trend Rays from penetrating and causing the men to suddenly realize that they are dressed as characters from 1954 situation comedies starring the late William Bendix.

This lack of fashion awareness is reflected in journalism hairstyles. For example, my editor - this is the truth - has not combed his hair in 24 YEARS. He has extremely dense, random hair, which he cares for via a styling technique known to top fashion hairdressers as "evaporation," wherein he gets his hair very wet in the shower, then, without combing it, he comes to work and spends the day dripping water onto manuscripts that free-lance writers have poured their life's blood into. This hair-care technique produces a visual effect that looks as though, squatting on his head, is a genetically deformed bison.

So I was comfortable with my bangs. I resisted all efforts by Jeri, the extremely competent woman who cuts my hair, to make me look less like Cubby the Mouseketeer. My motto was, "Hey, it's MY hair." But then one day at the hair salon a scary event made me realize that people do not always know what is best for themselves, hairwise. What happened was, a woman with a large head of hair dyed approximately the color of Bazooka bubble gum, but not as natural, sat down in the next chair and told the hairdresser, quote, "Tease the s-word out of it, honey." The hairdresser rolled her eyes upward - if you look closely at the ceiling of a hair salon, you'll see thousands of little dents caused by hairdressers shooting glances up there - and then she started teasing the woman's hair, and she teased it and teased it, so that the woman's hair got larger and larger, causing her face to appear smaller and smaller, until finally it looked the size of maybe a prune pit, inside this giant radioactive cloud of hair. "Tease it more!" the prune pit was commanding the hairdresser, whose eyeballs were now rolling all the way backward into her head, and I was thinking, geez, maybe I should listen to Jeri.

Which is how I ended up with gel in my hair running fellow commuters off the road. The gel is supposed to hold my hair back, and it works pretty well for an hour or so, but then a troublemaker hair will start to become rebellious. "Hey!" it will say. "We don't have to take this! Let's form into BANGS!" And then there will be a general muttering among the follicles, and soon hairs all over my scalp are pounding their tin cups on the table and chanting "BANGS! BANGS! BANGS! BANGS" and leaping forward onto my forehead, and I have to bring in the Riot Gel to quell them. But only temporarily. They are always planning the next breakout. I am frankly starting to wonder whether I can keep this hairstyle and still have a career. Something has to give. I have to go look in the mirror.