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The Comb-Over
Photo: Martin Walls
When I was in my 20s I worked for a man in his late 40s. He was a good boss, and a nice man, the type of person you naturally like.

He had a receding hairline. The bald spot in front had merged with the bald spot in the back long before I started working with him. To maintain the illusion of a full head of hair, he became the master of the “comb-over.”

He had a fringe of hair above his ears that he allowed to grow long enough to reach the other side of his head. A little work with a comb and a lot of hairspray allowed him to present the world with the hairline he possessed in college.

It took a lot of hairspray to keep the hair spread evenly, so there were no thin spots. Every morning he fused his hair together in a rigid whole. If you did not look too hard, it looked almost natural.

One day we had a meeting with a client at the client’s site. When we left our office building for his car, a stiff, steady wind was blowing into our faces as we walked across the parking lot.

It ruffled my hair, but his hair, glued together with hairspray, stayed together. It did not stay in place, though.  Instead, in a unitary mass, like an airfoil, it floated above him. The wind, strong and steady, had lifted his comb-over so that it hovered an inch above his bare scalp like a flat, furry animal.

Hard to Keep a Straight Face

It was hard, but I kept a straight face, when I looked at him. I knew that his feeling would be hurt if I laughed – or even smiled – at what was one of the silliest things I had ever seen. I never spoke to him about it.

I am now older than he was then. My hairline today closely resembles what he had then. I keep my hair short – so that I cannot even attempt a comb-over. I still remember how he looked, denying the reality about his appearance. 

Aging holds a set of minor indignities. Your hair falls out, and turns gray. Your skin wrinkles. Your profile expands, despite your best efforts.

I believe these things are manifestations of God’s gentle reminders of our mortality. They remind us that our tenure on this Earth is transitory. His grace lies in the challenge they offer. You can accept the changes for what they are, and age with dignity. You can also deny their message – and look very foolish, indeed.

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By Mark N. Lardas, all rights reserved. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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