Speaking of the beauty parlor: I like to quiz my stylist on magical hair solutions when I'm trapped in the chair, since we see each other every 4–5 weeks and inevitably run out of things to talk about while I'm browsing GQ or Us Weekly. I always hope I'll somehow trick her into revealing a hot tip that's meant to be hidden from the public, a master key that will unlock all follicular greatness and free the rest of us from terrible hair mistakes forevermore, without getting her kicked out of the club. (I like to imagine that hair stylists and beauty experts all know each other and gather frequently at underground meetings, like the secret Stonecutters society that Homer joins in the episode "Homer the Great" and is quickly expelled from [oddly enough, an episode starring Patrick Stewart].)
For example: "What can I do about these baby hairs growing sideways in the front?" "Nothing," she says. "Everybody has baby hairs." "Can I cut it?" "No." "What can I do about this cowlick growing sideways in the back?" "Nothing," she says. "Everybody has cowlicks." "Can I shave it?" "No." All signs point to the right, head-wise, but she refuses to fall into my trap. Everybody has a thin spot, everybody goes gray, nobody gets what they want.
She told me once that hair has memory, a direction or pattern it will naturally fall into if left to its own devices, and that some hair has stronger memory than others. This made perfect sense to me, since five minutes in a clip for my hair means the rest of the day in a clip. Once a style has time to set, there is no undoing what's been done without wetting it down and then killing somebody. She gave me a keratin treatment a couple of years ago, which is the chemical equivalent of short-term amnesia for coarse hair, but eventually the keratin broke down and reality set in: the cowlicks, the waves, the kinks at the crown, every single goddamn hair on my head remembering—against all hope and better wishes—what was true.
The secret is there is no secret, unless you end up bald.