While conversing with a teammate from long-ago times at Luther College, I opened up the binder of results from our freshman year in cross country. Those mimeographed sheets are fascinating relics of a different age. But the photograph at the front of the book is also a document of changing times.
Or is it? Recently I was back on campus to watch a track meet and conduct some writing business with a retired Luther professor and the thing that struck me most about the collection of Division III athletes running the 5000 meters is that they looked no different than we did 40+ years ago.
The running shorts on the men for were suitably brief for competition. And among the women, it was booty shorts that could have served as “hot pants” back in the 1970s. The Luther women sported bun huggers, the even briefer version of competition track gear.
Many of the men sported fairly long hair. A few tied it up in a man bun atop their heads. That would never have worked for me. My head of hair in college was so thick it would not even bind up in a ponytail. We wore it heavy and full. Mine just reached the shoulders.
Over the four years of college my hair started to thin at the forehead. By the time I graduated the woman I dated called me her “balding babe.” But I was not alone in that department either. The Norwegian and Scandinavian tendency toward bare noggins common to Luther students meant that I was in good company.
I don’t particularly miss all that hair. It would often freeze thick like an ice blanket on the walk up from the fieldhouse to the cafeteria on cold winter nights after a running workout. My hair was so thick it was never really fit for styling all that much. I just grew it, combed it, washed it and dealt with it.
These days I don’t even use a guard on the electric shaver. I just buzz off the sides of my head and shave the top so there are no fuzzies left. I get rid of the hair on my the back of my ears and in the insides too. It’s all about efficiency these days. My head is what it is. I rarely think about it until moments like these.
Hats are critical to my comfort and health. They keep off the wind and the sun, the rain and the snow. My wife said to me recently, “You wouldn’t be you without a hat now and then.”
Hair today, gone tomorrow. That’s a symbol for so much of life.