I was trimming my beard the other day when it suddenly occurred to me that shaving is a silly concept. Why is it an accepted practice to scrape the hair off our skin with sharpened metal? Who decided that was a good idea?
If you think about it, we do a lot of pretty silly stuff to make ourselves look like we think we should. Men shave some of our hair but we selectively trim the rest and women pluck their eyebrows just to pencil, paint or tattoo new ones in their place. It’s no mystery that humans grow hair in pretty much the same places yet we spend a lot of time and money to only keep the hair we think is appropriate.
Looking back at art and portraits of historical figures, people can usually guess what period of time they lived by their clothing and hair. Let’s face it; Julius Caesar would have a hard time being taken seriously as a world leader today if he showed up in a toga with leaves on his head. Even though we all know that Vladimir Putin is itching to show up at a G-8 conference in a chariot in full Roman battle gear, no modern leader would dare dress like that.
It’s always been that way; George Washington and our founding fathers were known to wear tights and a powered wig as was King George III and his whole band of idiots. Less than a hundred years later, General Grant wouldn’t be caught dead dressed like that. Who changed the rules?
It doesn’t take that long for things to change; who hasn’t looked back at their high school yearbook and cringed? If you haven’t yet, you will. In the course of my lifetime the grooming and fashion rules have changed over and over again and I missed the memo every time. I always noticed it after it happened which is why I always check with my wife before I go out … I’m a fashion mess.
There’s more to this than just the length of our hair and the clothes we wear. We alter our natural appearance in painful and permanent ways for religious, cultural and even fashion reasons. It’s mind boggling when we see other people do it … but we all do it.
We’ve all heard about seeming cruel stuff like the Japanese binding girl’s feet to keep them small or the African tribe using rings to elongate their kids’ necks. It all sounds bizarre and cruel to us but they would probably wince at the thought of injecting butt fat or Botox into their lips; it’s not that much of a stretch … so to speak.
It almost seems like humans have the need to deform ourselves to conform to … fill in the blank. When previously undiscovered tribes wonder out of the Amazon forest, they are often completely naked but you can bet that the mean will all be decorated one way and the women another. No society can really take the high ground on this one, but we all try.
It’s easy to scoff at the seeming barbaric things other people do to themselves but just yesterday I passed a billboard along the freeway advertising “Brazilian Butt Injections” for the low price of only $2,500. I don’t know if that was per cheek or the entire package … I was going 65 MPH at the time.
To quote Jimmy Buffett (and you should always quote Jimmy Buffett), “It plumb evades me” why anyone would pay to have a foreign substance injected into their backside or anywhere else. I’ve just never cared enough about my appearance to wear uncomfortable shoes, let alone endure pain in order to look a certain way.
I don’t know who makes these rules or why we do the weird stuff we do, I don’t even have a good guess, but it’s hard to say whose stuff is weirder. Before you criticize a tribesman for putting a huge thing in his lip, ask yourself why you’d tie a random piece of cloth around your throat for a job interview.
I’m willing to my part to stop the madness; I’ll promise right here to never put a huge thing in my lip or to wear a tie ever again. Just call it my sacrifice for humanity … I’m that kind of guy.
Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist. He may be reached at email@example.com.