Hair Theory

It wasn't until well after I graduated high school that I started to understand the point of combing my hair. I had somehow gotten the idea that the purpose of combing was to push the hair on my head into different places so it looked like the hair on the heads of people I wanted to emulate.

The epiphany, of course, was that the right way to comb my hair was to understand where my hair naturally wanted to go, where the part would lie on its own, and then to organize the hair in a way that flattered its natural tendencies. Let the hair do what it is inclined to, and then make the end result as functional as possible.

Similarly, it wasn't until well after I'd moved to New York as an adult and gone to a fancy hair salon that I understood the purpose of a good hair cut. I had previously thought a haircut was about keeping hair from getting unruly, taming the length and mass, and punishing unruly strands by truncating them. A good hairstylist made me realize that he'd observe the way my hair grew on its own and then cut the hair so that its growth pattern conformed to an overall plan. I still don't go to hair salons regularly (I was raised going to a five-dollar barber, and I suspect I might already be too old to completely break the habit.) but when I do I'm always amazed at the results. I can wake up in the morning, even with my legendarily unruly hair, and I don't really have to do anything, it's vaguely in place already.

And then finally, it wasn't until just the past few months that I realized people are like hair, and organizing groups of people is like a haircut. People will do what they want, and some of them will be unruly stragglers, and trying to push them where they don't want to go will always fail in the long term. The best thing you can ever really do is to just try to shape their natural tendencies into something presentable and eventually you'll end up with the most satisfying result.

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