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October 07, 2009

About "The Black Helmet" and More

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Richard Fernandez (aka "Wretchard") writes here about the difficulty of maintaining lies. His primary subject is former senator John Edwards, sometime presidential candidate and vice-presidential nominee.

The bit that interested me wasn't about Edwards. It was this snippet:

Eric Bana, in an interview with TV show [host] Craig Ferguson, provided one of the clearest examples of the price of lying. Bana explained he did not dye his hair out of fear of becoming hostage to the dread Black Helmet, which is “the thing that men get when they decide to cover they [sic] grays,” Bana said. Nothing could be worse than wearing an unchanging slab of black hair as one grew older. The price of keeping one’s hair youthful isn’t the price of a bottle of dye, it is the cumulative effort of keeping the rest of the face in sync with the Black Helmet as the visage beneath it ages. That effort increases with time until it finally becomes prohibitive. Keeping reality from showing through the facade of fakery is a full time job.

I believe Bana and Fernandez are right.

That is, right so long as a noticeable share of the population ages visibly naturally. But if everyone who had ever begun graying dyed their hair, then in theory their appearance would eventually be perceived as normal. So many 50- 60- and 70-something women dye their hair nowadays that I'm almost beginning to think their appearance is normal. Or maybe that applies to women I'm acquainted with who get well-crafted dye-jobs; dull, jet-black or henna-purple hair seems fundamentally unnatural because no one with normal hair looks that way.

Message to the under-50 crowd: Aging is no fun, even at the superficial level of getting a reality check looking at yourself in the mirror or admiring your latest passport or drivers license photo.

I think men tend to be less appearance-conscious than women. But we are not immune. I am not fond of the sagging skin on my neck, but won't do anything to fix it through surgery. On the plus side, my hair still has more dark than gray -- the hair that remains, I should note.

Then there is the (pardon the expression) gray area of surgery to correct medical conditions. My wife has been after me about droopy eyelids. They've been that way for the last five or ten years, perhaps longer. So I went to the eye doctor for an evaluation that included looking into an object about the size and shape of a basketball sliced in two. The task is to spot as many little light flashes projected on the inside surface as you can. My right eye scored three of 29, my left nine of 28; with eyelids taped open I spotted all or nearly all the flashes.

I haven't received an official "go" yet regarding whether my medical plans will fund a procedure, but it seems likely and I'll probably have the work done some time this coming winter. If all works as it should, I'll have better vision and, yes, I'll look a little better as a side effect, which is okay by me.

Am I wrong to tolerate minor surgery with cosmetic improvement side effects while disapproving the "black helmet" approach? I don't think so, because the "black helmet" appearance change is almost a difference in kind rather than scale -- as in the case of how much an eye's iris is exposed. Feel free to disagree.



posted by Donald at October 7, 2009


Having had some gray since 25 I've viewed my lack of dyeing as a matter of principal, rather than laziness. But who thinks that a solid black helmet is more sexy than some gray?

Is a droopy eyelid a medical condition or just cosmetic? (Yes, I'm too lazy to search for relevant results and evaluate the claims in random message boards.)

Posted by: Ed from Florida on October 7, 2009 10:34 PM

Oh, I suppose do it. You've got a medical rationalization and are seemingly confident that the operation is not a gateway drug. Nothing like that, at all. No, not at all.

Posted by: Larry on October 7, 2009 10:37 PM

"Those are beautiful highlights in your hair" my wife was told. "So subtle, so becoming. Who did it for you?"

Posted by: dearieme on October 8, 2009 1:08 AM

Droopy eyelids cause vision problems, as you now know. This is a medical problem; think of it this way - do you want people with surgically reparable vision-impairing conditions out driving, simply because pride keeps them from getting the surgery?

This is a case of pride causing someone *not* to get cosmetic surgery, although in this case the cosmetic side of it is incidental. There's no shame in getting an "eye job" if the end result is to make your eyes work better.

Posted by: Crank on October 9, 2009 3:26 PM

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