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My So-Called Hair – The Brian Henderson At-Home Haircut Story

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On August 25th 1994, something happened that changed the course of my carefree fifteen-year-old life. A certain show aired that night on the American Broadcasting Network and a certain unsuspecting about-to-be sophomore was caught in a gut-wrenching tornado of feelings. It was an emotionally wrought show, starring an emotionally wrought Claire Danes, who was navigating the emotionally wrought landscape of being a fifteen year old in high school. That show of course was My So-Called Life, and this so-called masculine-teen-dude was crushed like a can by it. From the first glimpse of the misunderstood Angela, defiantly dying her hair red, to the mysterious hunk eating bologna in her kitchen, I couldn’t get enough of this new bizarre feeling tugging at my insides. It was like I had discovered a new wistful color and I wanted to dip myself in it. Although if you were to ask any of my dude-bro friends at the time, they would never have known. I mean, what kind of meathead-brawny-boy admits that he counts the seconds until he can get lost in the next episode of a tempestuous, unrequited love story? What kind of jocky-gridiron-guy lets himself roil in the anguish of Angela’s mistaken glance from Jordan Catalano? This guy.

I mean. It was a soap opera for my age range, and I was sooooo there for it. I couldn’t wait for the weekly whisper of, “Go. Now… Go!” in the opening theme song, because it meant I was about to feel so many new feels. The way they explored teenage angst felt so real to me, even if it wasn’t my own circumstances, it still captured the ‘why-do-I-feel-sad’ -ness that had come with turning fifteen and starting high school.

For an emotionally out-of-touch fifteen-year-old boy (i.e. every fifteen-year-old boy?) this was the first time that I felt like I was allowed to privately explore any sort of real emotional depth. How sad is that? That teenage boys are so closed off sometimes that it takes a melodramatic TV show to let them know it’s ok to feel emotions. But that’s what the show did for me. I couldn’t put it into words at the time, but looking back, it allowed me to admit that I had some melancholy or some kind of angsty sadness in my life that wasn’t an abnormality or a red flag, it was just part of being fifteen. And guess what? It feels really good to revel in that for an hour a week. And boy did I revel. I mean, I wanted to liiiiive in that show. The only problem was, I didn’t know who I wanted to be more – I mean, Angela had all that turmoil and anguish, which I could somehow relate to, even if I didn’t know why. But then there was Jordan Catalano.

I think I may have talked about Jordan Catalano on here before, but let me just re-iterate – Jordan Catalano was the most beautifully brooding character I had ever seen, and hence, I wanted to be him. Like, no joke, I created my whole high school look based on him. I got a suede sherpa jacket, I wore jeans with holes, flannels with open sleeves dangling past my wrists, and most importantly, and why I’m writing this overly-verbose intro here… I grew my hair long. 

Starting sophomore year, my hair was full-Catalano. It was down to my shoulders, parted in the middle, thick and full and brown. It became a defining characteristic for me. I loved it. I kept it despite all the maintenance and the not-so-coded insults my football coaches hurled at me for four years. Even when the long-hair thing was kinda over by ‘97, I still didn’t cut it. I didn’t want to let go of the notion that I was deeper than I was. If that makes sense. I associated the long hair with an idea of like, uniqueness sure, but also an indicator of an emotional life that I had learned to nurture. Also, being the quarterback with hair down to your shoulders was pretty damn cool. I’m just as vain as anyone, guys. I ended up cutting it all off when I got cast in my first play at U of O, and at that point I was ready to join the crowd of normies. I never had long hair ever again. Until the pandemic hit. 

At first, I just let my hair grow because there was a stay at home order and all of the barbers had shut down. Then it was because I was just too lazy to cut it myself. Then sometime around August, it became an active growing. My hair had gotten to a length that was stepping out of ‘shaggy’ and into ‘long’ again, and that got me excited. So I told Emily that I was going to grow my hair until there was a vaccine. It was my little way to answer any questions about it, while secretly waiting for it to get back to it’s Catalano glory. But there was a problem – in the twenty-five years since I first grew my hair long, a few things had happened physically. Namely, the little part down the middle that was so cute back then had become kind of a gaping chasm of scalp. The old hairline has been slowly rising like a modest woman in the 1800s lifting her skirt to reveal her ankles. But these ankles were desperate wisps of hair surrounded by creepy white scalp. In other words, no matter how much Finasteride and Rogaine I’ve tried using over the past few years, the hair on my forehead has thinned out so much that it really put a damper on my desperate attempt to re-live my long-haired glory days. 

Having long hair with a receding hairline, I mean, if you can pull it off, I tip my cover-it-up cap to you. But for me, it really didn’t work. Instead of stepping back into my cocky high school persona, I had sludged into like the guy who still has a garage band, years after it stopped being cute. 

But there was one little glimmer of hope – a baseball hat. Having the long hair pour out the back of a hat actually did look good! So like Ron Howard, I started wearing a hat everywhere. And Emily even admitted that it was a good look – long hair, waving down to my shoulders, a nice, manly beard sprouting on my face. I definitely felt like I was matching the terrain up here. I would drive to the post office in my hat and scruff, looking all burly mountain-man. I started noticing people would give a little more deference as they saw me pull up. Little did they know that this mountain man was blasting ‘Mirrorball’ by Taylor Swift (can we talk about ‘Folklore’ and ‘Evermore’ please?) or his favorite Dick Pick (no, not that kind you perv, this kind) on the stereo. It was all a facade. I wasn’t really a mountain man. But as long as I kept my hat on, I could pass for one, and it felt really good. So the baseball hat became glued to my flimsy-haired head. Like, no joke, I never took it off.

Things got so bad that I started putting on a hat just to drink coffee in the mornings, or brush my teeth next to Emily at night. It came to a head last week when Emily and I had to shoot a thing for a sponsor, and I was supposed to be dressed nice for a Christmas cocktail. I had on a fancy cable knit sweater and slacks, and came downstairs, rocking my old garage band hair, and Emily said, “Hmmm…Maybe you can wear a hat?” We laughed, but I was crying on the inside. Not really. But we decided it was time.

To be fair, Emily would have let me grow it to my butt-cheeks if I had insisted it was important to me, or if I actually thought it looked good. But I didn’t, for two reasons: 1. I didn’t have the patience to actually try to style it or put product in it, so it was all puffed out frizz and wispy wires all day. It looked like a really enthusiastic, middle-aged Phish fan had left a concert and wandered into our house. And 2. I have a thing about trying to capture the glory days of my youth. It has led me to some pretty dark realizations about myself. In fact, I’m so interested in why men try to hang on to their youths, that I’ve actually begun writing a silly novel about it (more on that when it gets closer to being finished). So, once I came to terms with the notion that I was just growing my hair to feel like teen-Brian, it was adios muchachos

Em and I watched the first two minutes of a tutorial on youtube, got bored, and decided to just let ’r rip. The good news was that we were in quarantine for the foreseeable future so it didn’t really matter if it didn’t turn out well, I could always shave it and look like an enthusiastic, middle-aged Hoobastank fan had wandered in. So Emily got the scissors, I got the cocktails, and the kids got the spray bottle to shoot me with ice-cold water every twenty seconds. Aaaaaaaannd… 

It turned out really well! For her first time ever cutting a guy’s hair, Emily crushed it. I mean, yeah, she gave me bangs. And one side of those bangs is much longer than the other. But all in all, she did a much better job than I thought she was going to. I will definitely make an appointment at her salon again. This is such a better look, and I’m not putting on a baseball hat just to read in bed anymore. 

Also, you gotta check out this pretty hilarious video of the process (just wait for the ad to play):

Do I miss being Jordan Catalano? You bet your So-Called ass I do. But trying to recapture your youth can a dangerous thing, no matter how beautifully brooding it can be. I think it’s best to look back on our glory days like a boxed set of DVDs that we can take out and watch every once in a while. I don’t need to like dress up in cosplay and throw them a convention, I can just watch them and appreciate them for what they are. So now I can let myself get obsessed with a new series, one that’s a little more age-appropriate. I hear the Queen’s Gambit is good. But I’ll always stay in love with Angela and Jordan.

Fin Mark

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Kate

Ha! Love the insights–& the haircut!

AB

This is hilarious, he looks great, and it maybe gave me the confidence to cut my own husband’s…nope still too much pressure I’m not doing it 😂

Herselfindublin

Great post. And really eye-opening about the male fanbase for shows like My So Called Life. I (perhaps incorrectly?) assume most of the readers of this blog are women, but if there were a lot of men I would expect a chorus of “I loved that show too! And I never told my male friends either!”)
Also, good luck with the novel 😀

Jill

This was a delightful read over coffee this morning. I’m going to share this with my husband. I think he will relate!

Ulrika

Love it! Pandemic haircuts are nerve wrecking – cocktails and giggles certainly the way to go. For your next go check out the tutorial by Young House Love, super easy to follow and what keeps my hubby from being too shaggy looking. I initially went down the rabbit hole and checked out a bunch of YouTube videos from hairdressers and realized that no matter what, I can’t get my scissors to “fly” like they do. YHL for the tutorial win. Mind you, I learnt how to cut 1 style only, so any other family member gets the same (ahem, my mother in law).

Rusty

Brian has a lot more hair than John at YHL.
John’s would be easy to do with clippers.

ha. i’m going to text sherry and tell her this 🙂

Rusty

Uh-oh! 🤣

Andrea

I’ve given my husband 4 haircuts now and somehow the third was the WORST but I finally got it down by the fourth -also after watching 2 minutes of a YouTube video!

B

Omg Brian, I can feel the super fan love in this wonderfully written, smart, funny post (that is obviously about more than just the show). But every super fan knows it’s not just red….it’s crimson glow. 😉 do u really have the DVD box set? Did yours come with the lunchbox? I’m just really excited to see someone else love this show to my level. Carry on.
B

Anonymous

Crimson Glow! Yes! B, I revisited some of the show recently and was alarmed to notice how much I now identify with Patty. Never thought that would happen. Rayanne really ate that WHOLE brick of cheese!

Shannon

I too recently rewatched MSCL during quarantine and found my empathy for Patty upsetting! But, then I had fun trying to guess what the characters (not actors) are doing in their 40s.

Shannon

Brian Krakow created an app that got bought by Facebook.
Sharon is into QAnon.
Rayanne runs a vintage clothing pop up shop.
Jordan is assistant manager at a Hot Topic.
Graham and Hallie’s restaurant closed after two years. Patty and Graham divorced. Patty liquidated her family’s printing business and became a real estate agent. Graham drives a UPS truck but still teaches community education cooking classes on the side.
Tino disappeared and was never seen or heard from again. 😉

Sarah

Does the show hold up? I am so afraid to watch it and ruin my memory/feeling of it. (My husband and I also noted that we would likely identify with the parents now).

Ash

I laughed out loud several times during this post. Men and women alike, take a page out of Brian’s playbook: vulnerability, humor, and a “sure, why not?” mindset are all you really need to be alluring to others! A reminder, too, that we all go through hair changes. Nobody emerges unscathed. Long or short, frizzy or bald, it’s best to not be too attached or defined by the physical if we can help it.

That said, Emily and Brian are the goals couple for lots of things, hair included! Part of what makes you awesome is that even if your family photos are catalog-worthy (and the dogs, damnit, you had to go and adopt those lovely beings), you balance it out with posts that are honest, edgy, and altogether human. These attributes extend to everyone on the EHD team. I haven’t been able to buy any furniture or decor items in two years and my rental home is a mess, so let me be clear: I visit this blog everyday for the people.

Rusty

I’m here for the people too!
“Long or short, frizzy or bald, it’s best to not be too attached or defined by the physical if we can help it.”
Oh yeah! You are so right!
I had thick-as straight hair before chemo and now I have ringlets of medium thickness hair… seriously…ringlets!!!
I’m happy I have hair, honestly, and these ringlets seem to be here to stay, so I’m embracing them. 😁

Ah, Rusty. thank you 🙂

Thank you so so so so much. I’m reading the comments out loud to Brian and he is smiling a lot 🙂 xxxxx

Kiana

Bryan, this whole post brought a grin to my face. Thank you! Also, it came out pretty good. I laughed when I watched the video and saw that you and Emily were both taking sips of a cocktail while cutting. Not a hairdresser myself but pretty sure bring tipsy doesn’t make for straight lines! Lol

Kiana

Sorry I misspelled your name! Just noticed 😅

Rusty

Brian… THIS is why Orlando said what he did about you! You’re not scared to investigate you. Check out the why you are (and were) the way you are (and were). Most men simply don’t go ‘there’. The fact that you’re comfortable and vulnerable enough to actually share these revelations with us (the whole globe reads this blog, ya know!?!) speaks volumes about you! Good. Volumes. Worth. Reading. So, when that book’s published (because, really, your writing hits the spot!) I’ll be buying one or rwo copies for men I know! When I read “I mean, yeah, she gave me bangs. And one side of those bangs is much longer than the other.” I lost it and cry-laughed-very-loudly! 🤣😂 You know those people with the really obvious, dramatically lopsided so-called hair styles?!? Careful, you’ll start a trend in them thar mountains! Emily… I did quite a bit of so-called men’s haircutting, no training whatsoever, nit even a Youtube! The trick I found is the start at the bottom, like it looks like you did, and cut the same length from the scalp as you work your way up…everywhere. Because Brian’s hair has waves and volume, he can kinda mess it up with… Read more »

Rusty

LOL my “nit” instead of not typos add a punnish dimension!

And that means Bear n Birdie get Emily’s dad’s hair.

hahahahahah. I have so little patience for things that I know I’m not good at (like hair cutting). I could have tried to ‘learn’ and ‘go slow’ and methodical but i think we all knew that I wouldn’t. yes, HUGE chunks. Thanks Rusty. Brian really is honestly the best and the fact that he is so willing to share and be so open makes me so happy and proud. xxx

Lol! I loved reading this! Love when you write! Hair looks great! I mean what can’t Em do….❤️

Marcela

I love your writing Brian and Charlie’s video was adorable. Emily did a great job!

Caroline

This was an absolute delight. Thanks Brian!

Kelly

Hoobastank! Lol!

Erika

The Phish and Hoobastank analogies…🤣

Suz

What a trip down memory lane for Dad & me! I always thought you were trying to channel Jim Morrison whose posters adorned your bedroom walls. Well-written and engaging. Nice job, Bri Bri.

Deborah

Love this post. It’s both entertaining and meaningful. I’m 62 and it made me remember that almost constant yearning and sense of possibilities in my life (in a good way) I felt when I was 15.

Caitlin

This cracked me up- love it

Blake

So many lol moments! This was perfectly entertaining Brian & I also loved My So-Called Life!

Sarah M.

I put on my glasses to read this 🙂

Arlyn

The features editor in me is smiling ear to ear that you could take a post about a haircut and turn it into an essay I never wanted to end! 🙂 what a treat!

I know! I honestly just thought he was going to do a quick ’emily gave me bangs’ and it would be an easy fun post. when I got his draft I was like WOAH HELL YES. xx

Chelsea

I love this!

Mary

Brian Henderson posts are my fave!! 😂

Cynthia

I always grab a fresh cup of coffee when I see Brian’s name in the byline b/c I know it will be a full-on essay vs. a blog blurb. But know I hold on tight to that mug and swallow carefully b/c with that byline I often spill or even laugh spit my coffee at the screen. Brian, you are so funny and such an engaging writer. I hope your book gets published b/c I will definitely buy a copy!

hickenack

I needed this laugh today. Thanks, Brian. Can’t wait to read your book. Your voice is very entertaining on a super relatable level.

Madison

Omg crying!

1. Love the background and my so called life anecdote. I’m obsessed with this post, I could not stop laughing out loud
2. A novel! Can’t wait to read it
3. The video is almost an exact play by play of me cutting my husband hair. “Pretty good” was said a lot

Jill P

I almost didn’t read this because I don’t need to cut anyone’s hair. I am glad I did, it was so funny! Not too far in I thought he writes really well, and then further in I read he is writing a book and I thought yep, he should. Good luck on the book! And thank you for sharing the sweet family video:)

Elisabeth

We must be exactly the same age; I, too, wanted to LIVE at Liberty High with Angela and Jordan and Rayanne (not Sharon – ugh). I think I still have every episode memorized. Thanks for the memories, especially from the “guy” perspective. The haircut looks great!
(My husband also currently has Catalano hair, and I’m not cutting it any time soon. It’s too good a throwback!)

I just need to say that I have MISSED Brian’s posts and am SO HAPPY to read another one. Like the others, this is insightful, funny, and makes me think about things. I’m also interested in an update on the outdoor storage solution that was teased this summer.

And, nice haircut, Em! I’ve been giving my partner haircuts since the pandemic started, too.

Rusty

I’m hanging out to know what happened with the garage!!!?!

Also if anyone is looking for a good how-to YouTube video for men’s haircuts, Brad Mondo’s is GOOD. I wouldn’t be able to cut my partner’s hair without Brad’s help. <3 Link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvOLIHP9SOA.

Eliot

I was cackling throughout most of this, but I’m also a little verklempt? Because your kids are so lucky to have a dad who talks about his feelings and listens to Taylor Swift and doesn’t take himself too seriously. The world would be a kinder, healthier place if we all learned about masculinity from someone like Brian.

Ariane

Oh my God!!! This is so funny!!! :-))) This video of you guys! So cute!

Kira

Thanks for the chuckles! I’m saving this one to show my husband!

Brenda LA

Brian-THANK YOU so much for this trip down memory lane! Like most people our age, My So Called Life, was our life played out on the small screen. It was the first time writers were speaking for us and getting it so RIGHT! I really enjoyed your story and would totally read a book from you as well!
Thank you for the quick journey back to being 15! Happy Holidays to you and your family!
PS-Emily did an awesome job on the new haircut 💇‍♂️

Tara Randolph

This was super funny- I’ve been cutting my 8 year old son’s hair since March and honestly it gets worse and worse but he doesn’t care so we go with it! Nice job on the haircut!

Karyn

I absolutely loved this post! You are such a good writer Brian! Genuine, self-reflective, and able to put pen to paper to get your authentic thoughts out on the post. Not easy to do, but you made it look effortless. More, please!!

Adrienne

Well written enjoyable post!

Lorrie

The funny thing is that with the short hair you look at least 10 years younger than with the long hair and it looks much more glorious.

Kathy Pope

I really love reading this blog but you, Brian, are my favorite writer of all. Excited to hear about your book!

Vicki Williams

Can’t wait for your book. Brian you have a great “voice” . I love your posts! unique, hilarious, spot on, I could go on but so glad to hear you! Have a wonderful holiday the both of you and your sweet family!

Beth

When I was about, oh, eight (maybe younger?) my dad had me cut his hair (like shave the bottom part in the back because he couldn’t reach it well) and told me to cut it so it was straight…only he really meant evenly curved. I instead cut it straight across 😂…it was not a great look (at all) but he proudly (and jokingly) told everyone that I cut it (he also never asked me cut it again to this day). Emily did a much better job!

Brian & Orlando are officially my favorite voices on this blog right now. The masculine energy feels so fresh. Not to mention they are both hi-larious. My husband has had shoulder length hair since we got married 10 years ago. I believe his is an ode not to Jordan Castalano, but his own longtime man-crush, Eddie Vedder. He didn’t grow his hair long until he was in his 40s though, partly because he finally could post military and permanent 9-5 job and partly because with midlife there came an ear hair situation.. 😉 To be fair, he has GORGEOUS curly hair that I’m utterly jealous of, but like you, Brian, the hairline is receding a bit and getting thinner than it was 10 years ago. I would love to see him try something a little bit shorter– still covering the ears but shorter and a bit less 90s Seattle (though he does love that era and we do live just north of Seattle..). My question to you, Brian Henderson, is how do I broach the subject with him while still affirming how utterly handsome he is and how I love him no matter what his hair looks like but maybe… Read more »

Colleen

If Brian’s “silly novel” is half as entertaining as his posts on this blog, I’ll read it.

Carrie

Brian Henderson, you are a national treasure.

Patty

Always happy to read a post from Brian!

sally

I am the exact same age as you, Brian, and MSCL also influenced my Angela-esque short high school hair (and mini hoops earrings I never took out)! However, I was too wussy to dye it red and also I don’t have a nice pronounced chin like hers, so, I’ve never gone that short again…Rewatching the show maybe 2 yrs ago I realized I am now older than Patty Chase and it didn’t exactly give me chills in a good way, but then again my life is a lot less pedestrian than hers so let’s just say, it ended up feeling alright! For the record, I also had the Jordan-esque sherpa lined jacket but not til 2000 and it was more Neil Young influenced than Jordan, but I salute your Jordan ripoff style in every way! Thanks for posting this walk down mid 90s memory lane. The show is and was fundamental.

C Petry

Brian, I have always LOVED reading you here. Then again, I’m a sucker for theatre guys; I married one. 😉

Reanna

THIS WAS FANTASTIC! And I’m excited to hear more about the novel–I was about 3 paragraphs in and thought, “someone tell Brian he’s a WRITER!” As usual, I appreciate your thoughtful reflections on masculinity and emotion.

Zoe

Yes! I waited to read this because I didn’t really care much about hair cutting but then got curious, my two attempts on my husband have been mini-disasters, both salvaged but rocky for a bit there – despite watching YHL’s tutorial. About the same length in I had the exact same reaction of wow, Brian is a really good writer, he could make something of it! Glad to hear you committing to the novel, that’s admirable!

Lynn

This was a great read and made me chuckle. Thank you!

Jessica

I sent a handwritten letter of angst to ABC when I heard there would be no season 2. I still own the VHS box set even though I have no way to play them. I loved this show. I may have to find and stream it over the holiday break but I already know I will be so sad when the last episode is over as if I lost some dear friends!

sally

It’s streamable on Hulu! I watched it there myself a couple years back

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