Julius Cesar had a fail-safe technique for dealing with his massive ego. During public events he would routinely hide a man in his chariot, a slave whose sole task was to whisper incessantly in his master’s ear: “Remember, Caesar, you’re only human.” It’s probably a good thing to be reminded of this reality.
But not right now. I’m looking in my bathroom mirror with both thumbs and index fingers round the follicle of a grey hair. Maybe it’s not grey; it could just be the way the light’s coming in the window – because you do often get grey shards that alight on one hair in particular, changing its colour from brown to grey, somehow miraculously not affecting the rest of your ageing barnet.
It’s not even just one hair: I can see three of them, bled of all colour, ice-cold needles in my otherwise healthy haystack. Did Rome ever face such tragedy? Is this why the Republic ended?
It’s funny how you try to pull the grey ones out but get a finger full of normal hair instead. It’s not really funny: it’s quite painful, and could bring a tear to a perspex eye. Where are the sodding tweezers?
What’s next? Yes, I know: grey back hair; grey kneecaps; grey elbows; grey belly-button fluff; grey chest rug; grey knuckles; grey knackers. Oh my, Brutus – there’s only so much the human heart can take.
Until now I’ve been doing fine with life, in relative terms.
Someone very dear to me developed dramatic shocks of grey hair from one week to the next in her early 20s, when friends of hers went to prison and she thought, with good reason, that she was going to be next. Or those teenage bombers in the Second World War who turned white as a sheet while flying over Dresden.
Hi honey, I’m home ... and I’m totally grey.
My baldy barber from Edinburgh once said: “Better grey hair than nae hair.” At the time I ignored him, but now take (very slight) solace from his words, although nae hair in places has its advantages. During my last cut the stylist and I were getting along dandy until she asked if she could do my ears. Ah yes, my ears. Oh, the ignominy. Just stick me in my jammies, put me in a wheelchair and feed me jelly with a spoon.
I must remember to get some of those Remington nose-and-ear clippers when I’m out choosing my discreet, virility boosting hair colour- ant. It’s rather exciting. Will it be the Paul McCartney reddy chestnut? Because that looks really groovy. Macca probably gets his custom made in Kerala using traditional dyeing techniques, a bit of goat’s blood stirred in for that moreish claret tincture, a squeeze of Iranian pomegranate.
It probably has a cool name too. Yestergrey. Ticket To Red. The best Just For Men manages is Sandy Blond or the soul-deflating Medium Brown, which sounds only marginally more appealing than being force- fed Bran Flakes from a pair of scuffed Burton’s loafers that once belonged to Ken Barlow.
But why dye at all when you can live the life you’ve always wanted, that of an officer and a gentleman? Because the elephant in the bathroom, in all men’s bathrooms, is Richard Gere, that steamy salt-and- pepper sex god. He always looks like he can’t kiss for shit on screen, but so what? He’s a Buddhist, a prime piece of American ass. Maybe these days he only appeals to older women, but who cares? I can’t be choosy now.
First published on Herald Scotland.