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Summer of Hair Cute guys and greasy pizza 

Cute guys and greasy pizza

Some of us neighborhood swim team people were hanging out after a meet in one of those pizza places that feature weirdly glowing buffets piled with food that only looks good if you're a starving adolescent or at the tail-end of a marathon drunk. You know the kind of swill hole, almost always staffed with people who seem like they might have snuck into the country a few hours ago, and you can only pray that they got a chance to wash their hands before starting work in the kitchen. The one who can at least get out "Buffet?" in English mans the register.If you or your kids have ever been involved in a sports team, you've done time in one of these pizza armpits, since it's a tradition for athletes to go out after draining their bodies and load them back up with bottom-grade food, followed by lots of soda. Some team parents attack the unnaturally colored grub as rabidly as the kids, while swearing through dough-stuffed mouths to go on Atkins tomorrow. Others like me can barely breathe normally in those places, let alone eat the food, and sit with our limbs drawn in to have minimal contact with any of the greasy-but-sticky surfaces.

So there we were once again in the local petri dish for Hepatitis-C, with the kids hurtling pizza rinds at each other and little immigrant ladies running gray rags over the crummy tables and yapping in their native tongue, no doubt exchanging critiques of our rotten American spawn.

Let me tell ya, conversation among team parents is not always the most stimulating. You end up mouthing a lot of cliches during parenthood anyway, but never more so than when you're a team parent, and periodically hear yourself bursting out, as if you're the first human to ever have had the thought, "Good job!" "Great game!" "Good hustle!"

Something about the team thing in general makes the adults feel like we need to be on our wholesome toes, unless we're dissing the other team. So it was an extra surprise when right there in Grimy World, one of the moms started in on how cute a neighborhood teenaged boy was.

"What's the name of that boy? You know, the cute one?" she asked, wiping crayon-bright scarlet sauce from her mouth.

"I know, the really cute one, Jim's brother," chimed in another mom, who usually limits her conversation to such stupor-inducers as Bible study and window treatments.

"He is really cute," agreed the first, while I listened in wonder. Cute, as in sexy-cute, just wasn't part of the usual team-mom lingo, especially as applied to one of the neighborhood kids. I got a visual of the boy they were discussing, and suddenly the reason for all the drooling hit me.

"I know why you think he's so cute," I told them. "It's because he has long hair, the way boys used to when we were teenagers."

It's been a lengthy drought for those of us whose impressions of good looks were formed during the era of guys fighting for the right to not cut their hair. I wonder if this new generation sporting long locks has any idea of what a big-ass issue male hair once was. Parents whose kids were doping and screwing and tripping right beneath their blind or ignorant eyes nonetheless insisted, absolutely insisted, that Junior get his hair cut -- as if that would mean they still controlled the world, which of course they didn't.

So although I can appreciate the attractiveness of a nicely clipped head, it still sends the bad old vibe of forced obedience -- and just forget the whole shaved-skull thing, because that's what the military does to make you more of a killer clone. You'd have had to put a gun to the heads of the boys I knew to get them to do it.

Meanwhile, my head's been turned this summer by the sight of guys who suddenly have hair, lots of hair, and look like they could've just stepped from the pages of my teenhood, especially since the beach-bum type clothes they often wear also have a long-hair-era essence. It's miraculous, after years of almost no guys having anything below their ears, to see again halos of curls framing young faces, straight swatches flopping into eyes (always a sexy look), and tendrils curling down necks.

I'll look around and spot one of these lads, and they appear so familiar I feel I know them. Sometimes I even step forward as if I do, but then realize it's just that they remind me of the boys of vanished summers. Still, I find myself automatically keeling toward them, as if I were their age, and have to remind myself that while I see all the guys I had teen crushes on, they see, well, a team mom.

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