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But Doctor, Aren’t I Too Young for Cream Cheese Chin?

What's with all the slob signals? Those motions to teeth or face to indicate schmutz there? How did this happen to us?

My friend Herb is 81, and if he goes for more than six weeks without a haircut he develops Einstein Head. Einstein Head is that halo of flyaway white hair that didn’t even look good on Albert Einstein, but as he was the most brilliant man in the world and could be cranky, no one had the nerve to tell him.

Herb, not to belittle his accomplishments, is a humor writer admired in a widening circle of dead people. He is also my best friend, so when he gets Einstein Head or Cream Cheese Chin or any of the grooming afflictions which befall older people, I feel free to tactfully call it to his attention.

“Herb,” I say, “Your hair is making you look like a homeless person. If you were to collapse on the street, people would step right over your body instead of calling an ambulance. Old people cannot afford to look unkempt. Groomed, which is code for successful enough to sue you if you don’t call EMS and get me to a hospital pronto, is all we got. Get your hair cut this afternoon.”

(Excuse me, I just got a text from an outraged reader: Wadler, you ageist creep, I am offended by the use of the word ‘old’ in this or any other context. As the research tells us, 80 is the new 60 and dead is the new 65. You are as young as you perceive yourself to be. I, for example, am dictating this from Spin Class, where I am, in calendar years, the oldest person in the room.  And this pain shooting up my left arm — Gasp! Aaargg! THWONK!!!)

Read More: The Incredible Shrinking Woman. Where Do Those Lost Inches Go?

What About Peanut Butter Tooth?

Where was I?

Oh, right, the importance of grooming as you approach Medicare age. As I so often tell Herb, when you are a young person, as he and I and Mick Jagger used to be, you have a certain amount of leeway. You’re a man in your 30s and your hair is curling around your neck? You’re a virile, free spirit. You haven’t shaved in a few days? Under 50, that can be a cool look. But when you’re in your 70s and the stubble is grey, unless you’re Pierce Brosnan in a $7,000 Tom Ford suit, it’s a look that says living in a tent camp under the Manhattan Bridge colonnade.

Were we this messy when we were in our 20s?

New and difficult conditions pop up in your older years: Peanut Butter Tooth; Chronic Cream Cheese Chin; Recurrent Shirt Stain. I was visiting old friends in the country this weekend; ‘old’ relating to both the duration of friendship  and time on earth. The wife is 80, the husband is 81, I’m 74, we’ve been friends for 50 years. These are relationships in which you don’t have to telegraph Food Drop by locking eyes with the dropee and signaling downward like an aircraft carrier officer helping to land a jet in Top Gun: Maverick. You can just say, “You’ve got cream cheese on your shirt.”

The dropee, in this case, was me, even though I had driven a red convertible to the country and have, in fact, driven red convertibles for 30 years. Contrary to what the automobile industry would have you believe, when it comes to spilling food on your shirt, red convertibles do not help one bit. I must add, however, when it came to spillage, my friends were just as bad. The husband already had Cream Cheese Chin.

“Were we this messy when we were in our 20s?” I asked. “It seems to me we were never giving each other all these slob signals. Or did we just not care?”

“Nope”, the husband, who happens to be a doctor, said, “You get older, your nerves are less sensitive. You don’t necessarily realize what’s on your face.”

“And your reflexes are not as fast,” the wife, who has been researching a book on aging, added.

Grooming Challenges of the Mature Woman

Do I seem to be focusing on the grooming challenges of octogenarian men here? I would discuss Female Chin Hair but that would make me so depressed I would have to eat chocolate, which would result in Redistribution of Fat to Midriff rather than where women want it to be.

You know the horror I’m referring to: Flat Butt.

You know the horror I’m referring to: Flat Butt, a problem the magic mirror never told us about when we were 23.

Yes, darling, those jeans do make your rear look like something which would require ten handlers in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but hold on to that picture because the day will come, when you’re struggling to find your Senior Easy Pay card, that you will cherish it. Yes, at exactly the time Megan Thee Stallion is celebrated for her magnificent can, Boomer women will have lost theirs. I’d explain Megan, but we’d need a bigger mirror.

And what about Pink Patch Head, which you have begun to notice in the row ahead of you at Wednesday matinees? (Are you aware that there is a product for thinning hair which contains so-called “hair-building fibers” which covers Pink Patch? I know this only because a close friend told me. It comes in nine natural shades and you just shake it on your head, like sea salt. The shade my friend chose is  grey. $24.95 a container and try not to get any on your black top.)

The Chin Hair Pact

And now, let us scootch back to the grooming challenges of older men, specifically, Quick Growing Nose and Ear Hair. I first learned about this condition as a little kid, in that section in the back of comic books where you could order a seahorse, guaranteed to be delivered dead. Why ads for nose-hair trimmers were in comic books I do not know; perhaps so kids could point out physical shortcomings to their grandparents, who consider anything their grandchildren say cute.

Little Janie just told me I had hair coming out of my ears and asked if that meant I would die soon and she could have my room. Isn’t that adorable?

Call a trusted pal, make an Einstein Head/Chin Hair pact today.

Here is what is particularly awful about Quick Growing Nose and Ear Hair: there are no hand signals for it. A friend may have ear hair so long you could Captain Jack Sparrow beard bead it and there is nothing you can do to gently indicate there is a problem.

Twirl a non-existent ringlet next to your ear?  That’s a five year old’s signal for crazy.

Make up a story involving an insect? Oh, heavens, an extra long hairy centipede is crawling out of  your ear! They’ll assume you’re drunk.

Only a beloved partner can tell the afflicted they need to get to a barber. Or tell you about the three mutinous hairs on your chin. Call a trusted pal, make an Einstein Head/Chin Hair pact today. And by the way, just to the right of your mouth…..okay, you got it.      

Read More: The Frenemy Over the Bathroom Sink: Mirrors and Self-Image


Joyce Wadler is a humorist and former New York Times staff reporter who created and wrote the “I Was Misinformed” column for The New York Times for several years. 

By Joyce Wadler


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