The 1990s and the year of the Spider Plant hair

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I wore a mullet much longer than I should have, obstinately sporting it until 1993 when I arrived at Plymouth State College[1] for my freshman year[2].

When I moved into my dorm room in Pemigewasset Hall, I reeked of Rhode Island—with my mullet, my gold chain and my accent that disregarded the letter R. My first real jolt of culture shock while moving boxes that balmy afternoon in late August and needing a drink of water so I stopped a cute girl in jean shorts in the dorm’s lobby. “Excuse me, but could you tell me where the bubbla is[3]?”

She tilted her head and stared at me as if lobsters were crawling out my nostrils. “I don’t think we have any of those,” she said and scurried away.

I later found the “water fountain” outside the television lounge.

As soon as classes began, the campus was cluttered with Kurt Cobain clones, and for the first time, I had the real sense that my mullet was, perhaps, a fashion faux pas, a relic from a time washed out by the tide[4].

In short, the mullet wasn’t cutting it.

So I found a barber in downtown Plymouth and lopped off those mighty locks—-no more party in the back. But the result was a hairstyle a second-grader might draw on the stick figure, the epitome of blah.

Meanwhile, the Cobain clones—-with their long hair hanging below their chins, covering their faces like drapes with lit cigarettes poking through them—had clear command of campus.

My only option was to let it grow, and let it grow, I did.

That was until a guy on the third floor, an ethereally handsome kid who wooed all the women with his acoustic guitar and angelic voice, came back from a weekend at his parents’ place with a pair of hair clippers.

Enter The Spider Plant[5].

The Spider Plant, I believe, derived from a cut Cobain may have once tried. With my hair growing long and shaggy, in order to execute The Spider Plant, I needed to shave the back and the sides with the clippers while allowing the hair on top of the head to grow long and hanging over the shaved sides like the leaves of a hanging spider plant growing over the planting pot[6].

Most of the males in my dorm were on board with The Spider Plant.

I wore my new hairstyle like a badge that authenticated my role as a certifiably apathetic member of Generation X; in less than a year, I’d transformed from a backward jackass with a mullet to yet another clone in the campus-wide Kurt Cobain eugenics experiment, only with a decisively goofy-looking hairstyle.

I sported The Spider Plant hair until one night that April at one of my fraternity’s keg parties. I was standing in a half-inch of basement sludge with three girls I knew from the dorm, swilling Natural Light from a red plastic cup when the music suddenly cut.

The deejay got on the microphone. “Listen, folks, I have really bad news,” he said, his voice doleful. “If you haven’t heard already, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain killed himself today in Seattle.”

There were gasps, a couple of sobs, and more silence than you’d ever expect to find in a basement packed with two hundred college students. The three girls looked at me and my Spider Plant hairstyle like they were staring at a three-legged puppy.

The next morning I shaved it off and started from scratch.

__________

[1] I’m aware it is now Plymouth State University, but for many of us old-timers, it will always be PSC.

[2] This is part of a series of pieces where I’m attempting to examine my own history through various hairstyles.

[3] Many of you may be just as confused as that poor girl by the question.

[4] In my own defense, my hometown in 1993 was still struggling to accept that David Lee Roth left Van Halen. Throughout my life, West Warwick has perpetually existed in a time warp of sorts, roughly about ten years behind the modern world.

[5] The Spider Plant has been retroactively named. At the time, we had no other way to describe it. I suppose the closest we came to a moniker would be The Cool Bro, after the first inevitable words spoken when your stoned friend finished cutting it and you turned your own stoned gaze to the mirror.

[6] In other words, it looked like the scalp on the top of my head had vomited black hair.