Ear Hair (and Other Unfortunate Signs of Becoming Less Hip)

Henry Belanger is either in post-quarter-life or early-mid-life crisis.

I’m 33. I’m not that old. But there have been some troubling developments.

A few months ago, my doctor asked me, “you’re in your late twenties, right?” Without hesitation I replied, “yup.” It’s not that I wasn’t listening, or that doc was violently jamming a pointy medical device in my ear-hole. No, for a couple seconds there, I was a confident 28-year-old. Then, in a flash, I remembered that I had a 30th birthday party a while ago—a long while ago. And I drove my old Honda to the party. My new truck isn’t even new anymore. “No—shit. Damn, doc, sorry. I’m in my early thirties. Fuck.” I don’t generally swear so much, especially in front of my doctor, but it’s no fun aging five years in two seconds.

It wasn’t a huge surprise—I habitually forget how old I am—but I generally get the first number right. Thirty-one? Thirty-two? Thirty-three? It usually takes me a few seconds. I think the confusion started when I hit 27, at which point I could no longer convince myself that I was in my mid-twenties. I began anxiously anticipating how old I would be at my upcoming birthday. They started coming so fast, and were surrounded by so much less fanfare, that I started to lose track. When I was a kid, my parents told me that I’d grow up soon enough, but they didn’t mention that time would accelerate.

Just moments ago, I convinced myself, briefly, that I was 32, and that my suspicion of being 33 was brought on by the anticipatory fear of crossing into the dreaded late-early-thirties. I mean, once you turn 33 and a day, you’re basically only a year from your pre-forties. It’s not that you’re totally over the hill, but you can see the bottom of it, off in the distance.

This is not to say that I’ve forgotten the year of my birth. I remember that, even without looking at my driver’s license—1977. Given that it’s 2010, and there’s no snow on the ground (my birthday is in March and I live in Boston), that makes the math even easier than usual. I’m 33. Larry Bird. Shouldn’t be that tough.

But whatever. Age is just a number, as they say. I still get carded, despite being 6-foot-7. I have a baby face, I guess. I could easily pass for 28, so it’s not so bad. Well, it wouldn’t be, if it weren’t for my asshole barber.

A few months ago, my barber—who is great at his job despite being completely bald (I’ve only cheated on him once since we met in 2003)—asked me politely if he could trim a hair coming out of my ear. I was horrified. And I was a little disappointed by the implicit confirmation that, while I will never be able to grow a beard, this will not be my last ear hair.

Later, after I added an all-new step to my post-shower routine, I laughed about it with my wife. A couple of weeks later, she came home from CVS with an electric nose-hair trimmer. Less funny.

I comforted myself: at least I still have a young mind and spirit.

Then, a few weeks ago, I found myself looking up the word “wack” in the urban dictionary. Not for meaning—for spelling. It can’t be “whack,” right? The hip-hop community isn’t big on silent letters. It’s probably “wac” or “wak.” In any case, it’s certainly not “whack.”

For the record, “wack” is preferred.

It gets worse. A couple of days ago, my buddy John, a contemporary, ended a text-message communiqué thus: “do work.”

My instinct was to text back for clarification. H-u-h-? I started to type, but I closed the phone. I thought about it all day. Did he mean good work? It was possible, but a stretch given the context. Plus, John isn’t really one to let a confusing misspelling stand without clarification. Hmmm….

After work, I found the draft in my phone and sent it: “Huh?”

His response: “just a slogan.”

More confusion… Wait… what? It’s not just a slogan. It’s a slogan that I, as your contemporary, am expected to be familiar with. Crap.

I’m not just aging; I’m getting less hip, precipitously, even by the standards of people my age.

Thank god for the Urban Dictionary.

Do Work:

1. Coined by Rob Dyrdek and his personal bodyguard Christopher “Big Black” Boykins, “Do Work” works as a self-motivator, to motivate your friends. It ranges from, but is not limited to “taking a dump” and “nailing” a skateboarding trick. The possibilities for this phrase are endless; you just have to know how to use it. D.W., short for “Do Work” can be used as well.


Person 1: I’m going to backflip off this 20 foot ledge.

Person 2: DO WORK!

Example 2:

Person 1: Oh shit son, did you see that backflip off that 20 foot ledge?!


About Henry P. Belanger

Henry P. Belanger is a writer, reporter, and an editor-at-large at the Good Men Project. Contact him via email.


  1. At least you can still see your ear hair… just wait until you need reading glasses to trim it. That’s a whole new level.

  2. paul kidwell says:

    Ah, age and aging; the great equalizer. Add to the hirsute nature of our beast the indignities we suffer through as our joints weaken and ultimately give into the sins of our more robust and athletic youth. I am a 50 year-old security risk at airports as my bionic hip sets off alarms that I once waltzed through. This time of our lives ain’t for sissies ; although I would not have taken back any of the tens of thousands of miles I ran as a athlete and former marathoner that sullied my body. There are; however, advantages to some of the physical changes we must endure as Father Time marches through our front yard. Take for instance the trimming of ear hair and, of course, the oft-forgotten eyebrows. I actually look forward to my monthly trim at the hands of my hairstylist. When she cradles my ears in her hands in order to get the right trajectory for her scissors; or adjusts my head by caressing my temple before swooping down towards my eyebrows with razor sharp shears; well, it’s all I can do not to nod off in her chair. Such is the feeling of bliss this creates. So, there are plusses to a time of life where many of us focus on the minuses.

    Oh, just to show that I am not that enlightened after all, it was only this year that I learned who Tina Fey was and this week found out that someone by the name of Jon Mayer or Meyer (or is it John?) is actually a popular singer. I have to think that the fact that aging immunizes me from attaining this kind of knowledge is probably a good thing.

  3. Your next birthday is ALWAYS better than dead! I thought 30 was the best thing that ever happened to me. Then I reached 40. 🙂 🙂 Woo hoo!

  4. I never recall how old I am, how many years I’ve been married, how many years I’ve lived in Atlanta…and on and on. However, it appears everyone else is counting so I have backups (but fortunately, no ear hair).

  5. as an editor, i always want to spell slang terms correctly, too. it doesn’t make us old, just nerdy. plus, today’s slang words could become “real” words one day. think of how many words and phrases shakespeare made up that are now part of everyday life.
    p.s. no one has said “mojo” since austin powers in 1999, so you should feel proud that you didn’t know the meaning. 😉 and good luck with the ear hair.

  6. I would think, ear hair can be tricky and can go unnoticed by the person growing it. Carefully angled mirrors and bright lights may give the guy the hairy picture, but it can truly be hard to see just how much hair there is. I have a friend who would look better without it (well, wouldnt everyone?) Even though I’d be mentioning it for his benefit, is my recommendation insulting? And if so, what would be a tactful non-ego-damaging way to tell someone to “take care of that”?

  7. Roger Durham says:

    So why is it that 3 guys who have stepped onto “The Good Ship 50-something” are the ones who feel the need to respond to this artilce? I’m still getting my sea legs, but other than the aches and pains, it’s not a horrible place to be. My trajectory is set for 120, so I am trying to pace myself, but what I can tell you, Henry, is this: “The insult of ear hair is only the beginning!”

  8. Tez Anderson says:

    You’re 33. Try remembering what having mojo was like when you are 50. I know the BS that 50 is new 45 or whatever, but growing older, getting that AARP card, is a slap in the face that happens over years. Mojo. No one ever does, but believe me 50 arrives way faster than you can conceive so enjoy your thirties because, if you are lucky, your fifties and your sixties will be here tomorrow and you’ll look back and laugh remembering how young 31 is.

  9. David Wise says:

    You’re still a baby. I got my drivers license the year you were born. Btw, I always spell it “whack.” It looks better in print.

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