Oct 6, 2011

Our Brother's Hair. Like Samson's.

Photo by Sean Hopkins

From Coney Island, NY to here at home in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma all the way to Port Macquarie, Australia, Donny Vomit is known for his handlebar mustache (and his ability to hammer a nail up his nose). It's his personal brand. And I've often called his mustache his "swagger."

It's not that he couldn't eat light bulbs or breath fire or stick his tongue in a rat trap for the pleasure of a swooning crowd without it, but he just wouldn't do it with the same style.

I think perhaps there has always been some magic in Donny's hair. It sounds weird and a bit awkward to write, there's no poetry really in that phrase, other than I chose to stick the word magic in there. And a bit ironic since he has not a single hair on top of his actual head. But when he was a boy it's what made him look so much like the eighties kids on the screen from Wonder Years' Kevin to E.T.'s Elliot (today you'd probably say Harry Potter, to boot). He was just so freaking cute.

But even Donny who can evade throwing-daggers from hitting is tender bits, who can manuever swallowing-swords as to not puncture his esophagus, and can gracefully juggle chainsaws without lopping off a limb – even he could not avoid the cringingly unavoidable strike of teenagerdom.


Basically when cute just becomes painfully not-cute.

So Donny's wardrobe turned monochromatic, a spectrum of greys and blacks (he didn't own a colored article of clothing until well into his twenties) and he grew his hair out very, very, very long. And to top it all off, he donned a signature vintage top hat from mid high all the way through high school. We'd had this hat in our family for years, a gift to my mom from one of her hippie friends, the story being it came all the way from Woodstock. Donny wore that hat every single day, no matter the season or occasion, until it literally fell apart.

But you know what? We didn't mind. It was cool. Sure, we'd get looks when we'd go to the mall together to go clothes shopping. They have grey and black clothes as JCPenney. My mom says that to this day whenever she sees steampunk kids walking by, she thinks "uh, Donny totally invented that look and you don't even know it." Actually, our mom is probably a second away from actually telling them that out loud at times. Now that would be an embarrassing mall moment.

Truly the only time it was ever a "deal" was the morning when Columbine went down. The phrase "trenchcoat mafia" was all over the morning talk shows and news tickers. I remember our dad calling the house to track down Kathleen and then me at my college apartment in the same town. He was like "somebody stop Donny from going to school today in his trenchcoat, because I'm sure he's completely unaware of what just happened." He was afraid someone would do something really awful to Donny.

Donny, the most nonconfrontational human being in the world.


Who still did jigsaw puzzles with his sisters every weekend.


Who went on family vacations with us, and went to plays and bought souvenirs. Because you can still be a tourist in a black top hat.


You can also still visit your grandma and sit on her flower-couch and smile sweetly if someone pointed a camera at you. Now, your older sister (that would be me) might just still have the pissiest face ever, but that would pass with time, too. Ooh, check out my Doc Martens knock-offs! I was always good at mainstreaming it, and then just mixing it up the tiniest bit. But not good at smiling for pictures.


And you could still be a perfect prom date. All of a sudden your long hair is dashing and handsome.


And then you're over it. And your sisters (both of them) take you to get it all cut off.

Now, if Donny is Samson in this story, I don't want you to think that his two sisters were some sort of harpie-like, pushing-our-hair-agenda, Delilah-type sisters. This was something he wanted to do. We just happened to be supporters. It was probably the year 2000 by this point, the nineties were over, let's just do it bro.

But we didn't chop his locks without some ceremony. The hairstylist actually braided his hair down his back first. Then she cut it off all at once. We put it in a shadowbox. Seriously. After that, you would have thought he was a toddler getting his first cut the way we were just making such a huge deal out of it. We photographed the whole thing as he sat in the hairdresser's chair (of course I couldn't find those photos).

Actually, I couldn't find very many photos at all of Donny in the period between losing his long hair... and growing his mustache. His magic.

Photos by Lisa DiNicola

And now when Donny comes home to visit and we still do jigsaw puzzles and go to the mall, forgoing Hot Topic with a wry isn't-that-nostalgic-smile and heading for the Gap because Donny now wears more colors than black and needs a sweater in a rusty orange or a nice olive green.

And he still gets looks from the little kids and the moms and even the steampunk kids walking by (but their looks are a bit awe inspired), and mom is less tempted to tell them "what's-what" and more likely to just pridefully whisper, "I think they know you're Donny Vomit." And of course we don't mind, either. It's cool.

Coney Island Mermaid Parade with "Legs Malone" aka Donny's nice girl Anna.

Oh, and he still makes a dashing prom date.

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