Somehow, I pictured my victory being just a little bit more, well, you know ... victorious.
It's old news by now, but last Monday I narrowly defeated fellow columnist Charles Trentelman in our monthlong his-beard-vs.-my-hair contest, which raised a whopping $14,941 for the United Way of Northern Utah.
That's right, I won. So then, why do I feel like such a loser?
I'll tell you why: Because any number of disillusioned/alienated readers out there are now calling me a sell-out. And worse.
All along, I tried to frame this contest as an attempt to get a look at Charlie's hairless face, which hadn't been seen since the mid-1970s. But apparently, some folks got the impression that, for some oddly noble reason, it was all about saving my relatively recent long gray locks.
So, last Monday, when it was announced to the world that I had indeed raised just a hair more money than Charlie, and that per our agreement, he would have to shave off his beard, that victory was short-lived. Because even before they'd begun taking the clippers to Charlie's whiskers, everyone immediately wanted to know my price -- how much more would it take to get me to cut my long hair, too?
Well, now. THAT'S an awkward position. I mean, what was I supposed to do? What would you have done?
Look, they'd already enlisted Thomas Hardy, from Thomas Hardy Salons, to cut my hair in the event Charlie won. Tom was standing there, at the ready, with nothing to do.
How could I -- a man who routinely gets his haircuts at the Walmart of the barbering world -- turn down an opportunity to get a free haircut from the Michelangelo of manes, the Toulouse-Lautrec of tresses, the Picasso of pompadours, the Da Vinci of 'dos?
It's Thomas Hardy, people.
Besides, hell-LOH? It's all for a good cause, remember?
So, in the end, I told the assembled crowd -- more of an angry mob, really -- that if they'd put down the torches and pitchforks and pass the hat right then and there, for the right price they could take my scalp, too.
And they did. Already giddy over the prospect of getting to see the Forbidden Chin of Charlie, they came through by reaching deep into their pockets and ponying up another $441 for charity.
So I let them cut my hair.
Reaction was swift, almost instantaneous. The event was streamed live on the Standard.net website, and one supporter reacted in real time.
Her first email to me, titled "Congratulations," came in at 12:46 p.m., just moments after my Halloween Day triumph over The Bearded Laddie.
"Glad to see you get to keep your flowing locks," the email read. "I contributed in the spirit that you can never have too many 52-year-old Peter Frampton look-alikes walking the streets of Ogden."
Her second email showed up a mere 11 minutes later -- obviously after she'd watched the part where I sold out for $441.
Under the subject line of "WHAT?" her email read, simply: "I want a refund."
And she wasn't alone. Others voiced a similar thought: Judas did that whole betrayal thing for 30 pieces of silver; apparently, Saal's price is 441 U.S. dollars.
So here's the deal. I now have friends in high places at the United Way of Northern Utah (helping to raise $14,941 for charity will do that). To those of you who feel cheated, please don't wallow in passive-aggressive behavior. Contact me. Tell me you're truly disappointed, and I will do the following for you:
I will go to the United Way. I will explain the situation to them. And I will ask them if they would mind too terribly much if we just refunded your charitible contribution.
And, as an added bonus, I will ask if they could loan me someone from one of the nonprofit organizations supported by the United Way of Northern Utah -- a handicapped child, perhaps, or a battered mother of four from a women's shelter -- who would then accompany me to your home or place of business to help with the presentation of your refund check.
I think that would be a nice touch, don't you?
Look, in the final analysis, balance has been returned to The Force. Charlie is already growing his beard back because, well, let's face it, there's a reason he went into print journalism.
As for me and my hair? I dunno. I guess I'll probably just keep it short.
But you must believe me when I say that I honestly could not possibly care any less what length my hair is -- long, short, somewhere in between.
See, the great thing about short hair is that it's so incredibly easy to take care of. But then again, long hair is really great, too, because it tends to mess with the minds of uptight conservatives in the community.
So then, what's the bottom line? Will I keep my hair short? Most likely. At least until somebody offers to make a $441 donation to the United Way if I'll grow it again.
And then what? Well, it'll probably just continue to grow until somebody else comes up with another $441 to cut it.
Mark Saal is now officially done talking about hair in his columns. Contact him at 801-625-4272 or email@example.com.