He Used to Have a Mohawk

“Mark is a good man,” the best man said, before raising his glass in a toast. “But he used to have a Mohawk.”

The maid of honor echoed the best man’s sentiment:

“I like Mark. I found out he used to have a Mohawk, and it used to be blue. I couldn’t believe it. He seems so nice.”

The theme of these toasts, and the conversations that followed was there might be something wrong with people that have Mohawks, but not Mark. He’s nice. The conversations that followed would inform us that Mark also spiked his hair eight inches high at times. No matter what form his hair took, he was always nice, and he would talk to you just like any other feller. Mark appeared to take this all in stride. Either he agreed with the sentiment of the theme, or he didn’t hear the underlying condescension. Whatever the case, Mark appeared to miss the associations, the looks, and the reactions that would occur in the days when he used to have a Mohawk.

I was at this ceremony at the behest of my uncle. My uncle was quite fond of the bride. He did not know the man that used to have a Mohawk however. As such, he did not know if the haircut was a result of some sort of an identity crisis. He also did not know the psychology that chased the man after he relented to chop it off and begin mingling with common folk again.

My uncle had met Mark a few times, but he assured me that the man that used to have a Mohawk was nice. Based on the fact that my one conduit into Mark’s mind was almost as unfamiliar with him as I was, I was forced to draw on personal experience with like-minded souls, when I considered the idea that those that will get an attention-drawing tattoo, or a Mohawk, do so with the intent of drawing some attention to themselves. Their goal, I can only assume, is to change the perception of being that person that sits in the corner of a party and leaves such a poor impression that no one recalls them ever being there.

To distinguish themselves in the beginning, these types may begin trying to establish some sort of association. They may start by displaying a fiery temper that they hope results in someone saying, ‘Don’t mess with Jed, he’s insane.’  If that doesn’t work, they may provide a visual that promotes their fiery temper. They may feel the need to punch someone to establish their bona fides on this topic. I’ve even witnessed some go so far as to say such things about themselves with the hope of kick starting such a reputation. They don’t conclude this with ‘Tell your friends,’ but it’s obvious to those on the receiving end that this is the end game. If this doesn’t happen, the plan B of ornaments of self-expression begin to appear, that take the form of physical shouts of ‘I am here!’ from their otherwise anonymous corners.

I’ve heard some Mohawks speak of sitting in front of a mirror, for over an hour, to get those eight-inch spikes gelled up just right, to achieve a perception that is exclusive to an eight-inch Mohawk. The unspoken goal is to get someone, somewhere to look at them. Some may consider them strange, but at least they’re looking. Some will ask questions, but at least they’re asking. Some may even ostracize, but at least there’s some sort of concerted effort directed towards them.

“For God’s sakes, Helen, the boy’s got a blue Mohawk!” is something that a senior citizen, unfiltered by social graces, might say to his wife. The rest of us whisper it for fear that a Mohawk man may feel further estranged, but in my personal experience with similar people, they love it all, as much as I think Mark did, in the days when he used to have a Mohawk.

“It turns out Mark has a great heart, and he would,” the best man would say to complete the circuit of the clichéd best man toast, “Give you the shirt off his back.”  At one point in his toast, the best man said that he “Was attracted to Mark, because Mark used to have a Mohawk. It wasn’t one of those flat, more acceptable Mohawks either. This one was spiky, and eight-inches high. It was even blue at one point. This was a Mohawk!”  

The best man laid a deft, joke teller’s emphasis on the words ‘was’ and ‘Mohawk’ for the purpose of punctuating the joke. Laughter did make its way around the room. Polite laughter. There was nothing raucous about it, because there was nothing raucous, shocking, or rebellious about Mark anymore. The Mohawk was gone.

Men with sensible haircuts now felt so comfortable with Mark that they felt free to laugh at him without fear. They felt like they were now laughing with him, and he had to sit there and take it, nodding in silent vulnerability from his proverbial corner of the room. His nod had an unspoken ‘yep!’ to it that suggested Mark either regretted losing the Mohawk, or that he regretted trying it out in the first place. My money was on the former.

In the years that have occurred since this wedding, I’m betting that Mark still tells people, “I’m an old, married man now, but I used to have a Mohawk, and it was eight inches high, and it was even blue at one time,” when they ask him how he’s doing,

The ceremony that preceded these toasts was unorthodox. Yet, one look at Mark and his bride, Mary, should’ve informed the observer in attendance that they were, at the very least, in for something unorthodox, but most of the observers were unorthodox too. The church we were in was unorthodox, and it appeared to have seen its best days thirty years ago, but unorthodox can be quaint, and quaint can be romantic, and colorful, and the best way for two people to express their unique, and unorthodox love for one another in a quaint, and memorable way.

Those of us that put some thought into it found that unorthodox core and we appreciated it for what it was. We believed that we grasped the individualistic statement Mark and Mary were making to one another and their friends and family. We thought there was something unique and beautiful about the ceremony, and that something influenced us to think about the ways in which we could make our own individualistic statements in our own ceremonies. I must admit I went through all of that, but my appreciation of what Mark and Mary accomplished ended when two singers stepped to the mike stands positioned at the side of the altar.

The songs these two teenage girls sang weren’t Gershwin or Schubert. The songs were as hip and nice as Mark and Mary wanted the congregation to believe they were. The songs were informal, and the best way Mary had found to express her love for this man that used to have a Mohawk. The songs were also terrible.

A song in a ceremony can provide a wedding ceremony a brief, abridged interlude. It can also add to the overall theme that the bride and groom are trying to establish in their ceremony. The best-case scenario, learned by way of the contrast available in Mark and Mary’s ceremony, is to condense those songs to the meaningful lyrics, or the meaningful portion of the song, that the couple hopes will capture the essence of their ceremony.

Most architects of a ceremony should maintain focus on the song’s refrain to establish some familiarity with the audience, but these same architects should avoid including the entire song. I’ve been there. We all have. As an enthusiastic music fan, that regards some songs in the manner some view religion, I have some songs that I regard as unique definitions of who I am. I’ve fantasized about using them in my ceremonies, to provide my friends and family members a window into my soul. Common sense has prevailed upon me the logic that this might not be the time, or the place, to proselytize on the virtues of the undiscovered, aberrant songs I enjoy.

Mark and Mary obviously had no one to offer them such objective perspectives, and the audience had to listen to songs that these tone deaf, teenage girls sang in a kitschy, wonderfully amateurish, and endearing, and embarrassing manner. It didn’t work for this disinterested third party. I can’t sing, and I do have some empathy for anyone attempting to do anything artistic in a public forum, but this display made me cringe.

“But, it was sung from the heart,” a sympathetic listener might have said, to give this rendition of whatever song they sang endearing qualities. ‘Fine,’ I would say, ‘keep it under two minutes.’

“But this was Mark and Mary’s ceremony,” I can hear others saying. “And even if it was unorthodox, it was unorthodox to your conformist orthodoxy, and who put you in the seat of professional critic. Get over yourself man!”

The two girls sang a second song, ten minutes in. It was as painful as the first. It interrupted the flow of the ceremony. It was agony for those of us that didn’t know Mark and Mary. It took the moment Mark and Mary were supposed to cherish for eternity and altered it into the introductory segment of American Idol for all of us to try and avoid becoming frustrated, mean-spirited Simon Cowells.

Humor with a Haircut

There were risqué moments in the reception too. The father-in-law turned an old, iron, fold out chair towards himself. He scooted it across the room, so he would have a scandalous view of the bride when the groom removed the garter from her leg.

“You should be embarrassed,” the groom that used to have a Mohawk said to his father with good humor. We all laughed in a polite manner.

“I should be embarrassed?” the father said. He was aghast. He was winking. “I thought Mary would have the decency to, at least, wear some under garments.” 

We all laughed in a polite manner. We were all polite and bored.

Mark removed the garter and shot-gunned it to the bride’s young son Kevin, the one person in the room that didn’t want it. Kevin didn’t even line up with the rest of the bachelors. He stood to the side, noticeably outside the group vying for it. Mark laughed after breaking the tradition of sending it to those lined up for it. His laugh was a little too obnoxious, to presumably give the moment a sense of obnoxiousness it lacked.

It was an impulsive joke. I’m quite sure it seemed funny in his head. I’m sure he thought he was doing something different and obnoxious. I’m sure he had no idea that most jokes, of this variety, don’t play out well in ceremonial settings. I assume it worked well in the retelling however. “Remember when I flung the garter to Kevin?” Mark would say afterwards to rewrite everyone’s memory of the moment, “I did it, because I knew Kevin didn’t want it.” Not even the bride could work up a decent smile at the time, and the contingent of prospective garter recipients went back to their seats without smiles.

While immersed in the crickets chirping response to his joke, I wondered if our reaction would’ve been different had Mark still had a Mohawk. If a man with a Mohawk rebels against pedantic rituals in a pleasing manner, are those with sensible haircuts so grateful that he didn’t go so over-the-top with his rebellion that we find his pedantic displays of rebellion pleasing to the point of greater laughter? Whatever the case, this current version of Mark, with a sensible haircut, couldn’t make such a moment funny. He was a fish flopping out on the dance floor for all to watch in silence, while he yearned for the reactions he used to receive when he used to have a Mohawk.

Bereft of Brevity

The groom cried during the wedding ceremony. He was so shook up that he couldn’t maintain his composure while reciting his vows. The evidence that Mark wanted this moment was so palpable that all but the cold-hearted felt it. It suggested that he might have been digesting the idea that it could be possible to move past all that he had been through and everything that had led him to getting a Mohawk in the first place, and all that happened as a result, if he did this moment just right.

How many chances in life does one have at such moments, and what do we do when they arrive? If there was such an opportunity, for Mark, it was gone. In its place were two four-minute songs that the bride selected for this ceremony, to attempt to make the moment even more seminal than it might have been otherwise.

The bride, the groom, and the priest stood up there like jackasses, staring at one another while those two songs dragged out to four minutes each. Four minutes may not seem long, unless you’re the one stuck up on a stage, trying to make more of this moment than it might otherwise have. The effort and emotion Mark put into this moment suggested to me that he might have even exerted such effort if he still had his Mohawk.

Less is more when we’re seeking a moment, I realized, watching all of the moments fail to accumulate into something seminal. A seminal moment occurs when one is engaged in a moment, and no amount of choreographing will move it there. We can try, and we shouldn’t fall prey to the “less is more” principle to a point that we do nothing, but as we continue to add moments in the hope of achieving the seminal, we encroach upon a tipping point.

That tipping point may never become apparent to those that choreographed their moment.  If it does become apparent, that clarity often arrives soon after it’s too late to change, and the people that learn anything from it will be those that witness the fact that brevity allows all participants to define the beauty for us, and with us, through the contrast of our efforts.

When we lose our moment, and have it redefined, we try to take it back. Cheesy, choreographed lyrics about tenderness, togetherness, love, and always being there for your partner, appear beautiful and thematic on paper. In reality, they’re show stopping, moment stealing, and over-wrought ideas that we regret later, even if we refuse to admit it. We find ourselves trying to disassemble and reassemble our moment in any way we can, until our ability to take it back and relive those seminal moments lead us to ache for the days when we used to have a Mohawk.

If you enjoyed this piece, you might also enjoy the other members of the seven strong:

The Thief’s Mentality

That’s Me In the Corner (This is not a sequel to Mohawk, but it is another story that occurred in the same wedding.)

A Simplicity Trapped in a Complex Mind

You Don’t Bring me Flowers Anymore!

… And Then There’s Todd

When Geese Attack!



6 thoughts on “He Used to Have a Mohawk

    • Thanks Dan, how is the editing process going for you? Is it as grueling as the others you quoted in your blog described, or is it the labor of love for you that it was for me when I did my last novel? I think you hinted at that in one of your blogs, when you wrote about seeing all the ideas you came up with and how that was so exciting. Refresh my memory.


      • Early days, but I’m enjoying it so far. The first pass of chapter 1 didn’t yield a huge number of changes, probably because I rewrote that a few times before I moved to my ‘don’t edit at all while drafting’ approach. I know chapter 2 is going to need some brutal cropping – there are at least 1000 words of exposition in there that I’m sure I don’t need now.

        Fun times!


  1. Pingback: Let Your Freak Flag Fly! | Rilaly's Blog

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