By Hannah Berman

My television was on. It’s always on when I am alone in the house. And, as always, it was set to a news station with the volume on high. At the time, I was not watching the screen because I was in the kitchen preparing dinner and slicing onions. So I was, as my mother used to say when she felt I had not followed directions, “listening with half an ear.”

My kitchen doesn’t come equipped with a mirror so there was no way for me to check my appearance, but there was no real need to check because I knew that my eyes had to be red and watery. Actually, “watery” doesn’t adequately describe the condition of my peepers. The onions were making me cry like a baby. But as focused as I was on the onions and my burning eyes, I suddenly heard something coming from the television that made me perk right up. The host of the news program was referring to an upcoming segment about an everyday food that had been found to promote hair growth. This information I did not want to miss! Always interested in anything that might make my thinning hair as full as it once was, I immediately put down the onion and the knife, washed my hands, and raced into the den to plant myself in front of the television.

After enduring three commercials for products in which I had absolutely no interest and then sitting through two news segments that were unrelated to hair growth, I was finally rewarded. A female reporter began her spiel. She spoke about the problem of thinning hair that affects many seniors and she said that there may be an unusually pleasant remedy for the situation. In the next instant, she was talking about French fries. Now I was really listening with two whole ears!

Apparently, there is something in the oil when potatoes are fried that seems to promote hair-follicle growth in mice. Why, I wondered, does everything always relate to mice? That bit of information was surprising because, despite not being personally acquainted with a house mouse, I have seen pictures of mice and have noted that they are covered with hair. I never noticed that any of them were bald. But apparently bald mice exist, and Japanese scientists discovered that the chemical used in making fries caused the hair follicles to multiply. Again, they were talking about mice, but in the next sentence the reporter explained that the scientists thought the same chemical could be used to treat human hair loss. That could be great, provided that it will not also promote the growth of a tail and whiskers, those other characteristics that mice are famous for having.

In spite of loving the taste of greasy French fries, it is not a food that I allow myself to indulge in. Not only do fries have a high caloric content, but eating too many of them can cause indigestion. But now, because of this fantastic news, I had a decision to make. While it was necessary to balance the thrill of having fuller hair against an expanding waistline, I decided that there was a solution to any potential weight gain. I could cut other calories out of my diet to make up for eating fries. And as for any indigestion, there was a solution to that as well. I could stock up on antacids. My decision was made even before I knew it. I would go for the fries.

Just then, right after I had made this life-altering decision, the moderator lowered the boom! The fries that she was referring to were ones that are served at McDonald’s, and the name of the chemical used in making the fries was not mentioned. Apparently, it is one of those well-kept secrets that some eateries are known for. This meant that one can only ingest that chemical by eating the fries at McDonald’s. Great!

The idea of once again having full hair was so appealing that I had been prepared to deal with the obvious drawbacks. The weight gain and indigestion could be controlled by the aforementioned methods. But that is where my solutions ended. There is no way to combat the main problem—the miracle chemical is available only in a treif fast-food joint. The deal was off! No increase in antacids and no need to cut calories out of my diet as I will not be eating fries any time soon.

It looks like I will continue to put gel in my hair and use a hair pick to lift the hair in order to simulate thickness. My long-unused comb and brush will remain in the drawer where they have been for a long time. Thin hair has no need of a comb or a brush. There are no long tresses or thick locks of hair in my future, as there will be no fries in my daily diet. That’s the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.



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