Shall I part my hair behind?

from T.S. Eliot – The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock on Rap Genius

Meaning

This line is a question that evokes the 11th commandment: “Thou shalt not part thine hair.”

The gesture of parting one’s hair from behind (not on the SIDE, like Matt Damon, here) refers to the sad necessity of a balding man doing “the comb-forward” because his hairline is receding and pulling back from the forehead.

J.A. Prufrock is talking about when one is balding, and the only hair remaining is on the back of one’s head. (You’ve got to comb it forward, to cover the front of your head, which is bald. Think Julius Caesar.)

It is also a functional metaphor for the emphasis Prufrock places on the opinion, evaluation, and judgement of others. Sartre would call it “Bad Faith” but it is Prufrock’s prime mode of operation: Worry about your imperfections, posit all the crap people will talk on you for your flaws, internalize them, project your flaws 30years from now, criticize yourself for those as well, and wallow in misery until you’re paralyzed by your own consciousness.

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