Won’t you please help? Millions of dollars are spent every year on life-threatening illnesses like cancer, heart disease, and restless leg syndrome.  But precious little is being done about a chronic, as yet incurable condition that frankly, most people are not comfortable talking about. I’m talking about UHS.

If you’re like many women, you probably think it stands for Ugly Husband Syndrome (which afflicts roughly half of all marriages after 15 years). If you live in Arizona, perhaps you think it stands for Unregistered Hispanic Syndrome. If you’re my teenage daughter, your guess might be Unbelievably Hideous Handbag Suckiness Syndrome (my daughter is not good with acronyms). But you’d be wrong. I’m talking about an actual medically diagnosed and thus far untreatable condition called Uncombable Hair Syndrome. Yes, there actually is such an affliction. It even has its own web site.

What exactly is UHS? This silent killer (of any hopes for a social life) usually presents itself between the ages of 3 months and 12 years and typically results in thick, frizzy, light-colored hair which simply will not respond to combing.

So the next time you see a slovenly teenage boy who looks like a complete toad, with his over-sized pants hanging down around his knees, shoelaces untied, a tattoo of a snake slithering through the eye socket of a skull on his left arm, and unkempt hair flopping about all over the place, don’t be so quick judge. He just might have UHS. Underneath his sliced-up Judas Priest T-shirt and nipple ring, he might be crying silent tears (from the pain of the nipple ring). Give him an understanding nod, and while you’re at it, a hat.

What are the telltale signs of UHS? Well, for starters, look for someone whose hair won’t comb. How can you tell if you might have UHS? Step 1: Comb your hair. (Actually, there isn’t a step 2.) If it stays where you wanted it to go, you probably don’t have UHS. If it bounces back, then you may have UHS. Then again you could be an African American male or an African American female under the age of 12. Consult your physician to find out if you might be an African American.

Side effects of UHS for Caucasians include looking and acting like a complete social loser. Look for these UHS warning signs: a feeling of dorkiness, an irresistible urge to shop at Wal-Mart or a compulsion to attend a Star Trek convention – with your mom. If you happen to own a wall plaque of a mounted plastic singing bass or are a male over the age of 15 and still collect furbies, you might have UHS. Then again you might just be extremely creepy.

Most people would prefer to brush this hairy issue under the rug. But unlike my hairline, this is one condition that is not receding. In the past decade, more than four dozen UHS cases have been uncovered. Sadly, little is being done to find a cure. Take a look at the following graph of medical research spending on UHS compared to other more “fashionable” medical conditions over the past five years:

Oh sure, you might cynically argue that I just made up this impressive-looking chart as a lazy, cheap way to fill space for this week’s post, to mask the fact that it was light on substance. And all I can say is – Hey, look!! Is that a Pterodactyl? …. Sorry. Just a large sparrow. Now, where was I? Oh yes. As I was saying, the sad truth is that UHS is a chronic, emotionally scarring medical condition that is extremely annoying and which nobody can avoid noticing, everywhere they go – sort of like pictures of Kim Kardashian at the grocery store checkout.

Infuriatingly, at present our government refuses to recognize UHS sufferers for disability benefits.  Fortunately, unlike TPMS (Tea Party Member Syndrome), a virulent virus that severely impairs mental processing and which has rapidly spread throughout much of the rural southeastern USA, UHS is not believed to be contagious or politically based. However, a related condition, UEHS (Uncontrollable Ear Hair Syndrome) afflicts millions of American males over the age of 50 every year, as well as my elderly Aunt Eunice from Danville, Virginia.

Below are just a few well-known Americans who have attempted to live a normal life despite UHS. As you can see, they all have one thing in common: No decent person would ever be seen with any of them.

UHS does not care whose life it ruins. Be thankful you’re not Gladys Twitfizzler of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, whose story is a cautionary tale. A lifelong UHS sufferer, Gladys had long been shunned by neighbors and strangers alike, repulsed by her unruly, unkempt hair that bore a striking resemblance to a diagram of the Tokyo subway system.

Her only bright spot came in August, 1975 at the Chippewa County Fair, where she submitted the prize-winning entry in the sheep competition. Her Blue Ribbon for her Oxford Down sheep, Daisy, however, was later withdrawn when judges discovered Daisy was actually none other than Gladys herself. Gladys died quietly by herself at the age of 87. On a positive note, her hair was made into a fetching cardigan sweater.

In rare cases, people with UHS have gone on to lead moderately functioning lives where they could occasionally go out in public – punk rocker Billy Idol and Star Wars’ Chewbacca being two notable examples. But for the vast majority of the four to six UHS cases a year, they’re resigned to a life in the shadows, looking longingly at brochures for The Hair Club for Men and dreaming of the day when having hair like a bale of hay might become the fashion.

Until then, won’t you please help UHS victims find hope? Send your generous donation – and perhaps a bowler hat – today by calling 1-800-CANT-COMB.

Because a comb is a terrible thing to waste.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base. 

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2012

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