I watched Boy Meets World for two reasons.
First, it was a show that made me feel like I wasn’t alone in life. Like Cory Matthews (Ben Savage), the show’s protagonist, I didn’t have the answers growing up. He muddled his way through high school, puberty, friendships and sex, just like me. Amidst a sea of sitcom Smart-Alecks and Sassers, he was an Everyman, instantly relatable to me on every level. When it first aired, my takeaway from every episode was that nobody gets an A in the course of life, no matter how hard they try. But even more importantly — especially for someone like me who worried about grades all the time — was that in real life, you don’t even get grades. You just live life as best you can, and everyone is doing the same. Now, whenever I am fortunate enough to come across an episode online or on TV, I smile for a half hour, a reminder that it’s all going to be okay. Maybe not great, maybe not even what I wanted, but alright.
Really though, Boy Meets World had a bigger meaning to me: Hair. Sure, World taught me life has a lot to offer, and yep, some of it may not be what you expect, but gosh darnit, lustrous locks, super shine, and bounce can really define your world. When the show began, Cory’s eventual soul-mate Topanga (Danielle Fishel) had really, really BIG hair suitable for her kooky but lovable character. By the third season, her hair had been tamed to the silkiness of a horse’s tail. And when Topanga chopped off half her mane to prove that it’s what’s inside a person that counts, I watched as her hair began its inevitable, magical journey toward Pantene smoothness and Breck-girl curl. That her path from kooky hippie-chick to passable Yale student mirrored this journey could be mere coincidence, but I guess only her hairdresser knows for sure.
At first, Cory’s best friend Shawn (Rider Strong) rocked the long, floppy center-part ‘do required of tween sitcom heartthrobs. The style screamed, “misunderstood bad-boy” (or at least as bad a boy as an ABC TGIF bad-boy could be). Throughout the series he got into all sorts of trouble, and while it might seem as if Corey helped him with his teen angst, a brief bout of alcoholism, and virginity (to name a few Very Special episodes), Shawn’s patented puppy-dog look, combined with a seriously, enviable L’Oreal hair toss, seemed just as likely to be the solutions to his many jams.
Cory’s brother Eric (Will Friedle) was portrayed as the cooler, older brother, and of course, his locks were part of his Samson-like strength. At one point, Eric even penned a ditty titled “Good Looking Guy,” owing the success of fighting crime to a well groomed pate.
When a crime breaks out,
All the cute girls shout,
Get the good-looking guy! (Good-looking guy!)
When there’s a crime out there,
He’s gonna comb his hair,
‘Cause he’s the good looking guy!
Eric’s destiny in life may not have been clear, but clearly his hair was destined for greatness. When you immortalize your hair in song, it must be working for you. And if not, you can always dye it.
And Cory? For the entire run of the series, Cory’s hair was was not glossy. It was not shiny. You could cut half of it off, and it would not grow back long and flowing, or straighter and more beautiful than before. It was an unruly tight mop of curls. No, Cory could not get by on hair alone, and he knew it.
“Every very time I get a haircut, it looks terrible for about six weeks. Then it looks good for, like, a day, and that’s how I know it’s time for a new haircut. It’s what I call the Haircut Cycle of Shame.”
I had that hair. I have that hair. And Cory, I know that cycle of shame. I feel your pain.
So yeah, Boy Meets World taught me lots of things in life: Adults don’t have all the answers; sometimes the answers don’t even reveal themselves until you are ready for them, if at all. That you, indeed, meet the world, whether you’re ready or not. But most of all, it taught me that even for the boy with the unruly hair, it can turn out fine. And that in a world of short, long, curly, straight, blond, brunette, bald or otherwise, we are all just trying to find our way.