Lenz Koppelstätter confesses his love for greasy hair – and attributes this to his Italian origins.

Greasy Italy

The fact that my happy marriage was once seriously threatened has to do with my gel collection. My wife discovered it in one of my bathroom drawers. She was already suspicious of the amount of time I was spending locked in the bathroom. My wife said that if I didn’t get rid of the tubes and jars within 48 hours, then it would be over. Yes, I collect gel. So what? Hey, I grew up in the land of gel. In greasy Italy. When Italian footballers score the winning goal with a header, their hairstyle, coated in masses of gel before the game, easily survives the celebrations that ensue. Moreover, it doesn’t look like it’s been slapped on, but like it’s been drenched in the finest extra virgin olive oil. When Italian men aren’t talking about good food, fast cars or football, they’re talking about gel – who uses which one, and who uses which application technique.

I have hair on my head, but to say it belongs to me would be a lie. If it were mine, it would do what I want it to. But it doesn’t play ball. It sticks out in a tangled mass that can only be subdued with gel. I met my wife in Germany but was brought to the brink of despair when it came to gel. After all, it was impossible to get more than eight out of ten in terms of strength north of the Alps. Super strong seemed to be available here only on the darknet. In Italy, everyone uses extra super strong gel. Anyone who doesn’t use it is either a computer science student or bald.

So I tried out different kinds, but none of them suited me. I ran from drugstore to drugstore. On several occasions, my wife caught me at Douglas and almost suspected I was having an affair with the saleswoman there. And because I didn’t want to throw away the tubes I’d only used once – the environment! – the collection was born. It grew on me. I can’t live without it. And you never know. Some people hoard toilet paper in such uncertain times; I hoard gel. I moved back to Italy and we had a son (“Dad, what’s that chewing gum doing in your hair?!”). Then came the day my wife discovered everything. 48 hours. I was already feeling the cold gel turkey. I had to come up with something, and fast …

Lenz Koppelstätter is a bestselling author and writes for FAZ, GEO and SALON. He recently started hiding his gel in hand cream tins and toothpaste tubes. He’s got away with it so far.

This article was first published in the Fall 2022 print edition of 30 GRAD.