It's Christmastime, and I'm worried sick. I am not worried about the New York Public Library -- Brooke Astor worries about that, and I'm not worried about her either. I am not worried about the Soviets -- "Human Events" has lifted that burden from me. I am not even worried about Star Wars, which is Secretary Weinberger's territory. I stopped worrying about carcinogens years ago, and I wish everybody would forget about the cr the Mall. I have serious things to worry about. I am worried about the nation's hair, and I am not alone.

I think it is safe to say that the whole country is worried about hair. We're not talking color; I have a colleague who worries about that. We're talking condition. I am worried sick about the condition of the hair on the heads of our countryme. I believe we are in grave danger of losing it. We must be. I have seen the evidence: all 162 running feet of it.

This new and burdensome worry came to oppress me just in time for my annual Christmas fret -- fortunately -- when I paid a visit to the drugstore across the street (looking for a little something to restore life to my dry and lustreless locks) and discovered the world of hair-care products filling six shelves, and paced each shelf off at 27 feet in length. The dilemma of choice was truly overwhelming, but fortunately I was able to resolve it for only $12.55 and in just three days essential moisture and elasticity will be restored to my dry, limp and brittle hair. That's what it says -- right on the label.

Remember the very old days? Back in the dark ages, before hair care took off and became a growth industry with many product lines, before Sen. Proxmire's transplant, before Consumer Reports did studies of the relative merits of various shampoos, before all those wonderful things there was hair tonic, which had a pungent perfume and really slicked your hair down good, especially Lucky Tiger, which the barber would give you a good splash of and then you would go home and your father would make you wash it out (with harsh and damaging soap which, as we now know, washed the vital nutrients out, too) because you were smelling up the house and real men didn't smell like narcissus. (That was years before Karl Lagerfeld doused himself in Chanel No. 5, Poco Rabane became an aphrodisiac, Calvin Klein flogged designer underwear and scents with fin-de-siecle names like "Le Jardin Retrouv,e" began showing up in the toilet cases of men who did or did not eat quiche, it made no difference.) Of course, in those primitive times men went to barber shops, too. Only women had their hair done, and that took place in a beauty parlor; men had their hair cut, and it was cheap. Often, of course, it looked it.

All that is of only historical significance now, like the musical "Hair" and the revolt of the '60s, which, with its emphasis on quantity (of hair) over quality (of cut), put the barbershop out of business, preparing the way -- after a long spell -- for the advent of the Yuppie and the hair designer revolution. When you think about it, they sort of go together: the Yuppie generation -- "born to buy," according to the latest Newsweek -- and the hair-care revolution. Really, it's just the dialectic all over again: thesis (the barber shop haircut), antithesis (let it grow) and synthesis (have it styled). Hegel would have loved i; maybe Marx, too. As for me, having examined the 162 running feet of hair- care products in the drugstore across the street and spent my $12.55 on the promise of new life in only three days, I'm now less worried about the hair; it's the head that's bothering me.