Like all parents, Stacy and I have issues on which we disagree; no one told us in advance that spouses were allowed to have opinions. However, one issue on which we are in total agreement is hair; specifically, haircuts. We never argue about hair length or styles. As a woman, Stacy sees haircuts as a form of stylistic self-expression. I just see them as a hassle; haircuts, not the boys.
As usual, there’s a story behind this. You sit in the chair, I’ll take the couch.
My father was a well-groomed man. Before he married my mother, Dad would mosey down to the barber once every 10 days. Seriously. I suppose the barber was closed on Sundays. In that case I suspect Dad would have headed in Saturday, a day early, instead of risking the follicular chaos of a late trim.
My earliest memories of scissors involved Pete’s Barber Shop on Main Street. I never knew which guy was Pete. The barber shop was an odd place, filled with smells and nouns, things I couldn’t identify. The men who weren’t working sat in the barber chairs and smoked. They all wore the same shirts, like they were a team or something. Kids at school who all dressed the same were to be avoided, so I didn’t quite know what to make of barbers.
At some point, Dad began to cut my hair himself; always in the evening, always at the kitchen table. I think he may have started cutting my hair when he invested in some electric clippers. He had a nice beard and needed the clippers to avoid the Grizzly Adams look. Anyway, one night he examined at those clippers and said, “Hey, why drive into town to pay $4 for a quick trim when I could just torture my son in the kitchen for free?”
Besides that, Dad did not trust the haircut places in town. Pete was on the way out, and the new places were “edgy,” filled with skinny women who had stylish hair. Dad believed any male haircut that didn’t require a fine-toothed comb and a clear part was a reflection of a sex, drugs, and rock and roll lifestyle.
Now, Dad has been a life-long learner. When ceiling fans hit the market, he learned how to install them: put your 9-year-old on a wicker chair holding a 30-pound fan motor over his head while you stumble over the rafters in the attic trying to learn how to find the glasses you dropped. His pals at church apparently taught him that. When he decided to build a new back porch, he studied how to do that as well: put your 14-year-old on an aluminum ladder that OSHA would reject and tell him to hold that 12 foot board exactly in place while you look for your hammer. The guys in Sunday School were again his source. He tried to apply the same learning skills to haircuttery, but ran into a rather large glitch: none of his friends cut their kids’ hair. Dad was the only one. That should have been a hint.
Dad gave me haircuts with clippers. He would randomly rotate from one guard to another, searching for a pattern. This made for a long and arduous process. In his defense, I was not the perfect customer: I lacked a sheet to keep the hair out of my shirt; I was forbidden to wipe the hair out of my eyes/nose/mouth for fear of causing Dad to lose his place; I lacked the patience for a 45-minute haircut; I tended to lean away from him in apprehension.
Frustrated by his lack of skills and his uncooperative customer, his instructions were often ambiguous. “Oops” was a frequent command. “Dagnabbit, what in blue blazes?!!?” came up as well. My favorite was “WOULD YOU HOLD STILL BEFORE I SHAVE YOU BALD!”
In junior high, he finally allowed me to seek out professional hair care after accidentally removing a rather large chunk of hair. Things went swimmingly for a few years until I decided to allow my sister’s friend Gina to style things. Gina was a student in the high school cosmetology department, and thus was nearly a pro. Her family attended the same church as we and her folks were, if possible, more conservative than mine. I couldn’t go wrong, ehh?
When I got home with a short, spiky ‘do, my father was fit to be tied. “What does this mean? Is this the drugs?!” In about 90 seconds he had me back in the chair next to the dining room table, clippers in hand without the guards in place! It took several minutes of frantic pleading by my sister for Dad to relent. By Sunday morning, things had settled sufficiently that my sister got out the mousse and really styled me up well.
Got to church. Bubba Adams took one look at my spiked, white-blond hair and said loud enough to cause an echo, “Hey! You look like Billy Idol!”