I headed for the barber chair with my usual trepidation. Cautious as always, because deep inside, I am not a fan of haircuts. Oh, I get one every six weeks or so, because I don’t want the hair to become too unkempt. My wife would tell you it’s unkempt at Week Four. And I’d probably agree. But I am, after all, trying to balance unkemptness with frugality. It’s tough to pay for something that someone takes away from you.
But I sat down confidently, because no matter which of the ladies cuts my hair, I always know it will be a good job. I’ve been coming here for years and trust their judgment, not to mention their scissors. Never had an ear nicked or my neck scarred. Never walked out of there with blood on my collar, or a chunk of hair plucked from my scalp.
This time I drew Jill’s chair. “The usual?” she asked. I love that kinda talk. Something a bartender in the movies might say to one of his regular customers.
“You bet. Number four. But can you do it without the razor; just use the scissors?” And she did. And it was good. She tamed the cowlick, avoided the “white wall” look as she trimmed around the ears. She cut the front, so I wouldn’t have bangs like the Brady Bunch boys. And she did the all-important ear hair buzz, which keeps birds from nesting in a guy’s ear canals. A very satisfying experience.
But it hasn’t always been that way. I don’t remember my first haircut, of course. But I do remember being five years old, when my mother took my brother and me to John’s Barbershop. For the longest time, I thought John was Chinese. Turns out he was Italian, like every other barber in the neighborhood. Guess I wasn’t very worldly then. I liked John but hated getting a haircut from him, because he used the old fashioned straight razor. I felt the pull of each follicle, as he ran that blade through my hair. But in the end, it was all worth it, because John would sprinkle dusting powder on his soft barber’s brush and whisk the fallen hair off my neck and face. The fresh smell of that powder erased all memories of the painful haircut.
During the summers, John’s job became easier. He gave us the venerable “whiffle” cut, cropping our hair practically down to the skin. Mom only believed in one haircut during the summer – a big cost savings. We hated it, until the stubble grew back – around August.
As we entered grade school, my dad began taking us to Dante’s Barber Shop, mostly because it was cheaper. He’d say “less expensive”. Dante’s had eight barbers and you took a number as you came through the door. Every barber working there was Italian, and they ranged in age from twenty to sixty. They also ranged in haircutting ability. More than once, I came home with one sideburn cut an inch shorter than the other. But these guys ate raw steak for lunch – so at ten years old, I wasn’t about to complain. I didn’t need Dante’s Barber Shop to become Dante’s Inferno.
Haircuts were the norm my first two years in high school. I went to Catholic school, in the days when a sport coat and tie were mandatory, as was a neat haircut. But something changed junior year. The first day of school, two guys showed up with hair past their shoulders. The rest of us marveled. Those were the days of the hippie movement and Vietnam War protests. We weren’t hippies or protesters, but we liked the edge that long hair brought to the table. Style, as we all know, is everything to teenagers, and it was to us too, even as guys two years older than us were dying in Vietnam. So we all grew our hair long. For some reason, my mother never forced us to get a haircut. My locks grew long and wavy; my brother sported a pretty cool ‘fro. We figured mom was just jealous of us, because her hair was shorter.
Two years out of high school, I decided to enlist. I exercised and ran every day to get ready for basic training. But I didn’t cut my hair. The Air Force did that for me. Military barbers like to tease recruits by first zipping the electric razor up the middle of your head, like a lawnmower slicing through a meadow of foot-high grass. A psychological game, to dramatize their power over you. They also have no problem nicking your head. Many a recruit comes from his first haircut with blood streaming down his shaved skull.
After I was discharged, the length of my hair varied over the years. I went from parting it on the side to parting it in the middle. From combing it back to combing it down. I even had a “modified mullet” at one point. But today, I’m back to what I call my “boy’s regular” cut – despite the graying at the temples…well, okay, pretty much gray all around the head.
What will the future hold? Who knows, I might toy with one of those ponytails, if I still have hair when I’m seventy. Lots of guys do that – well…three that I know of, anyhow. But chances are, I’ll continue to visit my barber every six weeks or so. Just on the chance that she might bring back that sweet-smelling dusting powder of my youth.
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Joe’s Two Cents – It’s Great To Be Alive is Joe Paradis’ first published book and gathers 40 of his most popular stories, enhancing them with humorous photography. The book is a compilation of forty of Joe’s best short stories.
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This classic collection has been updated to include pictures and a short introduction for each story. Until now, only God knew what possessed Joe to write about these things. Now you can too!
Joe Paradis is one of Londonderry’s most popular columnists and authors. Visit his web site at www.joes2cents.com today and order his latest autographed book, “It’s Great to Be Alive!”