Last week, I looked in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. I needed a haircut in the worst way. So, I gave myself one. And sure enough, when you need a haircut, that’s about the worst way.
Now, I’m sure there are people out there who are recoiling in horror at the thought of a grown man giving himself a haircut. It helps to understand that my hair style (such as it is) happens to be particularly well-suited to this endeavour.
I am blessed with what is known as “Male Pattern Baldness”. Smooth and shiny on top, with a little fringe all around the edge. Think Bozo the Clown, except the fringe isn’t bright orange or green. (Small blessings.)
An entire industry exists just for guys like me. Because baldness is considered by many (specifically, hairy-headed) people to be an “affliction”, poor fellows like me are offered alternatives to our tragic fate.
We can camouflage our domes with hairpieces (nothing draws attention away from a bald head like stapling a squirrel to it). We can rub our pates with hair restorative solutions (thus achieving that much-sought-after state of “bald and smells like an industrial waste facility–); we can even have expensive hair transplant surgery, where little plugs of hair are implanted in the barren expanses (for that oh-so-sexy “head like a cheap Korean doll” look).
Or we can say, “Yeah, I’m bald.” And shrug, and get on with our lives.
That’s the path I was drawn to, and it has served me reasonably well. Except I still have that pesky Bozo fringe to deal with. Which means the occasional haircut is in order.
And here’s where the thrifty side of me kicks in.
I have, on occasion, gone to a barber and” after the requisite “a little off the top” joke” have asked for a haircut. Any given haircut has been, without exception, identical to every other haircut. I mean ... there’s really not much you can do with what I got, is there?
So a few years ago, I bought some hair clippers at the hardware store. They look just like the kind barbers use. They have several settings (“Skinhead/Mass Murderer”, “Marine Recruit”, “Rebellious Teenage Son of Hippies”, and “Self-Delusional Middle-aged Man–) and are fairly easy to use. Pick your setting, turn on the clippers, and go. It’s like mowing the lawn, except with fewer anthills to chew through.
And for guys like me, that’s exactly what it’s like:
yard work. We attach the same emotions to a haircut that we do to
edging the sidewalk. It’s too long, so you mow it. And if you cut a
section too close, you just shrug your shoulders, confident that in a
day or two, nobody will ever know.
Which is what happened when I cut my hair. I set the clippers, buzzed away, and when I was done, it was a little more closely cropped than normal. I was not dismayed by this. My reaction was more like: –Huh.”
So I went downstairs, and discovered not everyone is as cavalier about my hair as I. I walked into the living room, and my wife looked up at me, her eyes wide. “What have you done to your hair?” she said.
I didn’t catch the dismay in her voice. –Ehh, I cut it. Took it a bit short this time. Do we have any chips?”
“A bit short? You buzzed it right off. Horrible. A terrible job. Awful. You look like a serial killer.”
I was baffled by her reaction. “Whatever,” I said. “I’m guessing it'll grow back.”
But she went on and on about it. She wanted to make sure I never made that same mistake again, I guess. She’s helpful that way.
I don’t help my wife with her hair styling decisions. If she asks my opinion, I simply tell her the God's honest truth, which is that this particular hairstyle is certainly the most incredibly gorgeous hair style she’s ever worn, and possibly the most beautiful ever executed on any woman since the days of Troy.
I once made the mistake of being ever so slightly less effusive in my praise. There was an occasion when I said her new haircut was “very nice”. That is a day long remembered in our house as The Day Of The Hideous Haircut That Nils Hated.
One of the benefits of being bald is that my appearance is not at the mercy of a hairdresser who may or may not be having a good day. Part of my “do comes from God, and I can handle the rest.
And if sometimes I mishandle my part, I’d be grateful if you didn’t mention it.
I’m very sensitive. I have thin skin.
And nothing covering it.
This feature: From Nils Ling’s book Truths and Half Truths. A collection of some of his most memorable and hilarious columns.