Samson’s dark, curly locks gave him strength; my dark, curly locks give me hell. A constant battle wages between us. They grow. I get tired of them. I shave them. This cycle has been revolving since childhood. The tally: Matt -zero points; Matt’s hair – at least five points
The battle hasn’t eased as I’ve grown older. My wife loves my curls and she thinks I look like a penis when I shave them off. Honestly, I agree, but there are times when I want the curls gone.
Until recently, I assumed everyone had a bag of “bad haircut” stories. Then, at dinner with friends, I began recalling my run-ins. As a friend nearly shot spaghetti through her nose while laughing, I realized I might be unique.
How difficult can Brillo hair be?
I have the short stories of hair folly – a barber shaved off half my eyebrow while buzzing the sides when I was about ten-years-old. Another time, I used a BIC to shave the sides, hoping the top would fall. Instead I looked like half Neo-Nazi, half Q-Tip and it made my grandmother cry.
The better stories start in high school, when your looks either get you a date or beat up. It was very late, probably after 10:30 at night, and everyone was exhausted. Homework was finished and checked, chores done, and lunches made for the next day. The perfect time to cut my hair. My curls had been long for a while and, as always, I was ready to shave them off.
I pulled out the trimmers, put them in the bathroom, and pestered my mother. “Please cut my hair. It will take two seconds.”
“No. I’m tired and I don’t want to cut your hair right now,” she said.
“Fine, but don’t blame me if I screw up.”
I handed my mom the clippers. “Put on the two clip and just buzz it off,” I said.
The clippers buzzed on. Mom pressed them against the back of my head, the small teeth grabbing clumps of curls and then… “Uh oh.”
“Uh oh what, Mom?”
“Nothing,” she said.
Using two mirrors, I saw two, large bald spots on the back of my head.
“I told you I’m tired, but you wouldn’t leave me alone.”
I looked at the buzzers. “Where’s the clip, Mom?”
“I guess that would have helped.”
Solutions: Grandma recommended I rub brown and black shoe polish on the spots. Brilliant. I recommended I stay home until it grew in or drop out and home school. In the end, an Uncle came over around midnight, shaved it, and blended it so that the holes looked like scars.
You’d think growing older would lead me to wiser hair cut decisions. Years later, when I was about 25, I was in the same “cut the curls at all costs” mindset. Driving down a local road in my hometown of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, I noticed a barbershop sign. I just wanted a trim. That shouldn’t be so difficult I figured. Had I noticed the We Do Men’s Fades sign in the window, I would have figured differently.
I sat in the chair for thirty minutes and watched the butcher go to town. As she chopped and hacked, the sides became very short and the top had a distinct boxy look, a clear resemblance to Kid n’Play.
Not what I had in mind. I shaved it all off as soon as I got home.
Numerous hair cutting atrocities perpetrated by others can take a toll on a man. So I took matters into my own hands – I bought a set of clippers. For a while, I’d grow my curls long then shave them off.
The cycle repeated a number of times. One day, tired of the fro, I decided to shave it off. No big deal. Clippers plugged in and the proper #2 clip on, I started buzzing. I could shave it quickly at this point because I had done it so many times.
But nappy hair has a habit of tangling itself on the blades. You can hear the little motor struggle to chop through the brush. The motor moaned but I pushed through. Mid-shave, the bottom of the clip snapped, leaving the shortest setting exposed and buzzing a solid, thin line across the side of my head. I brought back the men’s fade, why not lightning bolts?
My clippers were useless.
It was a weekday, but I had stayed home because the hurricane of the century was supposedly bearing down on us and I wanted to make sure nothing happened to the house. It hadn’t even sprinkled yet. I’ll quickly drive to the drugstore, buy new clippers, and finish shaving my head. Simple.
Nope. No keys. I had left them in my wife’s car the night before and she was at work. No problem. I’ll grab a bike from the shed and ride to the drugstore.
Not halfway down my street, the skies opened up. As I pedaled through the downpour, I noticed mud from the street riding up the bike’s rear tire and flinging onto my own rear. Great. Wet T-shirt contest in the front and brown stains in the back.
But what the hell is that smell? Shit. It smells like shit. I glanced down at my tire again to see if I had wheeled through a pile in my yard. Negative. I checked my flip-flops. There was dog shit smeared across the bottom of my right foot and now across my right pedal.
A half-shaved head, muddy-backed, and smelling like dog shit, I made my way to the drugstore. As I pulled up, I dropped my bike and ran in, ready to end this nightmare.
I knew the drugstore carried clippers; I even knew which aisle they’d be in. Crimpers. Straighteners. Curling irons. No clippers. There was shelf space and a tag for clippers, but it was empty. “Where are the clippers?” I asked the closest worker.
“We sold out yesterday,” she said.
Fucking what?! I may have said that aloud, but I don’t quite remember. Who sells out of clippers? This town is about 4 square miles small. How the hell do you sell out of clippers?
Still with a half-shaved head, drenched, muddied, and smelling like shit, I rode to the nearest barbershop. I had come full circle. The barber asked no questions; she shaved my head and sent me on my way, probably because I smelled like dog crap.
When my wife got home later that night, she said what she always says when I shave my head – “You look like a penis.”
“I do, babe, and you should hear what I went through to look this good.”
—- Originally published in Pure Slush July, 2011