For as long as I can remember, I have had a morbid fear of having my haircut. I do not believe that it is an irrational fear. Hairdressers are, frankly, terrifying. I have long argued that anybody over the age of three who requires training to use a pair of scissors should probably not be allowed near my face with a sharp object. I can get past the obscene amounts of money hairdressers charge. Once I have been pushed beyond the limits of my mental endurance in the dreaded chair, I am quite willing to part with just about any amount of money to escape with my ears – if not my dignity – still intact. But I refuse to sit still, trussed up, while somebody of indeterminate competence or mental health approaches me with a blade.
A young man called Sean is the only professional hairdresser to have touched my hair since I left school more than twenty years ago. I have been there exactly three times. He is an amiable gentleman, and respectful and professional in his approach. I am certain his expertise is beyond question. But I still breathe a sigh of relief when it is over.
So when Megan (my wife) decided yesterday that the wild, amorphous tangle that is my hair required some form of organisation, I was – as you will understand – apprehensive, to say the least. We agreed that she could trim it. I say “agreed”, because there are times when a man must face the fact that if an encounter with a determined, scissor-wielding dictator is unavoidable, he might as well choose one whom he is certain displays no discernible sociopathic tendencies. Besides, Megan seems responsible with scissors. I have seen her use them many times without any noticeable difficulty, and as far as I can tell, she has never had any scissors-related mishaps involving the shedding of blood.
The alternative was paying Sean to torture me. Now I must concede that Sean has never come across as either homicidal or inept. However, vigilance is always advisable. The neighbours of serial killers always seem shocked because they seemed like decent sorts. One can never be too careful. I cannot shake the suspicion that I have been riding my luck with three uneventful visits. Besides, cash is tight at the moment.
So we traipsed outside and I dutifully sat down in the chair. It probably lasted only five minutes, but it seemed like an eternity. Nathan, my two-year-old son, noticed my discomfort and asked, “Mommy, what you doing?” I was touched by his frown and the slight hint of accusation. Here was a kindred spirit. Here, it seemed, was one who could understand the deep humiliation involved in having one’s hair cut. If I had dared to move, I would have kissed him. As it was, Meg reassured him that she was just cutting my hair because it was getting too long. Nathan was not to be so easily fobbed off. “Daddy, what’s the matter?”
I didn’t want to scare him. His own hair is taking on distinctly Einsteinian characteristics, and I have no doubt that soon he, too, will be initiated into the ranks of the shorn. I would hate for that to be any more traumatic an experience than it needs to be. So I mustered every ounce of positivity I could, pinned a Pollyanna smile to my face, and replied, “Nothing, my boy. Daddy is fine.” Satisfied, he ran off to kick his ball.
The cherry on top of the haircut cake is the reaction of one’s colleagues. Perhaps they are hoping to impress me with their remarkable powers of observation when they state: “You’ve cut your hair!” I always want to feign surprise and horror, then fall on my knees and sob uncontrollably, or cry to the heavens about the injustice of it all, as the realisation that it is gone finally dawns on me. But perhaps their comments are simply a way of conveying to me that they sympathise with what I have had to endure. Perhaps I am mistaking the Consolation Kid for Captain Obvious. So I give them the benefit of the doubt, smile and walk on.