Haircut WarriorPosted: March 1, 2015
If you have never had to cut your own hair, then you have not lived a full American life. This is particularly true if you are of that subset of American humans who value the practicality and comfort of a short, but not very short, epic ‘do. Shearing off a couple inches of long, flowing locks when they finally inch their way past your butt seems like a fairly simple proposition. Judging from my experience with a parade of hair stylists, all of whom ought to have known better, short hair is a mountainous challenge, a subtle artistic shaping of the head based on factors ranging from the shape of the scalp to the nature of the hair to the amount of moisture in the upper atmosphere on the given day of cutting. Every trim is a masterpiece. Except, you know, not. I’ve had more disastrous haircuts from certified woman-hair professionals than I’ve had zits on my certified oil well of a nose.
Actually, I’ve had wonderful experiences with barbers, every single on of whom have been perfectly happy to take my money despite the fact that I am a woman. For this, I am extremely appreciative. I’ve had other experiences with designated male spaces where the company hasn’t been so welcoming. (In fact, just today, in the menswear section of our local H&M, a couple of hipsters whistled and snapped at my fiancee and I until we left the area. I understand the concept of peeing all over the walls and declaring a space Free Of All Female Evar, at least in the sense that I understand that a man might be inclined to behave this way if he were to miss certain adolescent developmental stages, but in a fashion outlet? Really? Wouldn’t a nice bear cage be a better test of their masculinity?)
As I was saying, I can’t say enough about barbershops as an institution. I’ve never been to one where I haven’t gotten a great cut. My estimation of the skill of a barber to style short hair is vastly greater than my consideration of a hair stylist. Furthermore, the barbers were vastly more affordable on my limited budget…until I ran out of money altogether.
I accomplished my first self-haircut in 2008 with a pair of fabric shears. The impetus: poverty. Plain and simple. Well, poverty and grad school. The day before my haircut, I had not been poor. In fact, I had been extremely wealthy. My humble little starter bank account had contained no less than $15,000. For a single golden day, I had been the mighty ruler of University Hill.
Then I paid my grad school tuition and bottomed out my savings. Alas, payday for my pathetic part-time convenience store gig (thanks, recession!) did not arrive for several days, or even possibly weeks, depending on whether or not my manager remembered that I was still working for him by Tuesday. I was broke. Broke like a little Tonka truck that has been smashed to infinity by the merciless tires of an 18-wheeler.
Food was not a problem. Like all of the other employees of the convenience store, I unabashedly stole hot dogs from the grill. However, they constituted their own punishment in many ways, and my school, rife with random pizzas, proved a much more fertile ground for foraging. At night, I mopped for a friend’s cafe, and in return I got all the vegan food I could possibly eat. Which was, I assure you, a lot. I mention this because I feel that my nontraditional diet may have played a role in my deranged decision-making process as regards to my hair.
I’d been studying for about six hours, having returned home from work at 5:00pm and set right to work. The muggy night air oozed through the open window, carrying the scents of a city still exotic to my rural mind. Despite the fact that my studio was tiny and infested with at least three different species of cockroaches, the view from its one large window could not be beat. The array of the city’s lights lay out before me as though someone had spread out a giant picnic blanket in the dark and caught a million falling stars. As I sat on my narrow bed, gazing at this scene, my head stuffed with cataloging protocols and my belly stuffed with the best bean burger in town, just one thing vexed my mind: the fact that my hair was poking my ears.
There is nothing that annoys me more than when my hair pokes my ears. It is an abomination unto my soul.
Having nothing else to do at midnight, I began to scrounge around my place for something sharp enough to fix my hair issue. I came up with a pocket knife, a butter knife, and a pair of sewing shears that I’d borrowed from my mother years before and simply never returned. (I don’t know why. I don’t sew, but I do sometimes cut fabric for various secret reasons.) The shears seemed most practical.
My place didn’t have a bathroom sink per se. It had a sink, and a bathroom. The sink doubled as the kitchen and I washed my hands in the bathroom’s shower, which did not come with its own mirror. This left the sink a preferable option for hair operations. Scattering a small group of roaches I leaned close to the mirror, over the metal sink, and, angling the shears delicately at my head, took a snip.
A finger-long hank of hair fell to the ground.
I inspected my image curiously, seeking signs of success. My hair was certainly off my right ear, but a new problem had arisen: a wedge-shaped gap was now visible close to my temple. More cutting would be necessary to repair the general shape of my head. Again, I snipped. Whoops – wrong hair. Now half of my bangs were gone. Oh well. I’d never liked bangs much anyway. Off with them!
Over the next four laborious hours, I managed to remove almost all of my hair with the shears, which were dull well before I’d made it halfway. Eventually, I resorted to using the penknife as a razor. This worked badly. However, that did not matter. Morning had broken and it was time to bring home the bacon!
I stumbled out of my wheaty-smelling building and immediately frightened a pigeon. Several passers-by recoiled and my manager took one look and fired me. I shambled back to my apartment and passed out. While I slept, my manager called to re-hire me, my mom asked if I was the mangy baby bear everyone on the Hill was talking about, and my sister had found and summarily distributed a picture of my new look on social media.
If you ever doubt the presence of a compassionate consciousness in this universe, ponder this: every bad haircut grows away. The soothing flow of time rounds all embarrassment down to harmless pebbles in the bed of your memory. I believe I cried about my hair that day, but two months later, I did cut it again. This time, the result was, if not beautiful, passable. The next cut was standard. My style was established. Uncreative, but functional.
Today, I cut my hair for the 70th time. I have a kit now: a $15 set of electric shears, a hand mirror, a barber’s scissors, and an old baseball cap that I use to shape the back. I measure each hank of hair against my fingers to make sure it ends up between one and a half and two inches long, snip, and then use the shears to even up the edges and get a nice close shave on my neck. I like to think I look pretty good. It’s routine enough that I can watch TV while getting everything just right.