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Let's Talk Haircuts by Ray Printer Friendly

I need a haircut, probably.

I’ve had a pretty wicked widow’s peak since I was a little kid, and as I’ve aged, it has stopped screwing around. It has happened gradually, so I’m kind of used to it, but people who haven’t seen me in a while tend to comment about it…a lot.

The last time I got my hair cut was just before my wedding...back in November. I’m all shaggy now not because I particularly enjoy the look, but because I’m always too busy or too lazy to go get a haircut. When people compare the way I look at the moment to the way I look in my wedding pictures, the inevitable second remark goes something along the lines of, “Wow. Look at your widow’s peak.” The first is invariably about how beautiful my wife is.

Most comments about wedding pictures go something like, “Oh, she looks so beautiful! You’re going very bald.”

My mom recently visited and remarked not once, but three times about my continual hair loss. Like I said, I’m used to the fact, and because it has been going on for my whole life, it’s not like I’m surprised. At some point, my hair style will consist of a shaved head, and that will be that. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t trying to delay that point, but I have at least accepted its eventual arrival.

Anyway, I’m not sure where I was going with any of this, because as I was typing, I suddenly had a flashback to a time I was getting a haircut in my hometown.

See, I hated getting my hair cut when I was a kid. I mean, I hated it. I think it’s because I somehow always ended up at the very worst hair cutter’s in all of the world. I can’t remember one childhood haircut where I didn’t walk away without at least one nicked ear, and usually running blood. My mom once told me, “If you didn’t move around so much, that wouldn’t happen.”

I would have gotten my ass beat for saying something like, “Bullshit,” to that, but trust me, man—that was bullshit. I was so terrified that half the time I would stop breathing and quit blinking, for fear that doing either of those things would cause the scissors to catch my ear. None of it mattered, though, because no matter what, I would walk out looking like I had just gotten in a knife fight.

Around the time I was in junior high, my sister told me that I should get a haircut, and I told her no way.

“Just go to Jo Anne’s with me,” she said.

“Nuh-uh. I’m going home to get something to eat.”

“I scheduled you an appointment already,” she said, pulling to a stop in front of Jo Anne’s. The place has a real name, (something like Canadian Beauty Service, I believe, but don’t quote me), but everyone I’ve ever talked to just calls it Jo Anne’s.

I was put outwitht he situation, to say the least. Also, I was in the weird teenage stage where you’re practically required to sulk about dumb shit, so I’m sure I looked like fantastically joyous as I entered the building.

“Oh, look at this happy camper!” Jo Anne cried. She chewed her gum like nobody’s business and said, “This is gonna be a great time,” with enough sarcasm to make me smile. Jo Anne’s this boisterous, energetic, crazy woman that you have to like. I mean, I’m basically a professional when it comes to not liking people, and I was forced to like her.

I got my hair cut there for the next five years. It didn’t always go well. I remember at one point I wanted one side of my head shaved almost completely bald, and I wanted the other side to remain long and unkempt. “Shorter,” I told her as she worked. “Shorter. Shorter.”

Finally, she just told me to shut up and gave me a normal haircut. “Your mom’d kill me if I gave you the kind of haircut you wanted. Don’t roll your eyes at me. Oh, I meant to tell you—I heard you play your solo at the football game the other night. Sounded good.”

“Thanks,” I said, replacing my cap and my scowl. “I’ll see you next time.”

“See ya.”

I grew up a little, got a job, and got busy. I never had the foresight to schedule an appointment, and ended up with all kinds of crazy hair. And then one day, Rob goes, “Just get Wendell to do it.”


Rob owned the movie theater and lived in the apartment above it. Wendell had a barber shop in the same building. The theater was called the Palace Theater, and the barber shop was called Palace Barbershop, but everyone I ever talked to just called it Wendell’s.

“Yeah, really.”

“I don’t have an appointment or anything.”

“Don’t need one. There might be a couple of guys waiting, but he’s real fast.”

So I went to Wendell’s.

Jo Anne’s was a salon. Wendell’s was a barbershop. He didn’t need you to make an appointment, he didn’t wash your hair and he didn’t give a shit about how your mom felt about your haircut. You told him what to do, and he did it. It was awesome.

I went to Wendell’s the rest of the time I lived in Canadian, and even made a couple of trips back home just to get a haircut. I was crushed when I heard he wasn’t cutting hair anymore.

I could ramble on and on about haircuts I’ve received throughout my life, but I won’t. I will tell you two more things: 1) Supercuts blows. Seriously. Don’t get your hair cut there unless you’re about to commit suicide and really want your loved ones to remember you as the guy with the terrible haircut.

2) I went to a place in New York a couple of times where the guy gave me the same kind of haircut that Jerry made fun of on the Seinfeld TV show. No matter what I told that guy, he always cut my hair the way I had it when I was seven. Also, he used a straight razor around my ears, which creeped me the fuck out, because he never paid attention to what he was doing, and I was always afraid he was going to slice my head open beyond repair. He never did, though, which leads me to conclude that it wasn’t a real blade, and was used solely to creep me the fuck out.

At the first of this post, I forgot what I was going to write about, and I still haven’t remembered. But remember I told you that I was remembering about a time I got my hair cut in my hometown?

I’m still thinking about that. It’s weird how you can have an idea, form it, work it, make it into something you can write about and into something that you really think people will want to read, but it all gets blown away by one shitty memory where you made a total ass out of yourself.

It’s weird, but it’s not surprising, really.

So one time I’m in Wendell’s. By this time, the Palace Theater had become The Palace Theatre, complete with THX sound, working air conditioning, and renovations galore. It took up the entire building, which meant that Wendell had relocated. I followed loyally, loving the speed, convenience, and low-maintenance conversation offered by Wendell and his wife as they cut hair (I don’t like having to think while someone has a blade to my head—if you can carry on a conversation by yourself, that’s fine and I’ll listen, but don’t expect me to contribute).

So I’m sitting there, and this guy walked in and Wendell’s wife said something like, “You’re back already?”

(Quick aside: I know that Wendell’s wife has a name, but as I never addressed either of them by name, I never learned it. I know I’m a bad person for this, especially considering the fact that I really liked her, but there’s nothing I can do about it now, so let’s move on, shall we? Sorry, Wendell’s wife—but, really, I think you always knew I was a dick.)

The guy said, “Yep. It gets long enough for me to pull out, I gotta come back.”

I laughed politely, because I was practicing trying to fit in with normal society, and I had discovered that laughing at the stupid jokes people make helped a great deal in this process. The guy just looked at me.

I smiled, because I had found that that kind of thing helped me to fit in, as well. He didn’t smile back, only stared at me. It was an awkward haircut, because the guy stared at me almost the entire time. I tried to look elsewhere, but because I was in a barber’s chair, I was kind of forced to look wherever Wendell pointed me while he cut my hair.

Any time I accidentally made eye contact with the guy, I would smile again. He never smiled back—just continued to stare. Because Wendell’s wife was basically just using the electric razor to get the guy’s hair mowed down, he was finished before I was. He left, glancing back at me once more before exiting. It wasn’t a glare, but it wasn’t a friendly look, either.

“What was that guy’s problem?” I asked. It was a rhetorical question, so nobody answered.

About a year and a half later, I found out that his problem was that he was a compulsive hair-puller, and if his hair got long enough, he pulled it out by the handful. Instead of laughing at a poor joke, I had been laughing at a man and his disorder. I’m not a monster, just an idiot.

posted 4/11/07


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