“Time For A Haircut.” That phrase struck fear in my heart for many years. I’ve only had two professional haircuts in my life, and both were disappointments. My mom took me to get my first haircut when I was 3 or 4, I guess. And she hated it, for some reason. So she cut my hair for the next 14 years. And I hated it each time. I’d put it off as long as I could. I preferred having long hair, even though I was almost always mistaken for a girl. I identified with the hippies, for some reason, and wanted to look like one of the Beatles, not Homer Price, which is what you looked like when you got home from Reo’s Barbershop. I was so vain, still am I guess, that I would avoid the haircut till I was forced into the chair, the sheet tied around my neck, my little brothers gathered around watching. My mom would coo about how handsome I was. When the orderal was over, I’d look in the mirror and be horrified, every time. I don’t know why. I think it was just the trauma of my image changing, however subtly, that threatened my fledging sense of self. I would cry and complain that my mom took off too much. I’d wear a knit hat for a few days. Then I’d feel bad for my mom—she did her best, with love, and all I did was complain, ungrateful. I felt guilty and vain.
I hated going to school the next day, where the brattiest kid would tease: “Slaid got a haircut! Slaid got a haircut!” Grade school was bad enough, but high school. Ouch. In those early teen years, with self esteem issues and all, haircut time was very stressful. I felt like a mama’s boy but didn’t have the courage to go downtown and get a barber cut at Reo’s. Mom’s haircuts were hit and miss. With four kids, you’d think she’d get good at it, but I remember several “oops” (one drew blood). I remember after one particularly bad one in high school, my friend asked, “Who cut your hair?” “My Mom.” “What, was she mad at you?”
By the end of high school, I’d had enough. It was 1982 and I went down to the hip, new wave hair place in Portsmouth. I asked the gal to give me a Stray Cats kind of thing—your basic 50s rockabilly do. Well, I think she got the Stray Cats mixed up with Flock of Seagulls. It was awful. It was like walking around with a sign saying, “I’m a limp wristed new wave fan, come and beat me up.” I tried to hide my disappointment as I looked at the mirror in the shop. It’s just not in my character to complain to a stranger. But I think even the stylist herself was a bit surprised at the way it came out. She seemed a little embarrassed. Damn, that was awful. A couple of weeks later, waiting in line to see a concert with my old friend Josh, he ran into a friend who’d just cut his own hair. What a radical idea. It looked so cool. It was a sign, also. But this haircut said, “To hell with you all. I’m not trying to look like you losers. I can’t afford a haircut, so when it gets long I’ll just hack some off.”
Well, that was all I needed. I began to cut my own hair, and I haven’t let anyone else touch it since. That was 22 years ago. Sure, the first few times were a little scary. Trying to use scissors in a mirror is tricky. And getting the back is tricky, too. I learned some valuable lessons (which is hard when you only do something once every couple of months). Lessons like: You can take plenty off the back, but go easy on the front or you’ll quickly end up with a mullet. Be conservative, just take off a little at a time. You can always take more off later. Don’t cut your hair the night before a big date or gig; you will definitely screw it up. For a while, due to a few pretty bad cuts, I limited myself to 25 snips. When I was away at college, I used the scissors on my swiss army knife. Not the ideal haircutting intrument. I’ve used paper scissors and cheap Walmart hair scissors, and I can testify that a pair of really good haircutting scissors is much preferable.
It drives my wife Karen crazy that I won’t let her touch my hair. But I won’ t back down. Cuttting my own hair, I accept responsibility. If I mess it up, I have only myself to blame. I’m not going to feel ill will toward anyone else, or feel bad that I’m being ungrateful. And think of all the money I’ve saved!