The older I get, the less I care about how my hair looks. It wasn’t always this way.
When I was growing up, my mom cut our hair. Up until the end of 3rd grade, our Saturday night ritual was pretty much the same. After playing with the neighbor kids all day, we were hot, tired, smelly and hungry. My mom would stand outside on the back porch steps and ring a bell. When we heard that bell, we knew it was time to come home and eat dinner. Ignore the bell, and we risked missing a meal.
After dinner, my mom would set up her barber shop on the back porch steps. My brother and I would take turns climbing onto her kitchen stool covered with red Naugahyde. She would tie a white dish towel around our necks, plug in her trusty Wahl clippers and scalp both of us. After our haircuts, we would take our weekly Saturday night bath and then, treat of treats, watch The Lawrence Welk show before we went to bed. It was wonnaful, wonnaful, wonnaful!
Even though my brother and I had matching haircuts that made us look like Eddie Munster, we were too young to care. When I was in 4th grade, my mom stopped with the buzz-cuts and let me grow some stylish bangs. She would still clip the sides short, but she used a scissors to square off the bangs in front.
When we were kids, we celebrated our birthdays at home with the family. When I turned eight, however, my mom allowed me to invite a couple of friends over for a small party. We played football in the back yard for a while before coming into the house for some birthday cake. My mom had made my favorite – chocolate cake with homemade chocolate frosting. My friends gathered around as my mom stuck eight candles in the cake and lit them with a match. I was seated at one end of the table, ready to blow out the candles and dig in. I put my hands on the table on either side of the cake and leaned over the dancing flames. I inhaled a big breath and as I moved in even closer to make sure I blew out all eight candles at once, I heard a crisp, crackling sound as the tips of my bangs caught on fire. My friends looked on wide-eyed, not sure what to do. I clapped my hand to my head to put out the blaze, and everybody, including my mom, froze in place not quite sure what they had seen. Trust me, there’s nothing like the smell of burnt hair to ruin a birthday party.
When I got into high school, my mom still cut my hair, and we started having arguments about how long it should be. Most of my high school friends sported unruly mops, a popular look in the mid-‘70s. Still, every couple of weeks, my mom insisted on cutting my hair shorter than I wanted. Things reached a boiling point in the spring of my junior year. It was Easter weekend and one of my friends had decided to have a party on Good Friday evening. As the son of a Lutheran minister, I innately understood that Good Friday was not the ideal day for a party. It was a day to go to church and reflect on the somber historical details of what had once transpired. Still, I wanted to go and asked my parents if I could. Predictably, they both said no. To add insult to injury, my mom told me it was time for a haircut.
I sullenly agreed. Not surprisingly, we ended up arguing about how long I could keep my hair. She ended up cutting it shorter than I wanted, and I was furious. I stormed upstairs and slammed the door to my bedroom so hard that one of the wood panels cracked. I sulked on my bed for an hour and then decided to run away.
I packed a few things in my duffle bag, opened my upstairs bedroom window and tossed the bag into the bushes below. Then I quietly tip-toed downstairs, saw nobody in the living room and sneaked out the front door. My dad had a ‘72 orange Ford Pinto of the exploding gas tank variety, and he let me drive it as if it was my own. I put the car in neutral and pushed it slowly down the driveway so my parents wouldn’t hear me when I started it. My friend hosting the party lived 30 minutes away, and that’s where I headed.
When I got there, I told him I had sneaked off without telling my parents and that I might need a place to stay for a couple days. At the time, I was working for a farmer who lived a few miles from my house. He was gone for the weekend and I had promised to feed his livestock twice a day through Sunday. The Good Friday party turned out to be a bust. Apparently my parents weren’t the only ones who had put the kibosh on that idea. I got up early Saturday morning, drove 30 minutes back to the farm, fed the animals and returned to my friend’s house. I repeated the drill later that afternoon realizing that my weekend hiatus from home was gonna cost me in gas money.
The next day was Easter Sunday. I got up early to drive back to the farm for the third time. And then I did the unthinkable – I skipped Easter Sunday services. Even my friend was appalled. When he got back to his house after church, I don’t think he wanted to come near me on the off chance I might be struck down by lightning. Early that afternoon, I finally headed home. When I got back, I walked in the door and saw my parents sitting at the kitchen table. I went straight up to my room, threw my duffle bag on the bed and came back down to the kitchen, ready to face the music.
I sat down at the kitchen table and looked at my mom and dad. I told them I was sorry for leaving and that I should have let them know where I was going. To my surprise, they didn’t yell at me or chastise me. Quite the opposite, in fact. My mom and dad, in turn, apologized to me for not respecting my wishes to keep my hair longer. My dad added that the worst part of the whole ordeal was that I had skipped church on Easter Sunday. In the end, we had what was arguably our most mature conversation up to that point in my young life. Forgiveness was offered on both sides, and I promised never to do something like that again.
My hair style has gone full circle. These days when I go to a salon and the stylist asks how I’d like my hair cut, I say, “#1 on the back and sides and take a full inch off the top! I like it nice and short! Be brave; it’ll grow back.” During this recent pandemic, I have not cut my hair or shaved in nearly six weeks. I tried to order hair clippers on Amazon the other day, but they were all sold out. I now have but one recourse. Help!