My little girl regularly relays just how little she is, and isn’t. No longer so little to need to clutch toys in bed, still little enough to need to clutch something. That something is, for now, my hair. She will only drift to sleep with the mess of it clutched in her fingers. It provides the comfort of her stuffed porcupine, without actually being the porcupine. She resists my hair when it’s wet after showers or greasy after work. Worst is when it grows unruly. When that happens, sleep won’t. Since only my spikiest locks will do, I bypassed my normal barber’s striped pole in favor of a full-on salon, where at the counter they handed me a plastic sheet menu. I said I wasn’t here for lunch. They said, no, no, this is all grooming. Shapings and exfoliations may be ordered, Swedish and hot stones, mani-pedi. This all still sounded like food; one choice even involved poured honey. I’ll take a haircut, I said, pointing at a spot on the menu. Truth was I hadn’t seen the word haircut there, but figured pointing would make it seem I found it. The staff was disappointed but asked which month I’d care to come for my cutting. This one, I said: this very moment. They frowned. We can offer an emergency deforestation. After my deforestation—clippings clumped like some bearskin rug beneath my elevated chair—I was out $50. My fingers ran over where my hair used to live. Shorter, but still too soft. I thought my regular barber could clean up this hot mess so it at least resembled the old mess. But my prior desertion left him uncharitable. Their shears outright misshaped you. Or—is your skull really that square? Putting down his broom, he touched my scalp. Shit, it’s almost rhomboid! His assistant unrolled a poster of human head shapes, marveling. His specimen don’t even make our list! Since this now qualified as a challenge—something my barber liked—he swept away his hurt, gave me a shot. His end product reminded me that many who enjoy challenges have no clue how to meet them. After that I trudged into a wig store. Don’t have much for guys, the owner said, but this might suit your complexion. I stared back in dumbfounded silence. That hair was mine: wavy and shaggy as my real crown when the day began. So I ran the wig over to my barber, who agreed to trim it so long as I wore it. He wasn’t going to clip it by itself, like some fool shearing sheep. All of this, of course, made for more costs. But it also led me at last to the right cut: made to order, built to last. Hair I could place and adjust on my head with my own hands, then turn over to the sleeping hands of my girl. That night I backed away from her, my mission made good, so she could sleepily strum and cozy to her new animal.
The Kindest Cut
Art by Stacy Tompkins