Barbers look at my hair the way gardeners look at weeds. That’s the sense I was getting the other day when I told the gal who cuts my hair I want to let it grow.
I want for my hair what I want for my children.
I want it to reach its full potential. I want it to be uninhibited. I want it to revel in the world for however long it is able.
“But you look so much better with short hair,” she says.
I resist the urge to tell her she’d look so much better with her face hidden behind a copy of my 2003 book, “Hole-in-One! The Complete Book of Fact, Legend and Lore on Golf’s Luckiest Shot!” (Andrews McMeel, current Amazon Bestsellers Rank, 1,505,957).
It’s clearly in her self-interest that everyone walks around looking like Sinead O’Connor.
But I don’t want to say anything to hurt her feelings, particularly when she’s waving a straight razor near my jugular.
Plus, I like her. She’s what my old man used to call a “broad.” She swears, tells bawdy jokes, and says her next shop will have a pool table and a keg of free beer for customers.
What a gal.
I spent about as much time looking for her as I did for a good bride.
A trip to the barber shop has always meant a lot to me. I’m convinced our late father never moved south to escape bitter winters because being away from Tony the barber would have killed him as surely as perpetual darkness kills petunias.
Besides a tidy trim, Tony brought light into our lives. He taught me my first dirty joke, how to place an illegal wager and he let me look at the Playboy magazines he kept in the drawer under the shelf with all the witch hazel.
About 10 years ago, Tony, besides hair, started cutting back his hours and I started getting my hair cut nearer to home. I tried the most popular and efficient barber in town. For $6.50, he could in four minutes make Samson resemble drill instructor extraordinaire R. Lee Ermey.
Of course, I wound up looking like every other guy in town.
My bar is full of them. Their heads are practically shaved. When two of them put their heads together to talk confidentially about guns, Sarah Palin or NASCAR, the combined effect looks like one wide bottom is trying make an angry point by mooning some invisible cross-bar antagonist.
I didn’t want any part of that.
So I went for a long extended purgatory in the awful unisex salons where I felt they were psychologically cutting off things more dear to me than hair every time I was assaulted by music from people like Beyonce.
That’s why I was thrilled to find Eileen, whose little shop is near my Mom’s place. She has a fellow barber, a Navy veteran whose every customer strolls out of the shop looking like they could be piped aboard a destroyer to commence swabbing poop decks.
It’s not the look I’m after so I go on Tuesdays when Eileen has the run of the place. There’s an old dog, a friendly clientele and lively banter to enrich the life of a guy who spends so much time alone with his imaginary friends, his imaginary employers and all their imaginary paychecks.
I knew she’d be resistant to my goals to grow my hair long, something I haven’t done in 20 year.
True, my hair is exhibiting signs of male pattern baldness. I’ve got the makings of one of those little monk caps on the crown and the forehead’s becoming a fivehead. Soon, I’ll have one of those little Nixonian tufts that look like some skilled motorcyclist burned rubber down the top of my skull.
So I guess I want to give the hairs that have stuck around a sort of farewell tour. Maybe that’ll convince a few of the wafflers to hang in there, that the fun’s just getting started.
Really, I’m not letting my hair down, I’m letting it up. I don’t want hippy hair like San Francisco Giant pitcher Tim Lincecum (way to go, Giants!).
I want to look like Einstein. I want go-to-hell hair.
Because I just don’t care. My wife’s not going to leave me if I’m having a bad hair day (although just at lunch she gave me a sarcastic, “Nice hair, Cosmo.”).
My kids won’t run in shame if they see me approaching with unruly hair. Well, they won’t run any faster than they already do.
So that’s my plan. I’m letting my hair go wild. I’ll spend about six seconds on it in the morning and then it’ll be free to behave like East Germans did after the Berline Wall came down.
It can have a party.
Let’s call it a last hair-rah.