One day, my husband Randall and I were in the car. He was driving and complaining about the haircut he’d gotten the day before. Indeed, it was shorter than he usually liked it, and the top had an unfortunate flatness to it.
The stylist was so bad, he complained, that at one point, she missed his head and shaved a corner of his beard.
“She went zoooom,” he said, tracing a half-circle from the back of his neck to just below his cheek, “and got my beard right here.”
“Why don’t I cut your hair next time?” I asked.
I’d been cutting my own hair since a similarly unfortunate salon visit a decade ago. I was of the school of a rather untraditional hair care philosophy: When someone, anyone, messes up a cut, you lose trust in all licensed hairdressers, learn to cut your hair yourself, then do it that way, in the same style, remedially, forever and ever until you die.
“No, thank you,” he said.
“Why? I could cut your hair. And it’d look really good.”
“I don’t think so. You need special clippers.”
The zoom thing.
“I bet I could get one of those for the same price as a normal haircut, and then every time I cut your hair, we’d be saving money.”
This wasn’t the first time I offered. I was always trying to cut people’s hair, especially after realizing the thrill of cutting my own. There was something about the same exciting cutting motion we’ve learned to associate with grand openings and Christmas gifts. That feeling of lightness in my neck as I watched clumps of limp hair fall into the sink.
There’s power in changing your own appearance. The added thrill of pretending you’re practicing for the day you rob a bank and have to cut and dye your hair in a train station bathroom before the police catch you.
I wondered what it would feel like to do that to someone else.
“You’re not cutting my hair,” he said.
“Why? You don’t like the way I cut mine?”
“Yours is great,” he said, suddenly sounding political. “But men’s hair is harder.”
“How do you know? You’ve never cut anyone’s hair. And, besides, even if a man’s cut is messed up, it’ll grow back to full length faster. There’s lower stakes.”
“You’re not cutting it.”
“I won’t mess up.”
“Yes, you will.”
“Well, maybe I will,” I admitted. “But with some practice I’ll get really good at the one haircut and I’ll do that over and over and you’ll have the perfect haircut every time.”
“But I don’t want the same haircut every time. I like to try different ones every so often.”
“Like the one you have now?”
Randall glanced at his reflection in the rear-view mirror. “No. But I’m still not letting you cut my hair.”
I crossed my arms and looked out my passenger window.
I never expected I’d be here: twenty-eight, married, suburban, begging those closest to me to let me give them a trim. I always thought I was meant for something more dramatic. Maybe it was a learned expectation, always being the scrappy, sly child unjustly getting out of trouble. Always slipping in and out of rooms. I thought I was meant for a life of crime and cons.
But here I was in sales. Carpooling with my husband to work.
If Randall would have let me cut his hair, maybe I could’ve gained confidence in my haircutting ability. Maybe I could’ve cut other people’s hair. Maybe I could’ve specialized in people on the lam. They’d come into my house, and after knocking on the door with a pre-agreed code, I’d clip their hair in a special way that completely changed their face. It would make them that much less recognizable in Guam, where they were heading on the next flight later that night.
“Are you mad at me?”
Of course I was. “No.”
“Good,” he said, then touched the bald spot on his beard.
STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons/Jon Jordan