Back in the chair

I gave up long ago on the notion that I could fool anyone into thinking I had a head of hair.

It started thinning on top while I was still in college, which I suppose I always knew was a possibility because my dad’s hair had been thinning since I was a kid but he’d maintained a solid widow’s peak that only looked silly when he tried to make it look fuller than it was (good God, why didn’t anyone talk him out of the perm idea in the 80s)?

But I’d always been blessed as a kid with a lot of hair, and a huge cowlick that stood up no matter how much hair I kept or how much hair spray I used to try and keep it down (I apologize now for my contributions to the ozone issues back in the day).

So when the hair began disappearing rather quickly, I tried some of the usual ways to conceal it — the combover (which I did actually maintain for about a decade; just check out my wedding pics) and in the early days what would likely best be described as a mullet as I vainly tried to grow it in back to take attention from other areas. There was definitely a party in the back, but it was tightly contained as it only seemed to bring out the curliest features of my locks and never even got fully to my shoulders.

Point is, several years ago I decided I was just surrendering. I was tired of the little hair I did have on the back and sides not doing what I wanted and fairly constantly having to be trimmed, and when I got married we moved some half an hour from the barber I’d been using and didn’t feel much like finding a new one.

So I bought a trimmer with an instructional DVD, my wife dutifully watched it and began trimming my hair when it was convenient for the both of us. She was kind enough to do it, which saved me the trip to the barber and the money I would have paid, and within a few cuts it had already paid for itself in barber savings.

I think subconsciously part of the reason as well was that the barber shop was a specific place to me that I had attachments to. I went to one barber my whole life until college, the same barber my dad had used for years before I was born (actually a pair of barbers who co-owned the business). I drifted through chain stores for awhile, never feeling really comfortable, then decided to renew my quest to recapture that feeling when I arrived in South Jersey.

After awhile, I found a place that reminded me of the one I’d been to growing up — lots of wood including the paneling, big mirrors, the jar of blue liquid with combs in it, the old leather barbers chairs, the old-fashioned cash register.

Most importantly I built relationships with the barbers there. For a time I did continue to drive there after moving just because we’d talk about local sports (I was a sports reporter by that time) or some other topic during the cut, just as the barbers had done with me when I was a kid with my dad.

The barber is someone who’s touching your head all over, working with your hair and developing what can be a rather unique relationship that is tough to duplicate. It’s something I did find again in New Jersey, but distance and expense for something that was increasingly frustrating for me simply made it untenable.

In the past few months I’d taken to shaving my head weekly with my electric razor, a wet/dry model that allowed me to use shaving cream and get a little closer and not even think about needing a brush or any other hair implement again. It takes time, but I decided it was worth it and I didn’t have to bother the missus with it. I could do it on my own time.

Thursday I was starting to feel better after my nasty cold that developed Sunday and Monday (hooray, Z-pak!), and began to venture out into the world. I realized I hadn’t shaved my head in a couple of weeks and wanted the hair gone (when you get into the habit of shaving your head and then don’t for awhile, the hair grows back however it wants which isn’t always the way it looks best).

A couple of months ago I met someone through playing Quizzo with a friend (which will be a topic for a future blog post) who just happened to around the same time find a job at a neighborhood barber shop just a few minutes from my house. We’d chatted briefly about the potential for shaving my head, so I messaged him to make sure he was working and he told me he’d shave my head if I bought the razors (he uses Bic disposables and was out).

When I arrived, it was even more neighborhood than I expected, a cozy place at the end of a block of almost rowhome-type residences complete with a barber pole out front. I went inside, took off my coat, sat down in the chair and between the wood paneling, mirrors and old brown leather chair it was like both going back in time and reuniting with an old friend.

I got a nice shave (of my head) after a trim first, chatted about various things, and generally felt good about paying for it afterward. I was paying for the experience as much as the cut itself. It’s not something I’m going to do on a regular basis (can’t afford to, especially now), but it’s something I’ll very likely do again.

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