Crosby, Stills and Nash song
ran in my head the whole time I sat in the barber’s chair: “almost cut my
This being symbol of rebellion that once the locks vanish, so does the revolution.
“Do you want to keep this?” the barber asked, holding up the chunk he’d just cut off.
“People do that?” I asked, looking at him in the mirror.
“Yes,” he said.
“Not me,” I said.
With the heat of summer coming, all I really wanted was to get the locks off the back of my head, and knew that whatever rebel existed, still existed inside of me no matter how much dead hair (as
once claimed made up underwear) I had on my head.
Other people seemed to think otherwise, and the comments continued to trail behind me as if bits of hair left a trail for them to follow.
Once, the length of hair mattered.
I struggled throughout my youth to keep from getting it cut, a fact my uncles well knew and so each time I got into trouble (which was often), they dragged me down to the barber, not merely for a haircut, but for a crew cut.
Not until I was big enough to fight back (around 16) did this practice cease.
So a history of my early life can easily be measured in alternating photographs showing me with extremely short hair and brief intervals when I managed to grow it out before plunging back into the barber chair.
“How long did it take you to grow?” the current barber asked.
I had to think. A year, or a year and half, I suspected. My last cut was in a very conservative barber’s place in Bayonne where it got cut so short, I thought I had done something wrong and my uncles’ ghosts were whispering in the barber’s ear: Shorter! Shorter!
The barber in
showed more mercy, and so shaped it better, leaving something on the sides
besides my big ears.
The jokes about losing the locks continued even as I wandered into my working world, although most comments generally were the same: “You look younger.”
Which was strange, because I felt older, more conservative, and wondered if some other ghost would dress me in a suit and tie while I slept, a perverse Cinderella destined to go out to the driveway to find, not a pumpkin but a Mercedes.
Someone joked about my selling out.
I said, “I don’t know how,” and it’s true.
Hair, long or short, I can’t get into that mindset. I am what I am, as Popeye the Sailor might have said.