Over the years I’ve had more than a few people provide me with unsolicited critiques about my hair.
The first “professional” photo my parents had taken of me, I was a year-old and had a head full of curly hair.
Sometime in the next few years or so, they decided my hair was a bit too wild so they switched my style to a butch cut. It happened to match the style my dad had worn his hair his entire life. It also eliminated the need to use Three Roses — a cross between Brylcreem and today’s Gorilla Glue — that my brothers used on their much longer hair.
In a family portrait when I was about 5 and before it was determined I wasn’t a klutz as much as someone with a pair of eyes with some serious problems, I’m shown squinting with a Cheshire Cat smile looking like a 1962 version of Mini Me as a hippie version of a skinhead while my two brothers looked like they could fit into the Dave Clark Five band lineup.
By the time I was in fifth grade I had grown tired of classmates rubbing my head and my brothers referring to me as a cue ball. It didn’t help matters that I was more than chubby and that I wore bifocals that a few schoolmates as well as adults couldn’t resist calling me a “four-eyed fatso.”
My mom allowed me to grow my hair longer that year which pulled the plug on the antics of those with the inclination to start rubbing my head while making some stupid joke.
I was content with my monthly barber shop cuts until the week before I was to start the seventh grade when Swede Nelson was cutting my hair at Airo’s Barbershop. For whatever reason Swede — who was yakking about politics with another customer as he cut my hair — got a little carried away on my left side. When he realized what he had done, I had a buzz cut around my ear. Without my glasses on I could not see what was happening. Long story short, Swede fixed his mistake by giving me a butch. As I put on my glasses and handed Swede the money my mom had given me to get a haircut, I remember seeing a shocked look on my face as I looked in the mirror and hearing Swede say “it’s alright, it’ll grow back.”
Those were the last words I heard in a barbershop for 18 years. I was so upset I told my mom I never wanted to go to a barbershop again. She found an old pair of hair clippers a cousin had. I learned to cut my own hair.
It wasn’t great at first but eventually I got proficient enough at it you couldn’t tell the difference. You can look at my high school graduation portrait and it looked like I had gone to a barber before the photo shoot.
At one point in my mid-20s I let my hair grow to the point it touched my collar. This apparently was affront to a few people as I found out while working the Lincoln Rotary Oktoberfest at Mt. Pleasant Hall. That’s when Buzz Noyes walked up to me grabbed the back of my hair and proceeded to tell me that my father, if he were alive, would be ashamed of me.
A few years later my sister-in-law was going to cosmetology school and she needed someone to practice one of the popular styles of the day — an Afro. My hair in my mid 20s was thick, wavy, and curly in spots.
To this day I do not know what possessed me to allow her to do it, but she gave me a permanent with the goal of creating an Afro.
Instead of looking like Steven Hyde in “That 70s Show” I looked like little Orphan Annie.
Sylvia said it didn’t quite get kinky enough. That was a slight understatement. She offered to shave it off but all I could think of was how I hated to have a butch cut.
So for the next six weeks or so until the perm lost its hold I had people asking to take photos of my unique hairstyle. Given this was a period when I wore suits and ties it did look a little interesting to say the least.
It wasn’t until I was 31 and I had struck up a conversation with another student in a Roseville Jazzercise class who happened to cut hair at a shop that was part of her home in Granite Bay that I let someone else cut my hair.
It started 24 years or so of wearing my hair with the sensibilities alluded to by the Three Bears fable — not too long, not too short, but “just right.”
Then about eight years ago after I started mixing hiking into my running and gym routines I decided I wanted low maintenance hair.
Given I had eschewed gel and such years before, “low maintenance” meant I could just run a brush through my hair with no need to get it wet with water in order to not look like Dr. Emmett Brown in “Back to the Future.”
Hair, after all, is just hair. Even with all of the unsolicited comments over the years if someone cutting my hair wasn’t sure they were doing it right and expressed that concern or if they cut it shorter than I wanted, I’d take the position that it is no big deal as it will grow back.
That’s why it’s a tad ironic I find myself in a quandary today about my hair.
Do to work and other issues I went two weeks past my usual monthly haircut. That has led to someone telling me they liked my hair longer as they thought I looked like a cue ball before. Others — they are all women by the way — say that my hair looks better longer.
But to be clear what this means, every time in the past after I’ve gotten my haircut it has prompted other women to tell me that they liked my hair shorter.
Two observations: I have never gone out of my way to offer anyone — especially women even if I was dating them — an unsolicited opinion about their hair. It’s not because I think it is rude to do so. I take the tact that it’s to each their own.
For the past eight years I haven’t given much thought to my hair except to make sure it is presentable and is low maintenance.
That low maintenance thing admittedly may be an outgrowth of my brother Ronnie when he was in junior high and high school taking 20 minutes plus each morning in the bathroom to get his hair “just right” with the help of “Three Roses.”
That said, I am now actually wondering whether I should cut my hair or let it go for a few more weeks.
What I do know for sure is I won’t be getting a butch or an Afro.