Uncut, Unkempt, Uncertain

July Men's Room Column
Wilma 0720 Mens Room

After two months, my hair had grown back to the old days, when I thought it was acceptable for a man my age – or any age – to walk around with what appeared to be an osprey nest sitting on his head.

I’d had an epiphany a few years ago. It came in the form of two wise, no-nonsense stylists in the budget shop where I went from time to time to tame the twigs on top. They wanted to buzz me.

“We promise,” they said, “that you won’t look like you’re in the Marines.”

Well, that, plus my senior-discount card and what a drill sergeant might interpret as an all-season Firestone under my fatigues.

So, they buzzed, and I walked out of there feeling less osprey and more human.

Then, this spring, we got the pandemic lockdown. I intended to squeeze in one last haircut before everything closed, but I misread the deadline by a day. I had to part with regular buzzing and, like everyone else, head into the unknown.

Soon, the birds returned. Weathered gray-brown sprigs mounded above my ears, growing outward, like wings. On top, one side bunched high and gave me a look of permanent bedhead. The front swooped up and over, as if about to fly away.

The lockdown wore on. I could handle most of what they call “personal grooming” – shaving, clipping my fingernails and toenails, trimming my eyebrows, and handling a category I’ll just label as “other.” But, my hair grew worse by the week. I wondered how many times I could legitimately show up for online work meetings in a baseball cap. When I ventured out in my green face mask, my head looked like a broccoli floret.

Then, while combing through the newspaper, I locked onto a column titled “Give Yourself a Haircut.” Sure, just as everybody else, I’d thought about it. I had a pair of clippers I bought for the dog, and after that experiment on him went way wrong, I’d stashed them on a shelf in the garage. Once I brushed away all the Labrador hair, they were basically brand new. Now, I had a bigwig in the newspaper waving me on, offering a shortcut, saying I didn’t have to stay stranded.

Unfortunately, his method involved sitting in a stopped-up bathtub with a mirror and scissors (and no clippers). He suggested pulling up patches of hair between the fingers and snipping bits at a time, alternating hands. As for the back, he wrote, “You must do that by feel.”

No way. I’d have to be ambidextrous and work on sheer nerve. Even then, I’d wind up looking ridiculous, especially with stitches across the back of my head.

I decided it’s best to leave some personal work to the trained professionals. Like appendix removal. And root canals. And haircuts.

On my weekly trips for groceries, I passed the darkened salon where I’d gone for regular maintenance. I missed the stylists with their razor scissors and sharp tongues. I hoped they were healthy and secure. I wondered when I’d finally see them, and what they would say after all this time and all this hair. Probably this: “You look terrible. Is that an osprey nest? We can do something about that. Have a seat.”

Tim Bass is coordinator of UNCW’s bachelor of fine arts program in creative writing.

To view more of illustrator Mark Weber’s work, go to markweberart.blogspot.com.

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Categories: Culture