I should be used to it by now. Yet I still react the same way every time. When my wife comes home from the hair salon, my jaw drops in amazement. In one visit, she spends more than I do for an entire year’s worth of haircuts.
It has been alleged that hair salons charge women more for haircuts than men. If this is so, I think it accounts for only a small difference. What really raises the bills is all the additional services that women demand.
When my wife goes in to have her hair done, it’s rarely for just a trim. She may get a perm, a flip, a curl, a tease. She can choose to have her hair lightened, darkened, braided, folded, straightened, flattened, frosted, frozen or made into long, pointy spikes.
And when she tells me what she spent, I shake my head and make some remark about it being a lot of money.
I don’t make an issue of it, though. She’s entitled to splurge on a few things, as I do now and then. But in my view, her splurging seems more self-indulgent than mine. So when she says she is going to have her hair done, I ask if there isn’t some way she can put it off for a few years.
As for myself, I pay for only one service - a cut. Nothing fancy; no special treatments or new-fangled styles. A simple cut is adequate - and cheap. But I admit one reason why I don’t allow experimentation on my hair is because I’m already taking a huge risk just walking into the hair salon.
I’m nervous when I get my hair trimmed. I sit uneasily in the barber’s chair. I stare at the mirror and monitor every snip of the haircutter’s scissors. Invariably, when my cut is finished, no matter how expertly it’s been done, I’m dissatisfied.
As best I can figure, this haircut complex stems from my adolescence. I was not allowed to visit the barbershop. My mother cut my hair and though she did a fine job, her view of how long hair should be differed greatly from mine. To a kid growing up in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the effects were traumatic.
When my mother announced that my hair was looking shaggy, I lived in fear. I tried combing my hair so it would appear shorter. I avoided her as much as I could so that my hair wouldn’t remind her that it needed to be cut. I prayed that she would forget. But Mom always remembered.
My hair was cut in the kitchen, with a towel draped over my shoulders. As I lost my locks, I fought to keep the tears away. Afterward, looking in the bathroom mirror, I couldn’t hold them in.
At school the next day, as the other boys wore their thick hair over the collar, I had but a sprig on top and nothing on the sides. “Whitewalls” they used to call me.
Then one day, hope and optimism came to me via a TV commercial. A new, revolutionary product had just been developed - The Trimcomb. Easy to use, the Trimcomb cut and thinned by just running it through the hair like a comb. It was so easy, you could do it yourself.
The possibilities were instantly apparent. When mom said I was looking shaggy, I could trim my hair enough to satisfy her, while leaving it longer than usual.
In short order I was the proud owner of a Trimcomb. I was empowered knowing that my scalp was now in my own hands. I was confident the trimmings on the floor were going to be fewer and shorter than before.
One Saturday night, as I was making arrangements to attend a hockey game with my friends, Mom announced that before I went anywhere, my hair had to be cut. I put my plan into action.
At first, everything went well. The Trimcomb was all it was advertised to be. It was smooth. It thinned, and it trimmed. It worked like magic. I felt the fulfillment of one who’s in control of his own destiny. Then my friends showed up.
I had no idea that anything was wrong until they looked at me in amazement and disbelief. Then they burst into laughter.
Holding up a mirror, I was given a glimpse of the disaster at the back of my head. It was like a ravaged, worked-over forest - a patchwork of old-growth here, thinned-out areas there, and way too many clear cuts. I tried some salvage cutting. But it only got worse.
I was forced to go to my mom. When she saw the damage, she naturally reacted with anger and dismay. “I don’t know if I can fix that!” she said, sitting me down and grabbing a towel. She fixed it, though. I also got the shortest cut of my life.
Because of my experiences, I sometimes wonder if I needle my wife because she can go to the hair salon with confidence, comfortably sit as her hair is lopped off, and come home happy with herself, while the same process for me is torture.
To avoid going to the hair salon, I tried to get my wife to cut my hair. When she refused, despite my assurances there would be no retribution if she messed up, I realized I had no one but myself to rely on.
So I learned to cut my own hair. I use barber’s scissors instead of a Trimcomb. I can do the back by using two mirrors positioned just right. And my wife pays the highest compliment by saying that it looks, “All right.”
It’s been a year and a half since I’ve gone in for a cut. Besides saving money, I’ve eliminated the hassles of making appointments, and sitting in waiting areas reading women’s magazines until it’s my turn.
So now I focus on my wife. In one visit to the salon, she spends more money than I spend on decades worth of haircuts.
This is a grossly unbalanced situation. And as I see it, the solution for her is to come to me and say, “Honey, will you cut my hair?”
MEMO: James P. Johnson is a Spokane free-lance writer and fourth grade teacher.
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