“Gimme a head with hair
Long beautiful hair
Streaming, flaxen, waxen
Gimme a head with hair
Shoulder length or longer”
………………………….From the musical “Hair”
“Deputy Mayor” Janis inspired this column. After I told her about a self- inflicted bad haircut fiasco, she said I should have my hair examined. I thought to myself, brilliant. This was her cryptic way of telling me to talk about my life in a column through my hair’s history. (Note from “Deputy Mayor” Janis: He misunderstood. I said he should have his head examined).
My first haircut was in the local barbershop in Jamestown, South Australia. A little country town of several hundred people on the edge of the Outback. So small our phone number was 37 and the phone book was one page. The town was surrounded by award winning Merino sheep farms. In a remarkable co-incidence sheep shearers were everywhere–men who could drink a Foster’s beer in seconds and shear a sheep in minutes. As a young boy, I quickly came to the conclusion that the sheep shearers who failed became the town barbers in Australia. Remember clearly the ambiance of the barber shop–men smoking, talking or playing cards, waiting for their haircuts. They were not only there for a haircut but to get a close shave with a straight razor. An act that takes a lot of confidence considering the drinking habits of your barber the night before. Little boys were invisible and last in line to get a haircut. You weren’t asked what “style” you wanted. You hopped on the booster board and two minutes later it was over. The barber had two “styles”, either a Moe or Larry cut which meant the entire town had the same haircuts. When we left Australia by ship to return to Ireland one incident always comes to mind. Was sent by myself to the ship’s barber who gave me a crew cut. I looked like a young Gomer Pyle on an American Marine Recruiting Poster. My father was angry and confronted the barber and told him he had no right to give me a crew cut. I was very proud of my father then but things would change later.
What a difference a decade made! The times were changing and men were letting their hair down, led by the Beatles. The Brylcreem generation was ending. Remember the jingle?
“Brylcreem, a little dab will do you,
Use more, only if you dare,
But watch out,
The gals will all pursue ya,–
They’ll love to RUN their fingers through your hair.”
Jingle should have noted that if “the ‘gals’ run their fingers through your hair” they would have enough oil on their hands to compete with the Tar Sands.
In my teenage years I had long hair down past my shoulders. By then my father spoke with great fondness of the barber who gave me the crew cut. My Dad had three things he disliked in our house in those days. In descending order: Me, my music and my hair. He rejected my argument he should be delighted that he had a total package of dislikes while other Dads had multiple options on what to dislike. He said I was splitting hairs. Long hair was supposed to be a sign of rebellion and growing it was a lot easier than actually rebelling. What I was protesting was unknown to me except it annoyed the hell out of my father. My teachers on the other hand liked my hair because it made it easier for them to grab me from behind as they pulled me down to the Principal’s Office for the regular visit. Example: Question from Principal: Do you know where you are going? Response: Lunch? Wrong answer. Apparently the right one about where I was going was on “double secret probation” and detention for the rest of the school year.
Uncle Clary in Northern Ireland had long hair too. His mother dragged him off to the barber and said “give him a crew cut” and after he did she found out she had been raising someone else’s son.
Finally cut my hair for three reasons–women, women and work. The first two reasons were the important ones. This next revelation may startle you, but men and women often have different views on the same topic. Hair is no exception. Here is the best way to explain the difference.
“Jacquie: Wow! Your new hairstyle looks so cute.
Carol: Thanks. Do you really think so? Do you think it’s too straight? I wasn’t totally happy.
Jacquie: I would love to have mine look like yours, but not sure my face would work with that cut.
Carol: You would be perfect. You could get it cut so it fits perfectly and layered. I was going to go in that direction but think my jaw is too big.
Jacquie: Too funny. I would love to have your jaw and facial features. Anything to take away attention from my short neck.
Carol: You got to be kidding. Any woman would love to have your neck and shoulders as their clothes would fit perfectly.
Jacquie: Love your shade of colour. Do you think mine is too dark?”
Sue has cut my hair for years. She works by herself and is so busy it’s easier to get a Doctor’s appointment than one with her. Such was the case a few weeks ago when she said she couldn’t see me for awhile, which is different than other women who have said they couldn’t see me for the rest of their lives. The first time I heard that line I thought it meant the poor woman only had a short time to live. Felt very sad till she explained that she expected to live a long life but not with me.
After Sue put me on her wait list, I decided to cut my hair myself with disastrous results. Short on the sides and chopped at the back which then grew out like a mullet. A mullet hair style is often referred to as “hockey hair.” Mine looked like “hockey and helmet hair” had mated. The cut was so bad I took my own tip back that I had left to myself on the bathroom counter. Finally I got an appointment with Sue. Like any professional, after one look, she knew something was wrong. She said “what happened to your hair”. My first thought was to tell her “it’s very windy out” or “I stuck my head in the lawn mower by mistake” but decided to fess up. Told her I was loyal to her and refused to go to someone else so I cut it myself. She laughed and then tried to do some damage control (Note to Haircutters…..customers can see you in the mirror while you are biting your tongue, rolling your eyes and pinching yourself trying to not laugh out loud). There is something I have been wanting to tell her but that day was not the day……she needs to clean her clippers and combs better because grey and white hairs from her other clients get stuck in them and when she is cutting and combing my hair they then get stuck in mine and make me look older. The problem has been getting worse lately, but I still don’t know how to tell her. When paying Sue I couldn’t thank her enough for the remedial work she had done to my hair. I said “I will let people know how great you are as a hair stylist.” I could see the comment had touched her, as her eyes got misty and she said “No, please don’t tell anyone that I cut your hair.” And in fact, she followed me into the parking lot saying over and over again “please don’t tell anyone, please.” Her humility is wonderful but people need to be commended for a job well done. Thanks Sue.
Toronto Mayor David Miller ran in the last municipal election on the slogan Same Great Mayor, Same Great Hair. If I run again, Campaign Manager Uncle Festus (Full Disclosure: Festus is totally bald and claims his head is a solar panel for a sex machine) has suggested Same Grey Mayor, More Grey Hair!
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