I’m a reasonably intelligent man, but there are questions that I simply do not know how to forge a proper reply, including: “which way does your part go?”, “which number do you want on the side?”, and “do you want me to trim your eyebrows?”! You see, I haven’t visited a bonafide barber in over twenty-five years, but more on that—and the eyebrows—in a second.
If I’ve learned only one single, solitary lesson from this entire year of writing, photographing, and introspection, it would be (as follows): change is healthy, beneficial, and entirely necessary for meaningful personal growth.
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything ~ George Bernard Shaw
My hair had reached epic proportions, and no that’s not an exaggeration. It was so big—how big was it?—that I resorted to wearing a baseball cap to work for the last few days last week. The flaps of hair protruding from my eyeglasses had recently achieved the status of Flight Worthy or Most Likely To Succeed In Take-off. I opted to shave my manly ten-day scruff and trim my goatee—all strategies to minimize the amount of facial chaos happening on my head.
Change is inevitable; something needs to happen here.
This isn’t the first time in twenty-five years that my hair has gotten wild and unmanageable, but I’ve been craving a bigger type of change for the last few months. I’ve made some huge noticeable strides in life, including a raise and promotion at work, and the near-completion of this photography project. Less visible improvements, such as rediscovered personal interests and refocused goals, are more incentive for celebration.
Meaningful change is inevitable; it is time for a new hairstyle, after all of these years.
At the barbershop, motioning with a sporadic swirl of the hands around my two-foot-tall hairdoo, I explain the situation. Jessica, my designated Social Worker Of Follicle Magic, surveys the battlefield—she’s got to be intimidated by the task at hand. I explain my backstory, she asks clarifying details. It seems like a creative direction has been determined: short all around, part on side, leaving the top to grow in length over the next few months.
The whole experience of getting your haircut by a stranger is new to me. My wife has been cutting my hair since college days, before we even married. My hairstyle has remained largely unchanged since those days: buzz cut all around, a tuff of longer hair in the front. And so it’s been for a very long time.
Jessica wants to know why, after all these years, I am interested in change. I generate a generic answer, something about how my son’s hair always looks so sharp after a visit to the barbershop. While that is certainly true—he’s the one who gave me a coupon for the free haircut today—I’m certain there is more to the inevitable metamorphosis that I desire, although it’s not quite so easy to articulate.
I cradle my eyeglasses, an out-of-focus world lies beyond my immediate peripheral. Skull trimmed on the left side, then the right, with some hardware apparatus labeled as Number Two. Large tuffs of gray hair fall from my head, landing on the black vinyl lap sheet in front of me, rolling toward the edge, plummeting out of focus over the edge.
“Do you want me to trim your eyebrows?” I pause, caught off-guard by the question. I must have shrugged my shoulders or hesitated to answer. I employ her to use the best professional judgement and digression available.
“They are really long,” she adds for emphasis. The word r-e-a-l-l-y is dragged into a five second pronunciation from the Webster dictionary.
“I’m surprised that your last barber didn’t mention it to you, or do anything about it before.” I indicate that my former barber is currently sitting on the folded chairs, by the door, watching college football on the big screen television.
Jessica gracefully handles the comb and clipper, trimming my intensely bushy eyebrows back to normal-human proportions.
“I’m surprised that your wife never mentioned it to you before,” she states.
“Oh, she’s mentioned it plenty of times,” I respond.
A shampoo, scalp massage, and heated back massage follow. This level of pampering is way above my personal needs, and comfort level, but it is part of the packaged experience. Ease back, it’s part of the show. The heated, hot towel over my face seals the deal, and, in this moment, I wish that I could suspend this sliver of time for just a few more minutes.
Hair dryer, styling paste, abracadabra. With everything complete, I’m amazed at the transformation. I look like a new man, someone different, who slightly resembles the person that walked in the front door, twenty-five minutes earlier.
My stylist concurs. Adding her own bits of wisdom, she explains that some people get a new haircut for a new lease on life, and to feel different—sometimes younger, sometimes older. She conveys the idea that it’s like a second chance.
In the lobby, my wife catches the first glance. Eyes open wide, hopefully in surprise rather than shock. She is just as amazed at the transformation, and willfully relinquishes the reigns of my future hair management strategy.
“I can’t believe that you never cut his eyebrows before,” Jessica drops her words of wisdom onto the lobby floor.
“I’ve been telling him for years that they are out of control,” my wifes adds, or such sentiments—I can’t remember her exact words.
Goodbye, bushy eyebrows beyond belief.