I am now a responsible and upstanding member of society. But once, when I was younger…well, I was still a responsible and upstanding member of society. Only I didn’t necessarily look like one. I had ear-rings, long hair, a tattoo. And nerdy glasses and nerdy body language.
Now, I have much less hair, I have small holes in my ear, but I still have the tattoo (and the nerdy mannerisms).
I don’t know why I chose to grow my hair long. My closest friend at the time had long hair, so I suppose that helped, but he also smoked like a chimney, drank like a fish, and lived like a hobo. I did none of those things. Because I was a nerd.
The hair thing was just easier. Like how some people grow a beard by default: they’re not actively growing anything; they’re passively not shaving. I hate having my hair cut. I hate the proximity to strangers. I hate the small talk of holiday plans and what-do-you-do? Suddenly I had the example of people who didn’t ever do that. And I followed them because I didn’t want to go through the nearly-dentistry levels of trauma that barbers inspired in me.
And I got more cash for drinking. Not like a fish, though. Well, not a big fish.
So, clearly, I had really good reasons for growing my hair long. Really well-thought-out reasons. And having my hair all cut off again was equally well thought out.
I’d been to a comic-book shop and it was closed. The walk back to the bus station took me by a barbers. I’d never been in before, hadn’t really given it a second glance (as it had nothing to say to my luxurious-hair-growing lifestyle). But I looked in, saw it wasn’t busy, and I decided I’d have my pony tail removed. On a whim.
I stepped in. The barber was cutting a small kid’s hair. His mother sat watching. “How can I help?” his assistant asked. “I want my hair shaved off,” I told him. The room went quiet. Really. Like in a saloon when Clint Eastwood walks in looking for the man that shot his pa. Then both barbers grinned.
They couldn’t get me sitting down fast enough. The assistant looked me in the eye – via the mirror – and said, “Are you sure?” like I was donating a kidney and didn’t understand I wasn’t going to get it back.
He took out the big scissors, the ones that look like shears. The ones they apparently save for moments like this.
He turned to the mother who seemed to have forgotten her kid was getting his first haircut, and he asked, “Do you want to do it?”
‘Do you mind?” she asked me.
“Not at all,” I said, the whole thing feeling more and more surreal. I was having an out-of-body haircut.
She stood up, then sat back down. “No, I just can’t!” she says, laughing. I was the highlight of more than one person’s day at that point.
The barber gripped my hair – more than a year’s growth – and looked me in the eye again (via the mirror) as he cut it off right by the nape of my neck. It hung in his hand like a weasel’s tail. “Do you want to keep it?” he asked me, waving it about.
“No,” I assured him. “That’s fine.”
And that was that. The easiest amputation I’d ever have.
As I left the barbers, the North Wind hit me square in the face. A new and urgent realization hit me: I needed to buy a hat.