My Year Of Unprofessional Haircuts

crispydoc Uncategorized 11 Comments

A few years ago, a provocative concept became the basis for a most amusing book entitled, "Not Quite What I Was Planning." The conceit was that, similar to the title, the book consisted entirely of six word memoirs submitted by persons ranging from the famous to the obscure. My favorite came from the writer Dave Eggers: "Fifteen years since last professional haircut."

Those six words capture the essence of his life quite nicely, and allow me to create a forced transition into something I've wanted to explore for some time: How has this whole cut my own hair experiment been working out for the past year plus?

Those Who Ignore The Past Are Condemned To Repeat It

Before going into specifics, it's important you know my relationship with hair over the years and how it has evolved to my present "devil may (hair)care" attitude of feigned indifference.

As a kid, I modeled my immigrant father's outmoded if generationally-appropriate "paste those suckers flat against your head to provide the illusion of order" flat comb look. This was adequate in grade school, until suddenly in the sixth grade several factors conspired to overturn the status quo all at once:

  • Girls, formerly repositories for the cooties to be avoided at all costs, became inexplicably interesting.
  • Our family relocated to live near two older female cousins who functioned as older sisters. They decided to bring me onto the bleeding edge of 1980s fashion as their life's mission. They did not necessarily ask my approval to do so.
  • John Hughes films provided templates of how to make oneself more interesting to girls.

My hair, it turns out, was an uncorrelated asset with respect to the type of person I aspired to become (one with a girlfriend). I'd wake up in the morning feeling debonair, look in the mirror, and shrink at the humid curls looking back at me. So that's how it's going to be today, huh?

My cousins tried helping me spend my birthday money on the more fashionable items that Korb's Trading Post had to offer, and once even bought me a gift certificate for an upscale hairdresser. I went, had a ton of product placed in my hair with a cut and blowdry, and looked great all afternoon.

By the next morning, my hair was back to doing what it wanted, and I had no patience for the time-intensive blow drying and product placement (see what I did there with my clever wordsmithery?) that looking good demanded.

Most of high school was spent helping my hair go unnoticed. On a good day, my hair was nondescript background for my personality, akin to the pastel color schemes popular among high schools of my era that were alleged to reduce violence by soothing adolescent sensory input.

I avoided investing time or effort in my hair and went long on personality instead. I reasoned it might be protective if I eventually went bald like my maternal grandfather (has yet to happen, but I hope to live long enough to see if it does).

For a few year in high school, I let the top grow borderline-skater long and used clippers to shave the bottom  close, so that I had an appearance my younger cousin from Mexico City once called el hongo, which translates to the mushroom. Surprisingly, he used the term with adulation, asking his mother, "Can I please get my next haircut in the form of a mushroom to resemble my cousin?"

Boyz To Men

As an adult, I generally got my haircuts from places that began with "Super" or "Fantastic," franchises where middle-aged men and women discussed grandchildren and life disappointments with their clientele.

These places met my needs in a number of ways:

  • They were familiar, as I'd frequented them as a teen.
  • They were inexpensive, typically under 20 bucks.
  • No matter how good or bad a job they did, my hair always looked good enough about two weeks out from the haircut.
  • They had frequent user cards that I got punched at each visit, so every 10th haircut was free.
  • They took under a half hour, usually closer to 15 minutes.

Inexpensive and quick might not have been the best criteria, but they did the job for many years. Then I met my future wife.

Paying My Debt To My Country

Early in my relationship with my soon-to-be wife, I went to a Supercuts and returned profoundly shorn. My then girlfriend seemed genuinely upset at how liberally the hairdresser had interpreted my request to trim a half inch. The words "plucked chicken" may have been used.

I explained that the woman who cut my hair had a son-in-law serving in the infantry in Iraq, and a pregnant daughter living with her. This woman needed to unload her life's troubles on someone, and I did not have the heart to cut her off.

ER docs are either ruthlessly efficient at moving the meat, or hand-holders. It was obvious to my wife that I was of the hand-holder variety.

Losing my hair that day felt like fulfilling my patriotic duty.

Surreptitious Mustachianism

A little over a year ago, inspired by Mr. Money Mustache, I decided to cut my own hair using clippers I'd purchased at Costco on the sly. I waited for a morning my wife was out of the house, watched a couple of youtube videos, and carefully went to work with scissors and clippers in front of the bathroom mirror. I swept up the mess before she returned.

That evening, my detail-oriented wife noted that I'd cut my hair, conducted a careful inspection of the perimeter, and mentioned that they'd done a decent job.

That was all the license I needed to make this my new normal. I spilled the beans, and with equal parts horror and curiosity, she agreed to tidy up the back of my head on future cuts.

Cutting my own hair has become the new normal.

In contrast to the "Super" and "Fantastic" budget hairdressers of my past, my kids have taken to lovingly calling my clippers "Dreadful Cuts."

Have there been hiccoughs? Of course. The unfortunate and entirely unintentional "rat tail incident" has given many people great pleasure in the retelling. I like to think I've made the world a happier place for the laughter I've indirectly contributed.

I have also learned that longer clipper settings are more forgiving, a lesson that took repeated failures to definitively enter my brain.

There's a perverse pride in being a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to haircuts. I'm an anomaly among peers, but one that commands a modicum of respect.

As for the money saved, on a doctor's salary it's trivial and besides the point. Hair is a distraction that I spend just enough effort to make adequate, so that in those spheres I prioritize, I can expend the effort to be great.

Comments 11

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      Author
  1. I was a Super and Fantastic customer most of my life (until last year when my mid-life crisis prompted me to discontinue haircuts altogether), so I clearly am a fan of efficiency and frugalism.

    One of my (many) daughters had her hair cut and colored this weekend to the tune of $300. I died a little bit.

    But after telling her how beautiful her new style looks, she admitted to me that she didn’t realize beforehand what the cost would be, and that she’ll be seeking a more reasonably priced alternative next time around. I beamed with pride.

    If “Amazing CDs Salon” ever opens to customers, we’ll be first in line.

    1. Post
      Author

      You’ll be the first to call it amazing, and the line will be short, but thinking about income-generating side hustles to occupy my time when this whole medicine gig gets old…I’ll send your daughter(s) the first card when I get one.

  2. Welcome to the club, and I don’t mean Costco!

    I believe I’ve had one professional haircut in the last 15 years. A guy who’d been cutting hair in our adopted small town for something like 70 years was about to retire, so I figured I ought to get in on that before it was too late.

    Otherwise, I just use the clippers and keep my straight Scandinavian hair good and short. I typically do a #2 buzzcut all around and trim it up 4 to 6 weeks later on the sides and back with #2, 3, and 4. About a month later, it’s an all-around buzzcut again. Has worked for me for years.

    My wife started watching Youtube videos and nagged me for about a year to cut her hair. I finally acquiesced. She has me take a couple inches off maybe twice a year. Takes three minutes max. One time, she wanted bangs, and I had to watch a few videos and take my time with that one, but it turned out well.

    Yes, I know I’m a lucky man.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    p.s. We cut the boys’ hair, too. Worst haircut one of them has ever had came from one of those Fantastic-type places. It was beyond-belief bad.

    1. Post
      Author

      Behold the Scandanavian Zohan!

      Any club you are in I’m happy to join (and yet simultaneously suspect, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, of any club that would have someone like me as a member).

      This reinforces my opinion that you married out of your league.

      Thanks for stopping by,

      CD

  3. Growing up going to professional salons, I’m proud to say I’m now somewhat part of this club. I never thought about the ridiculous cost (women >>> men) until my most recent stylist kept raising rates. One day in the midst of a $50k outlay for IVF, I said “No more”.

    I flip between cutting my own hair and visiting the “Super” franchises… and I’ve been cutting my husband’s hair since we were 19 and dating!

    1. Post
      Author

      Dawn,

      This is very old world / evocative of Fiddler on the Roof in how you make explicit the economics of marriage. You think he wed you for the expected haircut savings alone, or was there also a dowry of seventeen chickens, a carved wooden bureau and a goose down mattress to sweeten the pot?

      It doesn’t change a thing
      But even so
      After twenty-five years
      It’s nice to know

      Thanks for today’s smile!

      CD

  4. I have cut my hair since I was in high school. I think I do a decent job with it too. People are usually semi-impressed. I usually cut my hair every three weeks or so. It’s not hard when you have double mirrors and a tapered clipper.

    I like cutting my hair because it saves money and I know how I like my hair cut. It’s also kind of therapeutic for me. In a way, I think of cutting hair like trimming a bonsai– a form of art.

    Over the past 20 years, I’ve had my hair professionally cut only a handful of times. But when I do, I often have to “fix” it by cutting a few stray and uneven parts a bit more. The few times I’ve had my hair cut, it wasn’t necessarily for the hair cut, but for the experience. Hot towel, head massage, a glass of neat whisky, etc. Ahh, the luxury.

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      Author

      DMF,

      Consider me half-dazzled!

      You look fantastic for age 100, although there’s a little bit of root rot starting to show at the sideburns for those who know to look.

      You and PoF – I feel behind the curve but happy to jump on a bandwagon of folks I respect. Shall we have a DIY hair fashion show at the next Fin Con, with Peter Kim as the men’s category judge and Dawn as the women’s judge?

      -CD

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