The Despoiling of My Head: A Story of the Worst Haircut Ever

By: Jacob Lewis

I make a lot of plans in my life. Some detailed, most not. For example, I used to live in an apartment where the driveway sloped downwards into our tandem parking space. One day I needed to get to work for an important meeting, but the car closest to the street had a dead battery (it was a Prius so not an easy fix). Not only was it useless, but it was blocking in our other car. Frantically, I formed a plan to resolve the situation. I started by demanding that Sara get in the Prius and put it in neutral. I would then push it up the hill to allow our other car to escape. Sara objected to this plan because 1) it was a car, 2) parked on a slope.  As such, she believed that the second she put it in neutral it would  roll down the three feet it would take to crush me between our two vehicles, resulting in my immediate death or permanent crippling. However, I countered her physics and biological based arguments with, “I needed to get to work and she should just do it.” Fortunately, the Toyota repair people showed up and we’ll never know who was right and who was wrong.

I tell the above story to serve as context to my next statement. I have never put less thought into a plan than my plan for getting my haircut. From the moment I was old enough to go to the barber by myself (that was some 17th birthday) I would give them only vague descriptions of what I wanted. Usually I would say, “like it is now, but much shorter, not a buzz, but short”. When I moved to a new area my priorities for choosing a barber were originally price, proximity, speed, smell of the salon, waiting room entertainment, presence of snacks, presence of spiders and finally, quality; which might have something to do with some of my less than successful experiences. During those experiences, on not a occasions, Sara had to inform me that my sideburns were different lengths, or that the back wasn’t even, or that I was bleeding pretty badly. After a while, I switched the order of price and speed (that my friends is called growing up) on my priorities list and since that time I have had no more bad experiences.

However…

Last weekend I decided to get my semi-annual haircut and rather than my usual barber I chose a place by my office. I walked into the salon mid-day, there was no wait and I had my choice between all three of the barbers present. I did not view this lack of business as a warning sign.

I sat in the chair and told the barber my usual instructions. I actually remember his name, but for the sake of anonymity I will just call him Mexican Conrad Murray. I give him this name because he told me he was from Mexico, which distinguishes him from the actual Conrad Murray, who was from Grenada, and the fact he was about to destroy something that wasn’t exactly beautiful anymore, but loved all the same.

After he heard my instructions, Mexican Conrad Murray just stared at me and asked, “have you ever tried spiking my hair?”

I told him no, I never style my hair or put any product in it, but that I just needed it shorter and professional looking. Mexican Conrad Murray responded, “you mean, like a comb over?” I did not view this response as a warning sign, so I responded, “I don’t think so, just shorter, and professional looking, does that make sense?”

Mexican Conrad Murry stared at me blankly, and then grinned and nodded his head while saying, “don’t worry man, I’ll take care of you.”

“What an odd thing to say”, I thought. “He didn’t answer my question or express any sort of understanding that he knew what I wanted. At the same time, it gives the impression that he has a plan in place, one that I might not be privy to. However, he did say he’ll take care of me, so there should be no need to worry. “

The haircut began and I passed the time learning about Mexico and arguing with one of the other barbers (nobody had come in since my arrival so everyone was very talkative) about the term Kiwis. I tried to explain that Kiwis were a nickname for people from New Zealand, because Kiwis are birds and they live there, and it might actually be their national animal. The other barber, who I will call Russian Charles Darwin, argued that Kiwis meant people from Australia, because he heard it on a documentary he saw on the Lord of the Rings movies. I told Russian Charles Darwin that the movies were filmed in New Zealand, but he said that he knew that and it wasn’t what he was talking about.

As our conversation continued, I also learned he didn’t understand the movie “Get Out”. By not understand (spoiler warning for next sentence) I don’t mean he didn’t get any sort of subtext or commentary on racial issues. I mean he didn’t understand why the white girl had black grandparents.

It was at that moment that I felt Mexican Conrad Murray put a bunch of plastic sticks in my hair. This…was new to me, and when the internal alarms, ever so quietly, began to go off in my head. I asked him, “what are those for”. He explained, “I need it to get to your sides”. That seemed like a legitimate thing for a barber to say, so I dropped it.

There was silence for the next 20 minutes as Mexican Conrad Murray finished my haircut and Russian Charles Darwin played with his phone, probably hoping to find some evidence that Kiwi’s meant Australians so he could rub it in my face.

“Good luck mother fucker”, I thought, “I may only know six things, but that’s one of them”.

Mexican Conrad Murray finished the haircut and immediately put about 9 gallons of spray and product in my hair, even though I had told him in the beginning I didn’t like any of that stuff. I didn’t truly feel like something was off until I shook my head a little before looking in the mirror. I felt the cool breeze on my almost bare sides, but also felt the heavy bounce of a lot of hair still on the top of my head.

I looked in the mirror, and I do not have the words to describe what I saw. I literally don’t. I tried. All that comes to mind is a white void of nothingness when attempt to communicate the image. I would have an easier time trying to communicate with the aliens from Arrival. Instead of describing it directly, like all great scholars, I will reference Family Guy. The following quote comes from a cut away gag where a barber asks Javier Bardem how he would like his hair cut, and he responds: “Long in the short places, and short in the long places. It should be from both the future and the past. Like something a child would do to a doll.” That is as close as I can get.

I told Mexican Conrad Murray that I didn’t understand what he did. He said, “I gave you a comb over, but made it more professional looking.”

My response,

“…what…”

Mexican Conrad Murray stared at me blankly.

“I said I didn’t want a combo over, isn’t that what they give bald people.”

“oh…yes…that is what you said. I just thought this would be more professional.”

“…that….what….please fix it”

Mexican Conrad Murray gave me a startled look and said, “I don’t think I can change it because I would have to shave the whole thing, and that would be like a buzz.”

Now, I hated this haircut, but hair is a necessity for me. My head is huge. Like really really huge. I can’t wear hats. The only thing that shields the world from its actual magnitude is the presence of hair, which somehow creates an illusion of relative normal size.

“I’m not getting a buzz”.

Mexican Conrad Murray nodded and responded, ”listen, it should grow in just fine. Since this isn’t what you want, I’m sorry, I’m not going to charge you for it.”

That was a fair resolution. It’s like that time I was run over by my Uber, my legs were crippled but didn’t have to pay for the cancelled ride.

Resisting the urge to either start crying or screaming, “PUT IT BACK!” I grabbed my jacket and walked out. Part of my brain instinctively pinged my guilt center with, “you still should have left a tip, that’s how he makes his living.” That part of my brain is going to be the subject of a series of targeted glue fume strikes until it dies a coward’s death.

When I got home, I prayed that I was mistaken about the haircut. Sara confirmed that I was not. Athena and Juliet both said it looked, “cute”.

A few days later I went to my normal barber and told them I needed to fix this. The woman behind the counter said “good, I was waiting for you to say something like that because I couldn’t imagine someone intentionally requesting that haircut.”

Hurtful.

An hour later I left my barber shop with my hair much shorter, but infinitely nicer looking. What I’ve learned from this experience is that once you have a routine that works, you should never create a plan that changes it. Not ever, until you die, or if possible, not even then.

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