When the attachment to my shears fell off, right in the middle of my self-administered predawn haircut Dec. 23, meaning I just shaved a bald strip down the back of my head, I looked in the mirror and had a “Home Alone” moment: eyes wide, mouth even wider.
We had a good run, my follicles and me. In the early days, my mom cut my hair. They were tender moments, with a turquoise poncho around my neck. In middle school, I started to pay more attention to my hair, and I always combed it into a part. I grabbed an extra comb when they handed them out on picture day.
As a freshman in high school, my mom was giving me a routine haircut, and she accidentally forgot to put the attachment on the shears. My LEGO do was impaired, with an exclamation point shaved into the back of my head. It was a crisis. I demanded that she shave the rest of my hair off, but she refused. My father thought I would look like a skinhead, and that was final. Instead, for the next few weeks, I shimmied down the freshman hallway with my back against the lockers.
When I went to college, I buzzed it down to a half-inch. “You can’t stop me now, Dad!” When he saw me, he nearly wept. As a mostly bald man, he said, “You don’t know what you have till it’s gone, son.”
Of course, I knew I was safe. Baldness was a genetic trait that was traced to your maternal grandfather. And my mom’s dad still had a full head of hair. So there!
When I was 19, I went on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In other words, I lived on zero spending money for two years. As a result, I learned to cut my own hair. The first attempt was with scissors, and no amount of hair gel could save it. So, I skipped a couple of lunches to buy my own pair of cheap shears. Every Monday morning, I trimmed my hair. And let me tell you, I got darn good at it. I used all eight attachments, buzzing and blending to perfection. After a month or two, no one would ever know I was flying solo.
Afterward, I returned to college. I got married. I had three kids, and slowly, my hair began to get thinner and thinner. Genetics, where are you now?!
I began to count all the men in a room and figure out the percentages of scalps that were showing more than mine was. I began to have nightmares of comb-overs. Finally, after years of agony and debate, I buzzed my hair down to a quarter-inch. This is the new me, I said to the mirror. I even changed the head shot that goes with my newspaper column. No turning back.
But my wife was not pleased. “You didn’t have a comb-over!” she cried. “It looked fine! Now you look bald!”
“There, there,” I cooed. “This too shall pass.”
A week or so ago, I departed from my quarter-inch routine, and I tried the one-eighth attachment. My wife was not pleased. “Now your head looks just like your five o’clock shadow!”
I nodded, solemnly. “But babe, the comb-over,” I said.
And so we come back to the morning of Dec. 23. My one-eighth do was getting a bit shaggy, so I decided to trim it. But, as a Christmas present to my beautiful, caring, forgiving — especially forgiving — wife, I decided not to go as extreme as one-eighth. Instead, I pulled out a little-used pink attachment that was in between an eighth and a quarter. This should allow me to stay sharp but not go too short.
However, the pink attachment is not particularly tight on my shears. It buzzes and rattles. Still, I plowed across my scalp. Not bad, I decided. Not bad at all. Hailey probably won’t even notice that I —
And then it happened. I was leaning over the garbage can so as not to get clippings on the floor, and I saw the pink attachment in the garbage. Not on my shears.
As I shaved the rest of my hair down to the scalp, I thought of what I’d say. How could I make this seem better than it was?
Well, at least my hair was bad in the first place, I could begin. I mean, what if I had luxurious, thick, stylish hair like Michael Chiumento or Chris Romaine, I would tell her. Imagine the loss!
But Mike and Chris are lawyers, and that would only lead to more heartache. (I convinced Hailey to marry me in college largely on the promise that I was pre-law. If you want the full story, you’ll have to ask her. Better yet, ask me. Actually, forget it.)
No, the only thing I had to offer was the cost savings in shampoo. That and the texture. It’s kind of fun to touch my head now, because it’s extra prickly.
But let’s be honest. It’s going to be a rough couple of weeks as this beast slowly grows back. In the meantime, if you’re looking for something to buy me for my birthday, I’m in the market for a good hat.