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A Lifetime of Bad Haircuts Helps in a Pandemic

Updated: Aug 1, 2020

One of America’s greatest anxieties during the pandemic is the fate of the crop on top. Hair care — mainly the lack thereof — is of such concern that salons, barbershops and other parlors of primp, snip and coif were quickly elevated to the status of essential businesses that must be reopened forthwith.

I must confess that I do not participate in this wailing, lamentation and risk of infection. I trim my own locks. A scissors, a comb, a stance in front of the bathroom mirror and snip, snip, snip. Done! I should also mention that I have no clue how to cut hair. I just hack away. Fortunately, I have access to a hat, which covers a multitude of sins.

The last time I had a proper cut was in 2017. It seems I’ve always had an aversion to barbers, probably because my Uncle Jack was one. A rather coarse gentleman of the redneck persuasion, he hailed from Tennessee and took great delight in giving me bowl cuts when I was a child, whether I needed them or not. “Lowering your ears,” he called it. When I sprouted shoulder-length tresses as a teen, he was outraged and made it his life’s mission to get me into his chair. I made it my life’s mission to avoid such a terrible fate.

My unsullied pate.

Age 5: A department store cut.
Age 9: An Uncle Jack Special.

Age 13: Picking my locks.

Age 17: Hair farmer.
Age 26: The sports scribe look.
Age 36: Married with fuzz.

What was once an expression of protest morphed into laziness and frugality. I’ve never understood why anyone would be willing to spend more than $10 for a haircut, never mind the considerable added expense of dyeing, frosting, or other procedures, or why they’d have it done more than, say, twice a year. Then again, being presentable to the public is not one of my concerns. That may be due to having spent 30 years in a profession (sports journalism) where the slovenly Oscar Madison look is perfectly acceptable, if not expected.

“Did you cut this yourself?” I am always asked by the bemused hair configuration specialists at the discount establishments I visit whenever a job interview or state occasion requires me to seriously tidy up the old noggin. They never fail to notice and comment on the bizarre assortment of tufts, spears, flanges, wings, shoots, corkscrews and burrs that make me look like Dagwood Bumstead with terminal bedhead.

Despite occasional moments of shame, I gladly sacrifice artistry for convenience and savings by seizing my shears whenever I grow too shaggy. I don’t recommend you try this at home, but I simply cut my bangs in a slight curve at about mid-forehead, lop around my ears, and blindly hack at the back, approximating collar length and using touch to determine if my cut is even. (Usually not and I eventually give up trying to make it so.) Sometimes, I’ll attempt to layer the sides for a smoother, blended effect but they usually end up looking like a pack of weasels got loose there in a feeding frenzy.

I’m surprised that my wife hasn’t offered to lend a hand. Self-taught, she used to give our kids and me some pretty serviceable trims during our child-rearing years. Now she frequently asks, “You aren’t going out looking like that are you?” but her queries are directed at my attire. My omnipresent New York Giants cap effectively hides much of the monstrosity on my skull.

One of these days I’ll have to throw myself upon the mercy of a professional again. In the meantime, I’m happy to ride out the pandemic in my usual shabby state of tonsorial austerity.

John Rolfe is a former senior editor for Sports Illustrated for Kids, a longtime columnist for the Poughkeepsie Journal/USA Today Network, and author of The Goose in the Bathroom: Stirring Tales of Family Life. His school bus drivin’ blog “Hellions, Mayhem and Brake Failure” is parked on his website Celestialchuckle.com (https://celestialchuckle.com) with the meter running.


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