One Year on the Road

Bad Cuts

Shaggy head.

Shaggy head.

By the time I reached Durango, I was starting to look like Shaggy on Scooby Doo. (Without the scraggly beard.) In Eugene, one hairdresser has kept my impertinent cowlicks tamed for more than 20 years, and this trip is a good opportunity for me to branch out and let go of my fear of bad cuts. Before we left home, I decided I would get my hair cut only at old-time barber shops with barber poles.

Barber shops are the last holdouts of gender exclusion. There are no signs that say “Men Only,” but women know better than to cross that threshold into the dimly lit, aftershave-infused interior.

When I was a kid, I envied the Saturday morning excursions my older brother and Dad would take to our small town’s only barber shop. I had short hair, too. An androgynous style made more acceptable by its name (“pixie cut”) and perfected by my mother at our kitchen table. I wanted to get my hair trimmed at the barber shop, too, where the hypnotically spinning pole looked like a constantly regenerating candy cane. There were comic books, my brother told me, and a radio that played old fashioned music. But that was one of my earliest lessons in male privilege. Barbers were only for boys.

Steeling myself.

Steeling myself.

So 50 years later, why not break through those glass doors? Old-fashioned barber shops across the country… here I come.

Durango was a perfect place to start. The tiny shop on the main downtown strip had probably been there for 100 years. It had the required spinning candy cane pole and a barber with a white shop coat and tidy gray hair. I’m sure I’m not the first middle-aged woman to enter their shop, but he looked rather disbelieving when I asked for a cut. He was with someone, so he directed me to the other chair, and after a few minutes, Izzy appeared from behind a curtain and fastened a black cape around my neck.

My first barber cut.

My first barber cut.

When Izzy asked me what I wanted, I wasn’t sure what to say other than, “Just shorter by an inch or so.” (Now I know better and will insist on bangs that don’t look like a shrunken shirt on a pregnant belly.) Izzy clicked his razor to a steady buzz and started on the back of my head. He was done so quickly, I had no time to assess or direct. But I’d put my self-esteem in his hands, and I just had to trust that he wouldn’t impose his own shaved-sides hairstyle on me.

In the end, I had something similar to the pixie cut I wore throughout my childhood, which doesn’t look quite so impish on a 60-year-old. I’m not crazy about the tiny bangs and am jolted when I glance in a mirror. But it’s out of my eyes and is cool in the early summer heat, and it looks fine enough, I guess. This year, my haircuts will be an exercise in quashing vanity, and so far, it’s working well.

The final cut.

The final cut.

5 thoughts on “Bad Cuts

  1. ehbidmon

    I admire your bravery. On many a road trip, I have needed a haircut, but was never brave enough to do it. Instead, I opted to tie my hair up or pull it back in a ponytail. Too many bad cuts over the years. And, I guess I’m not ready to give up on vanity. Fortunately, Laura is right, hair grows!

  2. Beth

    You know how much I love adventure on a road trip… and adventures with my sister. But I think I’d like to join you on your next barber experience, with camera duties, only! Too bad it’s too soon, since there’s a great pole and shop in Austin!

    I lived those pixies with you back in the 1960’s. I dreamed of having a ponytail to swing behind me. (Never achieved that pony tail thing) So I’m not up for a shared haircut experience. But how about we go get our shoes shined together!

  3. LindaSpencer

    Wow, you are brave! I gave up on getting hair cuts a long time ago. I have some kind of Scandinavian baby hair that never did much more than lay there. I would spend sometimes (to me) a small fortune on a hair cut and it wasn’t much different than when I cut it myself. I finally invested in a flowbee and have been doing suck cuts for 25 years or so. My feeling is that I would rather be mad at myself than someone else.

    Ultimately, I don’t know who came up with this expression, but I always liked it: The only difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is two weeks.

  4. Claire

    Okay, the bangs are a little short and somewhat precise… I guess if it was me I’d be looking for one of those places like Supercuts, where folks have their first jobs out of school. But maybe those places aren’t inexpensive either?

    But good for you, Jennifer! I’da been up and outa that chair so fast when Izzy clicked his razor! My vanity would win out, I think. I’d be stalking women in the grocery asking about their haircuts, and I’d still probably not be able to get a haircut I liked.

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