It’s 1969. I’m nine years old. This is sound of my mom (bless her heart) trying to cut my hair Not Quite So Short:
Mom: Oops. Oh, shoot.
…Aaaaand I have a buzz cut once again.
While Everyone Else On The Planet seems to look like this in 1969:
or at least THIS:
I looked like this:
It’s not my mom’s fault. She does her best. My thin, fine hair is hard to cut properly. Eventually, though, my dad grows out HIS crew cut, so I get to grow out mine, too. Still, school rules dictate that boys’ hair must hang no lower than the earlobes. Here’s me, following the rules, circa 1973:
Yes, that’s basically a Dutch Boy cut “above the earlobes.” Maybe it’s an improvement? It’s arguable.
It doesn’t get much better over the next couple of years either–a little longer, maybe, but still a bowl cut:
I say I want it “tapered a bit,” but my mom knows her limits, so bowl cut it remains.
1976. There’s this girl at school named Esther, who can cut hair. In fact, she can cut ANYONE’s hair, from “Hoss” Hostetler’s kinky ‘fro to John’s super straight locks. I wonder if maybe she would cut mine. She says she will.
As a self-conscious 15-year-old, I’m going over to Lorri’s house (a girl on whom I had a secret crush) where Esther (a very nice cheerleader who nonetheless beat me in the shot put on Field Day back when I was 11 and she was 12) is going to invade my personal space and cut my hair.
“You have to wash it first,” she says as she and Lorri set up a stool in the middle of the kitchen.
I had NOT expected this. Hoping they don’t see me trembling, I awkwardly strip off my shirt and wash my hair in the utility sink. Somehow, I make it to the stool without my knees buckling.
Lorri and Esther look me over. I’m probably beet red, but they don’t mention it. They’re looking at my hair.
“You should part it down the middle,” says Esther. Lorri agrees. To prove the point, Esther parts it down the middle. Wet strands hang down on my left cheek like a bad comb-over.
“Yeah, you should definitely part it down the middle,” they declare.
Change is HARD! Change is SCARY! What will my DAD THINK if his son parts his hair DOWN THE MIDDLE?! (Only girls part their hair down the middle!) (Wait, where did I get that idea??) (I DON’T KNOW!). None of this internal monologue is verbalized, of course.
Lorri and Esther have no idea why it takes them fifteen minutes to convince me. I even call my mom, for Pete’s sake! Finally, I allow it. Esther cuts my hair parted down the middle. Two people think it looks decent. I’m too freaked out inside to know. It’s definitely different.
I walk back home. I can hear the radial arm saw in the backyard before I even get to our gate. My dad’s back there, slicing through screaming pieces of lumber with a sharp, spinning, carbide-tipped steel blade. I approach, heart pounding, and take one of the pieces off the end of the machine as he’s done cutting.
He takes one look at my hair. “You parted it down the middle.”
He feeds the whining machine another piece of lumber. No big deal.
I go to school the next day, half scared of what people will say. They like it.
Sometimes a little thing can start a chain reaction. This haircut altered my whole self-image. I have thanked Esther and Lorri many times over the years, though never personally. Maybe this will get through. THANKS! You have no idea what you did!
By the early 1980s, I’d pretty much caught up with the Beatles. Okay, maybe not George and John, but Paul and Ringo, anyway.
Later on, I sported more of a– Well, that’s a whole ‘nother story.