Embers From the Fire
A weekly blog by Deacon Dan Wagnitz for the Quad-Parish Community
A Little Off the Top – 7/9/2021
As we move into the heart of summer, I have been thinking of summer haircuts. When I was a kid, my father cut my hair and my brother Mike’s hair. In the summertime we had two choices – crew cut or the zip, otherwise known to us as the “buzz”. The difference was that with the crew cut, Dad left just enough hair stubble to produce that “flat top” finish. The zip cut pretty much resembled a shorn sheep.
There were advantages to the short, short hairstyles for a boy because especially the zip cut meant you didn’t have to ever worry about combing your hair. Although as a young boy I can’t ever remember being overly concerned about combing my hair. For me, the main complaint was not sporting the flowing mane of a chihuahua, it was the agony of the haircut ordeal. Several factors led to the haircut being an ordeal:
First and foremost, my father was not a patient man. He had no intention of waiting for his children. That meant that when he announced it was haircut time, I had to sit at the kitchen table quietly while Mike got his hair cut first. For me, that meant twice the amount of playtime was wasted.
Second, and this was an overarching form of discrimination my entire childhood, I was the youngest. That meant that I always had to go last – no argument, no taking turns, end of discussion, period. Come to think of it, that’s how most discussions of suggestion went with my father – they ended in silence of a thought never uttered out loud. Not only did I have to sit and wait for Dad to finish Mike’s hair, I had to wait while the clippers cooled down.
The clipper then was the third reason that haircuts were an ordeal. My Dad had an electric clipper that was big enough to trim up large farm animals for showing at the County Fair. My family did operate a riding stable for several years before I was born, so for all I know that’s exactly where the clipper did come from. Apparently, the clipper became hot to the touch from the job of cutting Mike’s hair, because when Dad was done with him, he put the clipper in a brown paper bag and then put the bag in the freezer. Again, going back to the reality of my dad’s lack of patience, I had to sit and wait until he decided the clipper was cool enough to continue the shearing.
There were several plastic trimming attachments that were supposed to help ensure against gouging and uneven cutting. My Dad used them all every time. So, even if he intended to eventually zip off all of your hair nearly to the scalp, he still always started with the attachment that left the most hair, then he went down to the next size and so on, until he got down to the stubble master setting. I thought many times about asking him why he didn’t just start with the zip attachment and get it over with, but that was another suggestion that I think wisely went forever unspoken.
The last reason that I dreaded haircuts was the blue bench. We had this little blue bench, or stepstool that my dad used to put on top of the kitchen table. With us sitting on the blue bench Dad didn’t have to bend over to work, so I am sure that this setup helped his back. But we had to climb up there and sit on the bench for our haircut. And I had to climb up onto the bench as soon as Mike was finished, which meant that I had to sit there and wait for the clipper to cool down until my haircut was even started. Then I had to endure the haircut itself. That took an eternity, which was probably something like 45 minutes. Now that I think of it in “kid time” maybe that was two eternities. And because the bench had no backrest, by about halfway through my haircut my back was aching. I wisely refrained from complaining (externally anyway).
All my memories of youth are not necessarily fond ones. Many are, but not all. I miss my Dad, but not those haircuts. Maybe those haircut ordeals of youth are why I have never wasted much time bemoaning the fact that I have very little hair left on top these days. I still don’t have to worry about combing my hair, I don’t have to wait to go last, and I waste very little playtime on haircuts these days. I’ll count those as blessings.