Take This Hair and Cut It

By BOB WIRE

Young boys hate getting haircuts even more than getting baths. Why do you think all those old family photos show the poor kid crying while dad’s cigar-chomping barber shaves his tender noggin with a ten-pound chrome clipper that clatters like a two-cycle engine in need of a ring job?

Somewhere along the line, though, boys become men, and men love getting their hair cut.

For forty minutes or so, we get to sit in one of the coolest chairs ever invented and have an attractive young woman snug up against us and run her fingers through our hair. The only other time I get that anywhere else is when there’s a lice outbreak at home.

I had gone to a barber for a long time when I was rocking a crew cut. I’m afflicted with numerous aggressive cowlicks, and if my hair is any longer than half an inch, I have to wear a hat until it gets long enough to put in a ponytail. I’m not kidding. I’ve had barbers and hairdressers comb this hedge out and stand back to just ponder it in awe. It makes Keith Richards look like Alec Baldwin. One woman said it reminded her of a deformed octopus she saw on the Discovery Channel. She is no longer cutting my hair.

One of the problems of being a middle aged guy rocking a 1950s haircut is that only a middle aged (or older) barber knows how to confidently execute it. The guy who I’d trained to give me the Modified Bob Wire (I want my head to look like a jump ramp, I’d told him) has moved to another town. I decided to give a hair salon a shot. I figured if I want some old man running his hands all over my head, I’ll dye my hair green and hang out in the produce section at Safeway.

Bob's winning DIY haircut technique.

Don't try this at home. Do it at someone else'shouse.

So I made an appointment with a local salon. The need for an appointment is one difference from a barber.

At a barbershop, you just walk in and wait your turn, whiling away the time reading Maxim magazine, avoiding eye contact with the cobwebbed moose head over the cash register, and listening to the other patrons quoting Fox News.

The salon girl on the phone told me that Gina would be happy to style my hair. Style. An image of Flock of Seagulls pranced into my head.

On the appointed day, I strolled into the salon wearing a baseball cap. Once the blinds were drawn and the doors were secure, I removed the hat and let my unfettered locks spring forth like a magician’s bouquet. There were audible gasps.

While I stood there, feeling like the Elephant Man, Gina poked around my head, grabbing a hank of hair here and there, working it between here crimson-nailed fingers. “What kind of shampoo are you using?”

“I think it’s called ‘20% More Free.’”

“Here,” said Gina, taking my arm and guiding me toward a room in the back. “Let’s get you shampooed.”

She leaned me back in my chair, placing my head in a guillotine/sink contraption, and began lathering my auburn thatch, working her strong fingers all over my scalp. It was very relaxing. My eyes were closed, and, well, let’s just say it’s a good thing I had a robe on.

“Hon, can you stop moaning?” she said. She rinsed my hair with warm water, and wrapped a thick towel around my head. Then she led me to her station and sat me in the swivel chair. Running a comb through my wet hair, she remarked that it was kind of naturally wavy.

“Yeah, when it grows out it gets a little curly. Not an afro, though, like Don Henley.”

“Who’s Don Henley?”

“He plays with the Eagles.”

She continued combing. “I don’t really watch football.”

She blow-dried my hair a bit, then reached for her clippers. “Use a number two clipper,” I said, eliciting a surprised lift of the eyebrows from Gina. “Just around the sides and back. Leave it longer on top. Razor the neck with a fade, not boxed.” These things I’d remembered from my barber.

She buzzed me with the clippers, which were not nearly as loud as the jackhammering Black & Decker beast that my old barber used. She switched to scissors and quickly got the top evened up. “The way your hair grows, we’re going to have to put some product in it to hold it in place. Do you comb it forward?”

“You mean like Caesar?”

Bob Wire's haircut

A haircut? Or a cry forhelp?

“Who?”

“You mean like Justin Bieber?” I said.

She nodded. Finally. Generations spanned.

“No,” I said. “Gina, I’m a man in his fifties with a good hairline, and I like to show it off. I comb it back.”

“Well, we’ll still need to put something in it.”

“Do you have Vitalis?” I asked.

“No, but my sister had Chlamydia once,” she said, regarding my copse of cowlicks. She pushed her plump lower lip upward in a look of concentration, and then nodded. “I have just the stuff.”

She went to the merchandise rack and came back with a squat jar of something called “Hipster Hummus Super Goo.” Smiling devilishly, she twisted off the lid. “Do you mind if I experiment a little bit?”

I shrugged. What the hell. I planned on washing this stuff out with 20% More Free as soon as I got home anyway. She stuck two fingers into the jar of shiny, lime green gunk and started vigorously rubbing it into my unsuspecting hair. Then she became a focused whirl of energy, smearing the gunk with one hand, snipping microscopic bits of hair with another, and tweaking my ‘do into shape with the other.

When she was finished, she spun my chair around so I could see the end result in the mirror. I looked like I was riding a motorcycle backwards under fifteen feet of water.

“Wow.”

“I know, right?” she said, clapping her hands together. “You look so cool!”

The other salon girls clamped on fake smiles as I paid at the cash register. I had a sudden vision of getting into a bad car wreck on the way home, and being loaded into the back of an ambulance.

“Oh my GOD,” the EMT would exclaim. “LOOK at this poor man’s HEAD. He’ll never survive. We’re going to have to amputate.”

I thanked Gina and told her I’d call in a month or so and make another appointment. She was a nice enough person, a good listener, and seemed truly interested in trying to give me the haircut that I really wanted, even if I had trouble articulating it to her.

I liked her. That’s why I waited until I was out of sight before I put my hat back on.

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Wanna laugh ’til your sides hurt? These ought to do the trick: Spring Yard Work: More Fun with a Beer in One HandBob Wire Will Pass on Grass, and The Guitar That Saved My Soul.

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blogarchive.

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Bob Wire trims his hair with a weed-whacker.

Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers.