Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Great Haircut Stories

For the past several weeks, perhaps months, I’ve been busy with family, church, work, and a larger writing project.  Today, to help me unwind, I decided to share some important experiences related to my development and upbringing—important haircuts in my life.  For those of you who are kind enough to read my blog on at least an intermittent basis you may have read about my friend Brett’s amazing haircut experience in China during a beer festival.  If you haven’t read it, here’s a link to that adventure: “Living on the Edge: Brett, the CulturalWarrior, in China”.  I don’t think any of my experiences approach his in terms of raw shock and awe, but I think they’re informative, entertaining, and impactful.



First Haircut
Of course I don’t remember my first haircut.  I just remember my parents talking about it.  It’s been several years, maybe even a decade or two since they have mentioned it, but I remember it still.  The conversation between them would go something like this:

Dad: “Remember when you took Jarad in for his first haircut.”

Mom: “Yes, I remember.  You were so mad when they cut all of his curls off and they never came back.”

Dad: “He was so cute with curls.”

Mom: “I know.”

They would both sigh and look at me with a bit of regret in their eyes and shake their head sadly.  I’ve always wondered how cute I would have been if I had kept my curls.  Would I have been more successful, more personable?  Would I have had more friends?  Perhaps I would be a successful third term politician by now.  Instead I grew up missing the cuter Jarad I never really knew.  I like to think the loss of the curls made me a stronger person, that I was forced to work harder for what I have received.  My natural intelligence and work ethic were forced to the forefront of my personality as my natural good looks were somewhat diminished.  Like my parents I still sigh when I think about those lost curls.

Naval Junior Officer Training Corps and the Flat Top
As a young child I once talked my dad into giving me a buzz cut.  My mom hated it (probably because it reminded her even more of my lost curls).  Other than that one buzz cut I went years without an exciting haircut.  It was the same every time, with the perfect part on the one side.  If I got my part wrong, my mom either used a sharp-toothed comb to fix it or made me go try again.

Life changed when I entered the 8th grade.  My dad decided to up and join the US Navy at the ripe old age of thirty, pulling our family from quaint little Duchesne, Utah all the way across the country to Pensacola, Florida.  Eighth grade in Florida was painful.  Nobody really liked the kid from Utah with huge glasses and a perfect part in his hair.  My favorite places that year were in my dreams and at church. 

When summer rolled around I tried out for the freshman football team at the high school and was selected to play outside linebacker.  In order to fit onto the team and to deal with the hot, humid summer, I cut my hair quite short, not a buzz, but you know, very short.  It was nothing exotic, but practical.  As school started I was excited to register for the NJROTC classes, sort of follow in my dad’s footsteps and learn a little more about the military.  The NJROTC instructors were amazing.  They managed to convince me, and others lest you think I was alone, that it would be cool and patriotic to wear a uniform to school once a week while keeping a short haircut. 

Shortly after school started I was warned by one of the instructors during our weekly inspection that my hair was about due for a haircut.  My dad decided to take me to a local barber he had been seeing for a few months.  An older gentleman named Ivan owned the barbershop.  He had two other ladies who worked for him. 

As I sat down my dad smiled and said to Ivan and to me, “What do you think about a flat top?” 

Never before had I really considered a flat top haircut, but I liked the idea.  Ivan responded before I could.

“I think he would look great with a flat top.  He would have to get a special flat top brush to train his hair and to make it work.”

Ivan proceeded to describe the process of training hair to stand up.  As a new member of the NJROTC I was thrilled at the prospect of doing my own training.  Quickly I agreed.  It was refreshing to have the sides of my head shorn of hair.  Ivan used an old-fashioned straight blade razor to clean up the appropriate spots.  It took him some time to get the hair on top to the right length and even.  When he was finished, I thought I looked pretty good.  In short order I had my own flat top brush.

In fact, I still have a flat top brush to this day.  I think I’ve owned a total of two flat top brushes.  The last one I bought, and still use today, was purchases after I lost my first one when I was fifteen or sixteen years old.  My sisters think it’s a little gross that I still have the brush, but I love it, missing bristles and all.

For the next two years I met with Ivan and his straight blade on at least a monthly basis to keep my flat top in good working order.

Wild and crazy in the Basin – Or, Making It Up as I Go
After my sophomore year I moved back to Duchesne.  I kept my flat top for a while, but it wasn’t considered as cool as it was as it was in Pensacola, so I slowly let it fade.  Plus, it wasn’t a great haircut to have during the cold winters.  My first winter back, I went over to Roosevelt for work and decided to stop in for a haircut at a local barbershop on Main Street.  I had never been there before and didn’t really know anybody.  When it was my turn I sat in the chair, not sure what I wanted.  Looking up I saw that the place was full of fathers and sons waiting their turns.  None of them had anything too crazy, outside of maybe a lingering mullet, which was not considered extreme at the time (or even still).

I must have been bored and wanted to entertain the crowd because I told the barber I wanted something like a high and tight, but I didn’t want the hair shortened on top.  In fact, I wanted him to leave a distinct line like a bowl cut with the longer hair coming down to a point on the back of my head.  The barber asked me several times if I was sure that was what I wanted and if my parents would approve.  I told him I was spending my money and that they wouldn’t care, too much.  Also, I mentioned that I was from Duchesne and that I doubted my parents would come over to give him a hard time for giving me a crazy haircut.

It was obvious he was excited to do it.  I doubt he had ever given such an exotic haircut.  All of the boys and their fathers leaned forward in their chairs to watch, making comments to one another about what the barber was doing to me.  Some made it clear they didn’t approve of my deviant behavior.   Some of the boys, especially those younger than me, started to ask if they could get a similar haircut.  Discussions went back and forth as the barber did his work.

When I was finished I paid and walked out the door with fathers and sons still discussing the option of getting the same haircut and wondering what mom would say.  I hope some of them were brave enough to try it.  Of course, my dad didn’t love the haircut, but neither did I.  All of the joy was in being the center of attention and causing a little controversy.  Within a few days I had the back of my head fixed and the rest of my hair shortened a little.  I believe that was the only time I was considered a trendsetter in my life.  Whatever happened, I think the barber was excited to try something new.

The Russian Sporteevni’ and Karma
Learning to ask for a good haircut in a foreign country in a foreign language is a true challenge.  As a missionary I worked hard to make sure that I knew how to describe what I wanted.  By the time I needed a haircut I could explain how long I wanted it on the various portions of my cranium.  (For some reason all of us missionaries in Russia, at least the elders, loved to go to the beautician schools so we could get our hair cut by the young, pretty female students.)

At the time I was in Russia, the sporteevni’ cut was all the rage with the young men.  Basically, it was just a buzz cut.  Of course they loved to give buzz cuts because it was easy to do and easy to satisfy the customer.  Unfortunately a buzz cut did not fit with the grooming standards for missionaries.  We had to figure out how to describe what we wanted.  Failure to do so accurately could result in serious mistakes.

When I had been in the country for a year one of the newer missionaries asked me for instructions on how to get a haircut.  Honestly, I gave him the correct instructions and the correct vocabulary.  A week later we met up at a baptism.  We were standing outside the school, where the baptism would take place, in the cold winter air.  He was wearing his shapka and I could tell he wasn’t happy with me. 

Finally, he pulled his fur shapka off of his head and said, “Look at this!  Look at what you did.”

His hair, what was left of it, looked terrible.  I’m not sure what he told them, but my guess is that as he realized they weren’t doing what he wanted, that he kept trying to correct them.  The result was horrendous.  I apologized, trying to convince him that I had given him good instructions.  He didn’t believe me, but he did think it was kind of funny.

Skip ahead several months.  I was nearing the end of my mission.  The long Russian winter in Yekaterinburg finally had come to an end and I wanted a shorter haircut to match the weather.  Completely confident in my language abilities I went to a nearby barbershop and gave my customary instructions.  The girls asked if I was sure that I didn’t want a sporteevni’.  I assured her that I did not and gave my instructions again.

As she started to cut my hair, I relaxed.  The room was warm and the hands on my head felt good.  Within a few minutes I was mostly asleep as she cut.  Suddenly I realized she was asking me a question.  Without thinking too deeply about what she had said, I replied with a hearty, “Da, da!”

Immediately she ran the clippers across the top of my head.  Apparently she had asked one more time if I wanted the sporteevni’.  She must have been watching for a moment of weakness, probably because she had made some mistake.  Unfortunately the next day I spoke in a sacrament meeting the next day with our mission president in attendance.  I had to explain why my hair was not within mission standards to all of the missionaries, several of the members, and to the mission president.

I still fall asleep during haircuts sometimes.

What did you want?  What are you giving me?
I have worked at the Air Force Academy on two different occasions, as an active duty officer and as a civilian.  Both times I kept basically the same short, military style haircut.  There was a small barbershop in Fairchild Hall, the academic building.  It wasn’t manned all of the time, so you had to get on the schedule in advance in order to get your haircut.  One of the regular ladies in there was a bit on the eccentric and loud side of things.  She liked to complain loudly about everything in her life.  More than once I walked away when she was working, preferring to keep long hair for a day or two to avoid the verbal assault.

One day I was down at the community center and decided to drop into the barbershop there to get my haircut.  Looking in I saw one of the other barbers, a guy who did a good job.  There was only one other person in front of me so I took a number and sat down.

The eccentric lady walked in and set up at her station.  She called my number.  Somewhat reluctantly I went and sat in her chair.  Before I was even sitting she and the other barber were in a heated discussion about coworkers and their upcoming schedule.  She didn’t say a word to me as she wrapped my neck in tissue and draped the cape over my shoulders.  I was waiting for her to ask what I wanted, when she just started to cut my hair with the clippers.  Within a minute or two, most of the hair on the sides of my head was completely gone. 

Suddenly realizing what she was doing, she stopped and asked, “What did you want done with your hair?”

Smiling, I asked in turn, “I don’t know.  What were you planning?”

She thought for a minute and said, “Well, I’m not sure but what do you think about this?”

Quickly she described what she had in mind, which luckily was almost exactly what I usually asked for anyway.  I agreed and she continued to cut, never apologizing or pausing again in her work.  Her conversation with her coworker picked up right where it left off.

It was kind of exciting not knowing what my hair was going to look like.

Where Has All the Excitement Gone?
I had my haircut this weekend.  It’s been the same for several years now, a military style haircut—short on the sides, with just enough length on top to comb it forward.  My mom’s part on the one side, like my curls, is gone.  I still enjoy having my head touched, rubbed, and scratched when I get a haircut.  Nothing exciting is on the horizon.

No, the most exciting thing this time and likely the next time is when I tell them that I have a mole on my head that they may want to avoid.  Always, they are so thankful for the heads up.  Sometimes I ask them to thin my thick hair, but I haven’t had to do that for a couple of years.  That kind of worries me.

Maybe one day I’ll shave it completely bald.  Going grey isn’t as exciting as I had hoped it would be, although the pace of conversion from brown to grey is picking up speed.

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