Snap Shot #52: Worst Haircut Ever

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When my son returns from the barber, I’m expecting to see the usual short back and sides. At first glance, this seems to be the case. But something’s different. “Turn around.” He does. And there’s the difference. Instead of the back smoothly tapering off, there’s a defiant tuft at the top of a cliff like edge. It reminds me of Dennis the Menace. “That bit at the top looks weird.” “I like it” is the defiant reply (though later he will admit that he in fact hates it). As dumb as it looks, it’s not even in the same league as my worst ever haircut. I was a year or two older than him and having a much anticipated Sunday weekly visit home from boarding school (aka ‘Canadian Concentration School”). What I wasn’t looking forward to was returning to school for the upcoming haircut day. Every couple of months they would dig up this old bespectacled fossil named Steve. He had been cutting hair at St. John’s Cathedral Boy’s School since its inception in the early sixties. Obviously not one to move with the times, Steve had been dishing out the same two styles for the good part of a couple of decades. There was the ‘page boy’ and the ‘buzz cut’ (which has made a resurgence – though my son refers to it as ‘the shaved testicle’). My ears are too big for ‘buzz cuts’, making me look like a chimp. So I reluctantly always went for a ‘page boy’. I must of shared my dread with my family because to everyone’s surprise, my dad volunteered ,“I’ll cut it for you.” Everyone was pretty dubious about the offer – especially the one whose hair was on the line. “Really? But you’ve never cut hair.” My dad shrugged. “Up to you. Go back and let Steve do it then.” And that was the bait that got me. I knew what the alternative was. But I didn’t know what the possibility was. By some miracle of hidden talent could my father actually give me a better haircut than Steve the Butcher? Was it worth the risk? Yes. Yes it was. I could imagine the looks on the faces of my fellow inmates when they saw that I had come back with a stylish cut that still managed to sneak within the archaic guidelines. “Ok – go for it.” So he did. His tongue poked out slightly as his brow furrowed with concentration. I’m not sure I’d ever seen him so focused. I watched chunks of my hair fall into the my sheet covered lap. I must admit, I was hopeful. The only mildly disconcerting thing was the looks that the rest of my family were giving me as the cutting progressed. Still, what would they know? At last, my dad seemed satisfied. “Ok – go have a look.” I brushed the hair onto the floor, took off the sheet and hurried into the bathroom, my family close behind. I opened the door. Looking straight back at me was…me. Except not really. This version of me still had a freckled face and big ears. But something was wrong. Where there once had been straight brown hair sculpted to resemble a page boy, it now looked as if Picasso himself had decided to paint a page boy – after a few too many. Symmetry – who needs symmetry? Certainly not my dad. Evenness? Boring! Having short bits surrounded by long bits was much more daring. I stared. My family held their breath. And then it started. Tears. Lots of them. “What have you done?” Apart from my father, who was looking a little wounded, the other three members of my family were doing their best not to burst out laughing. “I can try to fix it if you like.” I was horrified. “NO! Don’t touch it! Ever again!” I ran off, tearfully searching for a hat. Of course this head gear was immediately yanked off on the bus back to Concentration School. I’ll spare you the jibes but they were appropriately cruel – my hair a gift from the gods to a bunch of sadistic teenage ratbags. So, after days of hell, Steve finally hobbled into the library to wipe the smile off of faces. But not mine. I had never been so glad to see him in my life. I threw myself onto the chair. “Hi Steve. A page boy please. Or a buzz cut. Just whatever it takes.” He looked at me a moment, startled. He took off his glasses, gave them a wipe and put them back on. And then, for the first time ever, I saw him smile. “Dad cut your hair, did he?” Now, in all fairness to my father and with the gift of hindsight, I can see now that what he did that day was just simply ahead of its time, that’s all. About ten years later, as a post punk student in Sydney, I not only would have paid someone a fair whack of money for such a cut, I would have also got them to squirt a bit of red and black dye into the mix. Maybe my dad missed his true calling…