You can tell I took the day off today; I got a haircut. I take time off so seldom that, when I do, it’s usually long past time for me to do something about my hair. There comes a time when I have to ignore my small surge of apprehension about the task and just get it done.
Part of the apprehension comes from childhood haircuts. In elementary school, the barber I was taken to was a Glaswegian. In retrospect, I believe he meant well, but his roaring, incomprehensible accent frightened me. I could never understand what he was saying, and often had to guess, which made our conversations strained at the best of times.
Even worse, he knew one style: a buzz cut. As I grew older, I became deeply ashamed of such haircuts. I would wear a hood whenever the weather made it natural, and often when it didn’t.
Then, when the Glaswegian retired and I had to go to another barber, I started a slow campaign to increase the length of my hair a bit with each haircut. By Grade Nine, I had a decent length of hair, but it took many long years before I could not spend my time n the barber chair glaring balefully at the stylist in the mirror and convinced that I would be shorn to the scalp if I let my attention wander for a second.
These days, that fear is quietened to a rumble, like the ones you occasionally hear from dormant volcanoes. But, unfortunately, it’s been replaced by a morbid fascination that makes me almost as uneasy in its own way.
You see, I go so long between haircuts that the entire shape of my face changes with the length and thickness of my hair. By the time I get a cut, my hair makes my face look round and boyish.
Then, bit by bit, as the hair falls to the floor (and it’s a good thing that I’m not charged by the kilo, let me tell you), someone else emerges – a stranger with a leaner face and a higher hairline. He seems harder and older and more athletic than the person I saw in the mirror that morning, and I’m not sure that I approve of him or even like him.
In fact, as I see him emerge from under my hair, the strangest sense of dislocation sweeps over me. It is as though an alternate world version of myself is surfacing in the mirror, waiting to take me over.
As this feeling increases, I continue chatting and joking as though nothing is wrong. But I think the tension in my body betrays me, and I always slide off the chair and walk towards the cash desk with a sense of relief that I have survived the ordeal without losing my soul. And, as I leave the shop, for the next few hours, I am always glancing at my reflection, as though expecting to see the invader still there.
Of course, this dislocation would never happen if I had my hair cut more regularly. But I associate it so much with having my hair cut, I never manage to get on a shorter schedule. On some level, I don’t care to give that other self in the mirror more chances than necessary to take me over.