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My (true) hairstory by Tommy
I’ve had a weird love/mostly hate relationship with my hair.
As a kid in the sixties me and my (eventually) four younger brothers got regular short back and side home haircuts; hated those because dear ol’ Dad used really cheap clippers and scissors that pulled off as much hair as it cut off. Ouch! I now understand that my parents were poor and there was no choice in the matter but the boy I was, didn’t get that.
We lived in a rather poor area. Most boys got four haircuts per year; a “nice” haircut at start of school, Christmas and Easter and something “really short” right after school let out for the summer. We might get an additional haircut for first communion or a wedding or a funeral or a trip or something but we were shaggy more than half the year. The boys from well-off families got crew cuts at the barbershop but we certainly couldn’t afford that. A “nice” haircut was basically bald on the back and sides and quite long on the top, greased with Brylcreem or Vaseline or whatever. It might look OK or ghastly depending on the barber’s skill. I usually looked…ghastly as evidenced by photos but then again young boys in the sixties didn’t care about their hair; we had important boy stuff to do.
For first communion, my mother wanted me looking “really nice” so she sent me off to the barbershop. The only shop within walking distance was in the military base. I had never been to a barber shop, so when I finally got in the chair, I had no idea how to answer the barber’s normal question. I remembered that my best friend Leonard, who was from a well-off family, always said that he got his crew cut at the barber. Not knowing that “crew cut” was not the same as “haircut” I asked for and got a crew cut. Mother was not pleased. I think I looked really cute in the first communion pictures with my bristly blond hair.
Grade four (1966-67) was a particularly unusual year for me. The all-boys school I attended had a lice outbreak. One Monday morning all the boys who lived in the orphanage came to school bald; really, really, really bald. Every boy got a letter to take home about the situation and by week’s end there was barely a hair on any head, including staff. A very few of the well-off kids got the “treatment”, but very few could afford the special shampoo for a boy. Most of the girls at the neighbouring school got the “treatment” though a few of them got shaved too. Most of us boys were shaved for weeks.
By school year end my Dad had been transferred to another province and gone ahead to get things ready (rent a house etc.). We had missed the Easter haircut due to the lice and we were shaggy (we’ve got the photos). So my mother sent me and my two brothers who were not babies, to the barber shop. I had strict orders “No crew cuts”. When we got there it was crowded; it looked like every boy in the city was there, some with their dads, most alone or with their brothers. It resembled a Marine Corps induction barber shop. This time, the barbers didn’t ask a boy how he wanted his hair cut; it was just mowed off “really short”, what was called a butch cut in those days but would now be described as a short buzz. A few fathers demanded that their son be shaved completely and those boys were indeed shaved bald…it would last longer. It barely took the barbers any time to cut or shave a head. When my turn came I dutifully specified “No crew cut”. The barber laughed and said “of course not”. I got my head shaved as did my brothers. It certainly was not a crew cut! Mother was not pleased.
In the early seventies, I started to actually notice and care about girls and my hair. After a big fight with Dad, I was allowed to grow my hair. That was the fashion and of course, locker-room wisdom had it that you couldn’t get a pity f*#k if you had short hair. Actually the very few short haired guys did OK, but I digress. Suffice to say that pictures from that era evoke a “what was I thinking” reaction. I experimented with small changes in length, even a mullet and facial hair but it was still bad looking. My best high school friend and fellow nerd, Steve, wanted to join the air cadets and I was interested enough to go along. We were hardly through the door when the “sales pitch” started. Steve agreed almost immediately and was taken to another room while the “officers” continued to try to persuade me. I was pretty well sold when Steve returned. He had had his shoulder length “to-die-for” hair completely shaved off. To my mind he was bald! I wanted no part of bald and immediately was un-sold. Yearbook pictures show that Steve actually had a not all that short buzz, which he kept through high school, even though he left the cadets a few months later. Steve always did rather well with the girls, for a nerd. I later found out that the air cadets did not require that the guys’ hair be all that short. You could have hair short enough for them but still long enough for “fashion”. Those in charge of our local squad were just too gung-ho. Steve and I graduated high school a year early and near the top of our class.
Fast forward to the mid-eighties and I continued to try different long hair styles and facial hair and look silly. One day, on impulse, as a young adult, I went to the local hair place and asked for a “real short haircut”. Short hair was again becoming fashionable or at least acceptable. I got a way-too-long hacked up “brush cut” – sort of. I couldn’t grow the long hair back fast enough. It was bad and I made sure there were no photos to prove it. A few years later; it took that long to get over the first “real short haircut”; I was in a (then) small town we had lived in. The old barbershop was still there, Rocco’s. I hadn’t been in there for years. Everybody knew that those three Italian brother barbers were hair butchers, so nobody who had or wanted long hair went there. We were convinced that nobody ever went in there, but the truth is that they did quite well as a business. I had gone in there once and asked for a trim to my long hair and beard. The beard trim looked great; the hair looked awful. This time, on impulse, wanting a change, I went in to get a “real short haircut”. Little had changed except that one of the brothers, Rocco, had passed away. Even with their reputation I wasn’t taking any chances. I figured if I asked for a crew cut or a brush cut, I might get a replay of the last “real short haircut”. Maybe Rocco’s had “got with the times” and learned to cut long hair and I certainly had long hair; I needn’t have worried on that point. I pointed to the picture and asked for a butch cut …and shave off the beard. Boy did I get a real short haircut! It didn’t look that good though certainly not worse than the long hair…but it felt great. It was mildly erotic when I touched it…it was mind-blowingly erotic when any female touched it. For the next three decades, I had every variation on really short hair imaginable; butch, buzz, fade, brush cut, crew cut, flattop, shaved in lines, induction cut and of course, most often, shaved completely bald. I sometimes went to Rocco’s when in the area. I sometimes went to our local “black” barbers. I often buzzed it myself. Not one of them looked really good or really bad. Occasionally, when it was too far grown out, it looked creepy; I was actually told that to my face. On me, facial hair has always been creepy - and grey and creepy was a no go.
Fast forward to about a year ago…on impulse, I had a stylist “consultation”. This place was expensive, virtually exclusively male clientele/female staff and the only place, anywhere nearby, that did full razor head shaves; great full razor head shaves. Even the “black” barbers don’t head shave even though there are almost always fully bald dudes in there, waiting for friends etc. The result of the consultation was that my hair loss was minimal but the grey was making significant advances on the sides. Didn’t know that…my hair hadn’t been long enough to tell. Following her advice I let my hair grow, while frequently dying it to keep the grey under control. Lately, I have been keeping it very short on the sides – to eliminate the grey and creepy without dye – while having the top quite long, a very “retro” style, similar to the “nice” haircuts of my boyhood, minus the grease. I actually bought a comb! I bought “product”! I learned how to use “product”. I actually go to the barber MORE often than with the buzz cut since this style requires skill, and is no do-it-yourself.
Truth to tell, I really do look better with longer (but not long) hair. Several women, I’ve known for years, have called me “handsome”. I’d never been called “handsome” before – ever. Longer hair is also bothersome, work and annoying…and not even a little erotic.
Fast forward to a month ago…most definitely not on impulse…I decided to participate in the “Cops for Cancer” head shave. I am not a cop. I have done similar events in the past, like St Baldrick’s. It’s a “free” haircut…that only cost ten times what an ordinary haircut costs in time and donation money.
On the one hand, there was some coercion, “Police brutality!!” (just kidding). On the other hand, there is a genuine desire to help people afflicted with this burden, both the patients and the people around them who often suffer as much or even more. On yet another hand, cancer runs in my genes (my mother is a two time cancer survivor, though the last bout left her with a severe dementia and I now care for her) and carcinogens are rampant in the environment. Though not currently personally afflicted – I’m scared. On yet another hand, buzzed to almost bald is erotic; there are legal reasons they can’t shave you there but boy, can they get close. On another hand, hair grows back, if you let it. On another hand…oops too many hands. And NO, there will be no “off colour” remarks about hand jobs.
On the day I WILL be bald; no wavering, hesitation or regret, especially since the “barbers” are armed police officers who notwithstanding that their hair regulations are pretty slack still enjoy shaving us hippies; even the ones, like me, who have shorter hair than the cops themselves! I’m really looking forward to the freedom and eroticism of the virtually bald scalp.
Please donate to your local cancer charity or sign up for your local charity’s head shave.