Being Sheared By the One You Love

GOING to the barber (or hair stylist, as the young among them now prefer to be called) used to delight me as much as keeping an appointment with the dentist, which was no delight at all. In the neighborhood where I misspent my formative years we had a barber by the name of Mr. Cargill. Apart from the fact that his name sounded like something you do at the dentist's, his method of cutting the hair of small boys differed little from that of an Australian sheep shearer.

``Are you going for a haircut,'' my father demanded to know, ``or must we buy you a violin?''

I could never fathom what hair of moderate length had to do with violins.

Mr. Cargill, or his assistant - who had apprenticed on the same sheep farm - could never get the hang of my double crown, which, although I had never seen it, or divined its purpose, my parents assured me I had.

So those two barbers were no happier to see me twice a month than I was to see them.

One or the other of them would snip away savagely at the top of my head trying to get what hair that remained there to lie down and behave itself.

However, a feature of the double crown, apparently, is its remarkable ability to endow the hair entrusted to it with the verticality of the head-feathers of a startled cockatoo. Having failed miserably to master my double crown, Mr. Cargill, or the other one, would plaster my head with scented grease to at least keep my thatch down until I got out of the shop.

The grease - more Vaseline than brilliantine - together with the minuscule snippets of hair that had showered down my back and inside my shirt, left me no alternative when I arrived home but to strip down and scrub myself from head to toe - an unpleasant thing for a small boy to have to do at any time.

BEING shorn that way in my early days left me dreading barbers well into adulthood. My joy knew no bounds when, sometime toward the end of the 1960s, someone hit on the altogether enlightened notion that men and boys could quite acceptably cover their ears, necks, and even their shoulders with hair, without having to own violins or any other musical instrument.

No more cockatoo head-feathers. No more gratuitous grease. Not that I went wild with my hair; I never permitted it to grow much beyond Old English sheep-dog length. It was wonderful, not having to drag myself off for a haircut every other week.

Recently, though, over the past couple of years, someone else got the thought that it was time men and boys went back to baring their ears and the napes of their necks to sun, snow, rain, and hair stylists. It's no longer the vogue to look like a musician or poet.

What prompted this shocking (to my mind) reversal still puzzles me. No one that I know of has equated short hair with a healthy national or global economy. Nobody, to my knowledge, stood up and proclaimed long or longish hair to be the harbinger of hurricanes.

But here we males are again - back to naked ears and necks, and skulls with clearly defined contours. That may be all well and good for men who don't have double crowns.

I would be facing the same old barbershop blues but for a move my wife and I made to a remote rural area in Atlantic Canada a little over 12 years ago.

We were remote enough that, in the winter months, we couldn't get to a community of any size without great difficulty. Not many barbers operate outside of communities of some size, and none at all where we lived. So unless we were prepared to take on the appearance of musk-oxen we had to learn to cut one another's hair, which we did.

NEARLY six years ago we moved back to city life in central Canada. My wife, for reasons best known to her, chose instantly to dispense with my hairdressing services. I, on the other hand, wholly satisfied with her acquired understanding and treatment of my double crown, encouraged her to continue her ministration. And she did.

Other considerations aside, I can assure you of this: There is no greater comfort and sense of reassurance than to be groomed by someone you love.

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