Life isn’t perfect but your haircut can be.
I’m an artist now but throughout my childhood I’d be engrossed in one creative project or another (I’m still the same). I’d be cutting, sewing, knitting, painting, drawing, tinkering, taking things apart and putting them back together, adding tassels, fashioning something out of nothing – I was a busy kid. And I always misplaced scissors and there was usually just that one pair at home. I can still hear my dad shout – ‘stop cutting stuff up like a barber’. He was onto me it now seems.
If there’s one physical trait of his that my husband obsesses over – it’s his hair. I fell instantly in love with his full head of sexy salt and pepper hair when I first met him. I mean here was my own desi George Clooney sitting across from the table fielding tough interview questions at me in his deep, bossy voice – and there I was wide-eyed and open mouthed wondering how come he wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. This was circa 2012 and the rest is history.
Who am I kidding? My husband and I both love his hair.
Pre-lockdown, he never missed his monthly salon appointments with his trusty, over paid, over tipped, experienced albeit talented stylist who usually took nearly two hours to cut his already short hair. But that’s nothing – an appointment with the stylist would have to be made two weeks in advance and honoured.
His last stylist haircut was in February – while he was holding out until the day a professional may once again touch his hair. That day didn’t come -in fact going to a salon apparently is a very high-risk corona-anxiety inducing activity. Our tea time chats started revolving around how he would look in a ponytail and pigtails. After three and a half months of hair celibacy and one botched up attempt to cut his own hair, he finally succumbed and asked me sheepishly if I could cut his long, wispy hair.
Of course I could do anything I put my heart to – but would I want to risk his wrath if it didn’t turn out alright? I thought hard.
Abraham Lincoln said “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” I couldn’t agree more.
I spent days researching men’s haircuts, watching haircut videos, looking at the tools used, which shears are the best, combs, techniques, products, haircut capes, spray water bottles – the whole nine yards.
Under no other circumstances would I have been allowed to go near his head with a pair of scissors. Hair is an extension of one’s sense of self and makes up a large part of the outward image of yourself from which others pass judgment. How we choose to carry our hair is a deeply personal choice.
Even during this pandemic how we look matters just as much. People only have a small screen through which to view us. These limited visible cues are all we have to show the outside world that we are coping just fine.
Much of the attention quarantined haircuts (otherwise known as coronacuts), or the lack thereof, focuses on the individuals themselves and how much they are affected by it.
The mere fact of my husband asking me to give him a haircut after holding out for so long was an indication that, at this point, he has nothing else to lose. He has braced himself for all possible outcomes and with numerous video calls daily, is itching for a trim.
These shared circumstances are encouraging us all to try new things. The internet is amplifying our new pursuits, where a beginner’s approach elicits responses that are a mixed bag of sarcasm, doubt and genuine horror.
It is true that the odds of my abilities to give a good haircut are stacked high against me. Like all crafts-training, experience and practice are key. I had none of those, except Ive been grooming our pet Shihtzu Dr.Pompy for the last five years, yet there remains this unspoken pressure to live up to the baseline of what once was. We both know what a good haircut looks like. The burden of a bad haircut would disproportionately fall on me.
And so I set up a new workshop in our bathroom with carefully arranged newspapers on the floor, a chair, a comb, a cape, a spray bottle, 3 different pairs of shears – for cutting, trimming and thinning, and plenty of towels. The initial passes with his electric Trimmer were not too bad as I’m used to using trimmers on our dog Dr.Pompy’s furcoat.
My innate desire to want to excel in everything I do and be my own version of an expert female barber overwhelmed me.
I didn’t want to see my husband being disappointed every time he glanced at his reflection in the mirror because of my bad haircut. To add further pressure to this already terrifying experience, my husband was continuously talking, giving directions, saying my stylist would do this first and that next etc etc.
I wished for him to find this whole exercise amusing and wished he would genuinely enjoy the process than focusing on the outcome as much. After all, hair does grow back. I took a deep breath, and told myself I could do this and then my fingers relaxed. Holding the comb and scissors in sync came naturally to me, I let it go and started snipping away as desired. As an artist, I did have experience with trusting my instincts and freestyling.
My confidence grew in correlation to my detachment of giving a good haircut. In no time I got lost in this new sculpture that I was shaping. I required periodic reminders to look up at the mirror and take a step back to see what I was doing. And finally, when it was all done – he was thrilled with the result. I made sure not to make it too short and there weren’t any stray hairs waiting to be tamed either. He even tipped me a cool Rs.2500.
What this haircut has clarified to me is that despite the risks and the odds of a disastrous outcome, choosing to give one was ultimately about trust.
Irrespective of the circumstances that led us to this point, as I was cutting his hair I was humbled that he had entrusted me with his precious hair and all that it represented to him. My lion surrendering his mane to me.
It would be a shame to not share this surprisingly beautiful experience which has brought us closer together.
The reality is his hair will start growing out in a few days and I’ll be giving him a haircut again. What I’m hoping for more though is for this adage to come true – “You can trust your barber with secrets you can’t tell your wife.”
‘Coronacuts’ don’t always have to be disastrous. Take care everyone and stay safe and well groomed. I’ll see you soon hopefully with a few juicy secrets.