My father scraped the electric hair clipper across my brother’s scalp. Billy sat frowning with each stroke, because it was not a gentle act. He was 12 years old. I was waiting my turn. My younger brother was third in line. My father did not abide hippies generally, but certainly not in his own house.
It was early June 1970 and his fellow New York City construction workers had just protested the Vietnam War, not against it, but for it. The nation was teetering towards chaos and he and 150,000 like-minded patriotic tradesmen took to the streets of Manhattan to voice their support of Richard M. Nixon. And he’d be goddamned if there would be any hippies walking around his house. I was 7 years old at the time.
Billy’s golden brown hair tumbled off his bare, white, narrow shoulders to the kitchen’s linoleum tile floor. My father, former Marine corporal, finished the buzz cut and said, Welcome to the corps, marine. Looking at me, Your turn, Jimmy. I sat down and got my buzz cut. My father seemed angry while he ran that stainless steel clipper across my head. Why he was so angry, I never understood.
30 years later and I’m in a hair salon. My father would have laughed at me, if he saw me going into a salon. Normal barber not good enough for ya, Jimmy, i could hear him saying. I sat down at the appointed time and the pretty young lady asked me what I’d like. I told her, she pulled out clippers, and with a few different attachments, a few scissor snips, and a brush off, I was out the door 15 minutes later, $60 lighter. I felt sheepish.
Another 15 years later, my lady love sits me in her kitchen and pulls out the the hair clippers. She spends so much time studying my head, I wonder if she’s thinking about taking it apart and memorizing how to put it back together. Finally, she gets started, so gently it feels soothing. My graying hair falls down my bare, broad shoulders to her tiled floor. She blows errant hairs off my ears and kisses my nose to say she’s finished. Shower up, James, she smiles. Let’s get this day started.
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