Jessie Raymond: Home haircuts have their hazards


The way I remember it, I did not choose to be my husband’s barber. I am, as I made clear on Saturday, in no way qualified for the job.

Years ago, with Mark’s hairline tiptoeing ever faster toward the back of his head, I noted that he’d soon be veering into combover territory. He agreed to start getting his hair buzzed; not shaved, but trimmed very short.

I don’t recall how we acquired a set of electric clippers, but I may have said — offhand, not sincerely — that it was silly to waste money paying someone to cut his hair when it all it took was a quick trim with the clippers.

If I did say this, it was only because my instinct to save money blinded me to the reality: I would be responsible for Mark’s haircuts in perpetuity.

I can barely keep my own legs shaved as it is. I don’t know why I would offer to take on someone else’s personal grooming.

In any case, for about the past decade, Mark has come to me every six weeks or so, usually when I’m in the midst of doing something important — like Googling whether Marathon bars are still being made — and said, “Can you cut my hair?”

And every time, my reaction is the same: “Again? I just cut it a few weeks ago.” And then grudgingly, while he drags a kitchen chair into the half bathroom, I pull out the clippers. Heaving a sigh, I wrap a towel around his neck (sometimes a little more snugly than is absolutely necessary), snap the quarter-inch guard onto the clippers and start buzzing.

Honestly, it takes little skill and all of five minutes. But the idea that Marathon bars might be lost to history weighs heavily on my mind. I cannot spend my life getting interrupted eight or nine times a year to keep Mark looking well groomed. I have a life.

This past Saturday morning, I was about to take the dog on a walk in the woods. I had just pulled his orange I-am-not-an-eight-point-buck vest out of the closet, and he was zooming around the kitchen in ecstasy; it had been a full 24 hours since his last walk in the woods, and he had woken up convinced we would never leave the house again.

And then Mark said, “Can you cut my hair?”

Both the dog and I groaned.

It could not wait, Mark said, because he was about to meet with a client and he couldn’t go out with his hair nearly three quarters of an inch long. They might think he was some sort of hipster.

So I pulled out the clippers, Mark dragged a kitchen chair into the bathroom and the dog, confused and dejected, squeezed into the tiny space with us, just in case I tried climbing out the window to walk in the woods without him.

It’s possible I hadn’t had enough coffee that morning. Or maybe I was so resentful of having my walk preempted that I harbored some subconscious animosity. For whatever reason, I was not being mindful.

I plugged in the clippers, cinched a towel around Mark’s neck until he made a slight gurgling noise and made my first pass, just behind his left ear.

And then I noticed it: I had forgotten to put the guard on the clippers. I had just shaved an inch-and-a-half-wide bald strip up the back of his head.

“Oops,” I said.

This was a poor choice of words, as it immediately tipped Mark off to a problem. I explained I’d had a little mishap, promised it would be almost unnoticeable and carried on the rest of his haircut — with the guard in place, of course.

To finish up, I used an eighth-inch guard on either side of the shaved patch to soften the edges, but that did little to obscure the scalp-colored rectangle.

“It blends right in,” I said, relieved that Mark could not see the back of his own head.

It’s bad, but — sadly — not bad enough for him to go to the barber from now on. Anyway, the rest of his hair is so short that in a few days I can trim it all up again and the bare spot will be practically invisible.

I’m not saying it wasn’t my fault. And I’m not saying he shouldn’t be annoyed with me.

All I’m saying is maybe if he tipped better, this kind of thing wouldn’t happen.

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