Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Hair today...

I haven't gotten a haircut in a while. While it hadn't gotten too long in the back, in the front it was getting unmanagable, and when I awoke or rode my bike, it was starting to look like Austin Powers's. So it was time.

I went to the same cheapie Mexican hair salon I always go to, riding my bike down the street. There were no customers getting their hair done or cut, just two large women sitting around. The more rotund of the two sat me in the chair, not even pretending to speak English to me this time. I always tell them the same thing: "Bien cortito atras, un poco menos en frente," and ask for it to be spikey on top. In fact, I'd memorized what setting I liked on the clippers. Hey, I'm easy.

So I said it as usual and she went to work, shaving the back of my neck and moving the shears up. Maybe she was in a hurry, I don't know (after all, the TV was on, and commercials don't last forever). She moved in front of me and pushed the razor over my forehead, blocking the mirror I was facing. Then she stopped, for some reason (it is in my estimation that this is when she realized she made a mistake, but of course, there was no admission of this). She moved out of the way and I was shocked to see a bare swatch of skin running through the front of my head, like the trail a lawnmower makes after waiting too long to mow.

I gasped. I said, "I said spikey," then said it again in Spanish. She said, "Si, si," as if everything was fine, and proceeded to shave the rest of my head. I thought maybe I was overreacting, that I had just waited so long that I wasn't used to short hair, but I did ask her if she had it on the right setting. When she unblocked the mirror again, I stared with horror at the bald, goblin-like creature reflected before me. A sense of surreality washed over me, the sensation I get when get in a car accident, see U2, find I have killed a homeless person, or recognize that my friendship with the cast of "Growing Pains" has all been a dream. Never, not even when losing a bet in 1993, had I had so little hair. I looked like a cancer patient with my discolored scalp. I looked like Doctor Evil with my misshapen nose. I looked like Gollum with my protruding ears. I looked unhappy.

"Ay, está tan triste," the woman chuckled to her friend, still sitting and watching the proceedings. To her credit, the other woman did not laugh.

I am not a vain person--quite the contrary--but my hair is my only physical attribute I take pride in (mostly because my maternal grandfather is bald as as a Telly Savalas character and everyone said I'd start losing my hair in the mid-Nineties). And it was gone. Not just short, not just shaved, but gone. Unlike Bruce Willis (who looks cool bald), or Eminem (who looks tough bald) or Kevin Spacey (who looks menacing bald), I looked like one of the aliens in "Galaxy Quest."

The woman said, "At least you won't be hot now," in Spanish, and I tried to come up with some retort. The best I could do was a weak "Or get a haircut until January." She told me I'd surely come in again before that, and, perhaps anticipating that I would never return, said, "Oh, but the girls will be all over you now." Staring horrified at the badly-processed clone in the mirror, I tried to say, "Or the army recruiters," but didn't know the word for recruiter.

As I rose from the seat, I was tempted to just walk out, or at least berate the fat woman. What would Uncle John do? What would Batman do? What would Sigourney Weaver in "Alien 3" do? But instead, I just pouted, stewing in my hairless juices. I gave her a twenty, and she went into the backroom to get my change, leaving the twenty on the counter. Again, the impulse came over me to just leave--to take my twenty and get the hell out of there--just to prove a point.

But if you know me, you know I couldn't do that. I took my change and walked out the door.

I showed my head to nobody. I now wear a hat in public. I was given one at work yesterday and I might sleep in it till my hair grows back. Otherwise, I might scare the children.

Oh, and the Jews.

Rish "Cueball" Outfield