"Mommy, Mommy, look at that funny man!"
Those are words that none of us likes to hear, and especially not as we are walking out of the styling salon. Though I'm only guessing this is true for my female readers, as a man I speak from personal experience.
It all started in 1977 when Sally and I were newlyweds. We were living in Yorkville, Illinois, where I was completing a year's internship. My hair, always a bit shaggy, had gotten completely out of hand. Needing a haircut before leading worship that weekend, I had intended to make an appointment for myself at a newly minted men's styling salon at the Yorkville mall. I'd forgotten, and was late for a meeting, and so asked Sally to make an appointment for me.
Later, when Sally told me the time of my appointment, it became clear that she had called a women's beauty shop, not the new, manly, Men's styling salon. I was alarmed, but Sally reassured me that women had been cutting long hair for eons, and that I would be fine. I was further reassured when my stylist greeted me warmly with the words, "Your hair is just like my brother's. I know just what to do!"
I relaxed as the stylist went about her job. She clipped and fussed and teased and brushed... and finally turned me around for a look, stating emphatically, "That's the only thing you can do to cover that bald spot."
Now let's be clear, in those days my baldness was merely a spot. It was on the back of my head, out of (my) sight and thus out of (my) mind. The stylist saw it and minded, and thus did her best to make amends. She had teased and blow dried my long hair up and back to cover the damn-ed spot. The effect, when combined with my overly full beard, was that I was pretty much a dead ringer for Mr. Potato Head.
I mumbled my appreciation for the stylist's efforts, and stumbled out of the salon. That's when I heard those fateful words... "Mommy, Mommy...." They still sting.
Though you still see occasional television commercials for the Hair Club for Men, times have changed. Baldness doesn't carry the stigma it once did. Men, some women, and even celebrities actually shave their heads completely, and go out in public that way! Truth be told, I've done it myself.
These many years later, I have survived run-ins with snooty stylists on the one hand, and Buzz the Barber (really) on the other. My bald spot, no longer out of sight, is now an expansive plain. Oh sure, I've tried from time to time to recapture the carefree look of my hippy past, but my scraggly pony-tail comprised more hair from my neck than from my head. My wild child finally had to join my hairline in retreat after I was subjected to the scathing judgement of one of our metro-sexual Seattle pastors. Before a stint as a guest speaker in his church, I apologized for the ugly, oozing sores all over my face that were the result of a chemical peel to combat pre-cancerous lesions. The pastor said that he hadn't noticed my face, but that my hair was "a bit fly-away".
I cut my own hair now. It saves time, money, and any threat of unwanted interest from women other than my wife. As for that long ago, traumatic styling session, I want to be clear that I don't blame Sally. Yes, she did say, "Next time call for your own appointment", but she wasn't being passive aggressive. We didn't even know that term in those halcyon days. Besides, when I came home from the mall in humiliation, with the words of that cruel child ringing in my hair-covered ears, it was Sally who took scissors and clippers and tamed my monstrous mane so that I could go outside without being subjected to ridicule. I like to think it was her way of showing that, though I could learn to live without hair, I couldn't live without her.