By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
Their electric buzz brings back childhood nightmares I thought I had put behind me. The dreaded hair clippers were out again at mom’s house last weekend.
Like an enlistee in the armed services, my niece’s newly acquired husband surrendered himself to the barber’s stool in the dining room. His bride started the cut and the clippers eventually passed back through the generations until mom had them in her hand before it was over.
I guess it worked out all right for nephew-in-law. My brother, nephew and brother-in-law have all surrendered willingly to the home clippers in recent years as well. Not me, the sound of the clippers sends a chill down my spine.
Styling was never a part of haircuts at home. You had two choices, the short guard or the really short guard. After that it was basically a shearing job.
The buzz cut, named for the sound the clippers produced as they traveled from your neck to the crown of your head or ear to ear in one pass, was not a fashion statement when I was growing up. It’s a more acceptable look these days, but back then guys’ hair was at least to the collar. That length didn’t fly at the Terry house.
When the clippers came out back then, mom did three haircuts in quick succession. My first inclination was to avoid the clippers as long as I could and find somewhere to hide. That had some disadvantages, however.
After two haircuts, one of which was my squirming little brother’s, my mother’s nerves and patience were not at their best. The threat of serious nicks or even loss of an ear seemed pretty real. Also by the third haircut those clippers could be seriously warm. The only good part about the clippers heating up was, if they got hot enough cutting brother’s hair they would sometimes shut down automatically to keep from overheating. That was the only chance whatsoever of avoiding the clip-job after mom got started.
As I got into junior high I convinced mom to let me leave my hair a little longer in front, but the back still got the crew cut. Friends always told me my style looked like the Charlie Brown cut.
Finally, with the addition of paper route income to my life, I was able to go to a real barber. Even that didn’t liberate me to wear my hair as long as I wanted. Dad still gave orders on when it was time to visit the barber. If it wasn’t short enough when I got back, he wanted to know why I let the barber cheat me like that.
Dad was too well acquainted with the barber anyway. I always suspected he had standing orders with him on how my hair should be cut. Paying for it myself didn’t necessarily mean I got what I wanted.
Almost by the time I moved away from home and could truly call my own haircut, my pate was beginning to show the effects of male pattern baldness. It hit early in my 20s, then slowed down. My brother and one cousin lost their hair most of the way back pretty early though. Mine’s still thinning and receding but at least it stuck around long enough for me to see what it would look like in gray.
The whole hair thing, beginning with the home clippers has scarred me— not literally — I still have both ears, but I don’t go to the barber as often as I should.
These days the unfortunate barber who gets to cut my hair has to remove two or three months worth of shaggy growth. I usually get it cut pretty short though. Dad’s advice about not letting the barber cheat me must have stuck.
Karl Terry is managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. Contact him at 356-4481 ext. 33 or e-mail: