I was in my fifties when I realized – or learned from observing others of my generation – that the best way to visually trick away the sometimes depressing appearance of beginning to bald is to cut the rest of the hair on one’s head very short. This strategy takes away the disheartening contrast between hair and no hair, especially where there was once hair everywhere.
I bought one of those electric hair clippers with the attachment comb/guides that ensure a certain length of hair remains behind when one sweeps the clipper over one’s head with attachments firmly placed.
I liked the clipper. I could zoom around the top of my head in any direction through my hair with the little buzzing machine at high speed, desired attachment or guide in place, and cut anywhere and everywhere in any direction, confident that I wouldn’t cut my hair too short nor leave any too long. It was all quite foolproof.
So I took to cutting my own hair every couple of weeks. A pattern emerged. At the end of my personal hair-cutting spree, I would ask my longsuffering partner, Lois, to check that I hadn’t left some tuft uncut in the back where I couldn’t see and/or reach it, and then to do the fine trimming around the back of my neck and sides without the attachments.
We developed a good system, and it worked. It was all quite fun and we usually laughed through our hair-cutting adventures, even though the unique contour of my head, the particular sunkenness of my eyes, and the distinctive sculpture of my cheekbones under a short haircut always made me look a little like an Ivan Denisovich on a day pass.
One Saturday, because I’m a pastor, I was scheduled to conduct a marriage ceremony. Not an unusual activity for a summer Saturday in my line of work.
An hour or so before the wedding I came into the house from washing the car and mowing the lawn, and looking in the mirror, realized I had not trimmed my hair in some time. I decided I needed to “clean up” before the big event so nothing about me might distract from the couple having a perfect day.
I stood before the mirror, plugged in the clipper, attached the No.1 comb/guide, and trimmed my head as best I could. I then shouted down the stairs, asking Lois if she could come and finish off my haircut.
Usually, I left the No.1 comb/guide on the dipper when I handed it to Lois, so she could quickly make sure I had done a thorough enough job before trimming the sides. This time, though, thinking I had been so fastidious there couldn’t possibly be any maverick tufts, I slipped the comb/guide off the dipper and handed Lois the machine.
She assumed that, as usual, the attachment was still firmly in place, pulled my head down towards her, and applied the dipper to the top of my head in one quick motion of her deft hands.
With no comb/guide on the teeth of the buzzing dipper to keep it at some measured distance from my scalp, the vibrating teeth cut a wicked swipe through the short hair right down to my shiny crown.
Lois gasped. I turned to look in the mirror, my head tipped forward as I rolled my eyes upwards. There on the top, to the right of centre, in amazing contrast to the rest of my head, was a bald swipe of hairless skin some three inches long and nearly two inches wide.
It looked like a cow might have mistaken my head for an ice cream cone and taken one mighty lick, rasping all the hair off with her rough tongue; or like a small truck had spun one tire on the lawn of my head, uprooting the grass.
Lois started to laugh.
I started to laugh.
“We can’t laugh,” I suddenly said, whining, “I have a wedding in an hour. I can’t go like this.”
“What’ll you do?” Lois asked.
“Me?” I said, “What will you do? You did this! I’ll just shave off the rest and go like that. There’s nothing else we can do.”
“You’ll look ridiculous,” she volunteered.
“I look ridiculous already!” I shouted, beginning to realize I really had a problem.
Teacher to the rescue
“Do you still have the hair you cut off before I got here?” Lois, always the problem solver, asked.
“Wait here!” She scooted down the stairs. I could hear her rooting around in her teaching supplies in the laundry room. Her steps came back up the stairs.
She bounced into the room.
“Lean towards me,” she ordered. I obeyed. (I always do.)
“Here, let’s try this,” she said, clearly a question in her comment.
Lois aggressively dabbed my new bald spot with thick glue from a large yellow glue stick. Reaching down to the counter and onto the floor, she gathered up fragments of my earlier haircut and pressed them onto the glue, filling the space with hair askew and thick. Thicker than I have known in some years, but flatter.
“Now, go do your wedding,” she said, grinning. “We’ll have to do this before you go out in public for awhile until your hair grows back. And don’t bow too much in front of the guests at the wedding. The bad spot is mostly on the top of your head and most people won’t notice except those in the balcony – and those who are taller than you are.”
I performed the marriage ceremony.
I remembered when I was leaning over to oversee the couple signing the register that I had a huge hairless welt on my head that may or may not be glued invisible by random hair. I wondered what the wedding guests were seeing.
Lois still laughs about it. A couple more years of my maturation and such an accident won’t be able to happen. My whole head will look like the wound of that day.
Dan Unrau is pastor of Fraserview MB Church, Richmond, B.C., and an avid storyteller.
Richard Rempel is a member of Crossroads MB Church, Winnipeg, and teaches art, digital media, and biblical studies at MBCI. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.