I never cared too much about haircuts, I mean about styling my hair. Just cut it off. My younger brother used to brush his hair for hours until waves appeared atop his closely cropped scalp. He used to say he wanted to make the girls seasick just by bowing his head in front of them. I’d smile and laugh silently to myself; he did have a lot of waves, plus he had deep dimples and a charming smile. I on the other hand wore glasses, scowled more than I smiled and was most content when my nose was stuck in a book or I was laying in the backyard contemplating a leaf, oh, except for that summer Geneva—at least I think it was Geneva—was staying with a family that lived on the next street over and our back yards were separated by a small empty lot from the side street and she would come outside sometimes and play in the wading pool the neighbors had in their back yard and she would be in a bathing suit and, why is it young boys freshly moving through puberty have voyeuristic tendencies, anyway I could contemplate a blade of grass for ten or fifteen minutes and not get bored. Who needed to spend hours brushing one’s hair?
Our barber was a friend of the family named Mr. Loomis who ran an unofficial barbershop out of the front room of his home. He had a steady clientele and since most of his customers knew each other and all lived in the isolated part of the city below the Industrial Canal, there was always a jovial atmosphere. People joked, discussed the latest needs, gossiped about the last predicaments of particular individuals—yes, men gossip, except it’s usually in the form of giving advice to the fool who was present about what said fool should have done about so-and-so situation or so-and-so acquaintance.
I walked in the barbershop with my lip stuck out. My father behind me. I’m sure both of my brothers were present but I don’t really remember. What I remember is my father had whipped me and then made me go with him to get my hair cut. The whipping had not dissuaded me. I am generally immune to punishment. If decide I want to do something or not do something, punishment is not going to be a deterrent. But as determined as I was, my father was even stronger than I. I could deal with his belt but then after the whipping he had the power to direct my behavior.
My father made me walk back out Mr. Loomis’ door and come back in and this time speak to everyone in the room. To this day, regardless of what is happening with me personally, I can carry on with the task at hand. Thanks, daddy.