The barber shop my dad took me to when I was growing up in Moorhead was downtown. It was one of those witch hazel smelling bastions of maleness that are becoming extinct these days, complete with a magazine selection that included Field and Stream, Sports Illustrated, Sport, and Esquire, which in my 10 year old brain was practically pornographic. A few blocks from the river, between the bridges, next to the railroad tracks. Google Earth tells me it’s a travel agency or a coffee shop now. The shop had three chairs. I can remember the guy on the right and the guy in the middle, but I can’s summon up the third barber in my mind. The guy in the middle stands out in my memory because he had bright red, actually orange, hair and pale blue eyes. I thought he was a pretty cool guy, if fact they all had a knack with kids and a trip to the barbershop was a treat in my mind. When I was about 12 years old the redhead had a mild stroke. His chair sat empty for a couple of months and then he came back to work. As I remember it he had some barely noticeable impairments of motion and speech, but seemed to be well recovered.
We never made an appointment, it was a walk-in arrangement and you took the barber that had the first open chair. After Red returned, my parents decided he had lost his touch and was giving bad haircuts. They instructed me to request one of the other barbers. I was an empathetic lad, I could not bear the thought of rejecting the guy simply because he’d been slightly impaired by his health. But I was also an obedient child and so I was torn between following my parents instructions and hurting the feelings of a redheaded barber. I chose the barber and got the bad haircut. I don’t know how bad it could have been though, I think my hairstyle in those days was a military buzz.
The other memory I have of my youthful haircuts was when one of the barbers remarked how thick my hair was. “You’ll never have to worry about going bald.” he said. Now I’ve always thought that guys freaking out about losing their hair was laughably vain. The comb overs, the god-awful rugs and the industry of hair replacement quackery were easy targets for mockery. I certainly would face impending baldness with equanimity. But that was a comfortable outlook to have considering the tonsorial augury of my youth. But the profit was false! I’ve been shocked lately at how thin my hair is getting, how much scalp is showing through on top. And even more shocked at the anxiety it’s causing. I fret in front of the mirror, twisting myself into odd postures to try to assess the losses on top of my head. I try to comb my hair in a manner that conceals takes attention away from my expanding forehead. I lay awake at night wondering what I’d look like with a shaved head. An aging Walter White? I ponder why I’m losing hair on top of my head and it’s growing like never before in my nose and ears. And I whine to my wife about the encroaching cataclysm. Talk about your First World problems.
This is how bad it is. I just discovered that a side effect of one of the meds I take for Crohn’s disease is hair loss. Never mind that one of the ingredients is a potential carcinogen, this is a real problem. I’ve actually considered quitting taking them. Now that’s what I call vanity.