To cut, or not to cut. That was the question.
Ever since Day 22 of what I call, “The Home Hostage Crisis,” my husband Paul has been asking me to cut his hair. “No,” I said flatly because I’m highly unqualified, and have demonstrated in the past that lack of expertise with my own sawed-off bangs.
On TV, I have seen too many coronavirus crewcuts interspersed with bald spots that had been inflicted by do-it-yourselfers. Besides, this man is very particular about his hair and I didn’t want to give him another reason for frustration after these long weeks of confinement.
As luck would have it, Paul was due for his usual 6-week trim when the hair cutter business was among so many other businesses that had been shut down. The weeks passed and I began to notice a slight curl that was grazing the nape of his neck. He complained about how low his hair would grow onto his collar, and then beyond to his shoulders.
My husband, a former banker — you get the picture — worried about looking like a self-described “old hippie.” I sympathized since, after all, I’ve had my own hair problems. I’ve been wrestling with the idea of parting my straight locks down the middle, out of desperation. (I chuckled at the thought of our kids ultimately being shocked at the sight of us.)
The weeks passed; his hair grew longer, and, finally, on Day 45, Paul convinced me to give it a try.
So, as I do with so many questions, I googled, “How to scissor cut a man’s hair” and was presented with more than enough tutorials. The videos included listings of “How to Cut a Classic, Professional, Gentleman’s Haircut,” “Gents Cut: All You Need to Know,” “Clipper Haircut and Eyebrow Trim-Fool Proof Method,” and “How to Give a Man’s Haircut with Scissors.” I chose the last after having watched the video three times.
With my father’s really, really old (era 1940s) barber scissors which I had never sharpened, but kept on hand for cutting bangs, I set about doing my task. (For some reason, I pictured Edward Scissorhands, of the ‘90s movie of the same title who performed miraculous feats with hair that he cut with his scissor hands.) I knew I was no Edward Scissorhands.
I positioned Paul in front of our bathroom mirror, draped a towel around his shoulders, and proceeded as instructed, spraying water onto his dry hair that had been previously shampooed.
With a comb in one hand and scissors in the other, I started at the front of his head — just as the lady on the tutorial said — and struggled to grasp a small hunk of hair between my forefinger and middle finger. Keeping the scissors close to my knuckles, I started snipping away.
Picking up the next hunk, I attempted to line it up with the previously cut hair that — according to the video — would serve as a pattern for cutting each segment — front, right and left sides, and back — but for some reason, it looked a lot easier on the video.
No matter, I just kept snipping.
“You’re doing good; don’t worry about it,” Paul said, too cheerfully. But I knew he was plenty worried about it because of the intensity of his gaze as he watched me in the mirror. Nonetheless, I started to relax as I finished his right side and then moved to the left. As a matter of fact, I got into the easy rhythm of comb, clasp and cut.
Gradually, I moved around to the first ear — the dreaded danger zone — and remembered the words of the instructor. (“Pull down the ear, comb the hair down, and come up along the edge,” she said as she deftly moved clippers around her model’s earlobe like a gardener clipping grass around a rosebush.) From the get-go, I avoided using clippers.
But with sideburns and the hairline in the back, I figured I’d do what she said. Paul gave me his clippers; I pulled his ear back, remembering the instructor’s words, and then proceeded to snip away some stray hairs as Paul closed his eyes for some reason.
“Don’t be afraid to get in there and clean (trim the hairs) inside those ears,” the instructor said. I left well-enough alone.
I then proceeded to the neckline, cutting straight across, keeping in mind more of the hairdresser’s words of wisdom. “The neckline is the most important and should be lined up with the tips of the ears,” she said. “And don’t cut it too short, a common mistake.”
My mind’s mantra became “not too short, not too short, not too short.”
Thankfully, I was about to move onto his sideburns when Paul said he could do those himself.
“She said the sideburns should line up with either your nose or eyes,” I instructed, but Paul said he’d continue using his scissors and his own sense of alignment.
I was almost finished with one last cut — trimming the eyebrows. Once again, the comb became the tool as I thinned them out a little too much, but he didn’t seem to care. At this point — some 20 minutes later — Paul seemed anxious to get it over with.
With a final flourish of the scissors, I whipped off the towel, brushed him off, and handed him a mirror to look at the back. Surveying the results, he exclaimed, “Good job!”
He was pleased and surprised — just like me.
Dolly Merritt writes from Westminster. Her Prime column appears on the third Sunday of the month. Reach her at email@example.com.