A couple of summers ago while vacationing in New Jersey, I discovered that my youngest kid was infested with lice. This wasn’t our first time, and I was cavalier about combing him out. I didn’t tie my own longish hair back and freaked out when I later found a bug on my own head. I asked my oldest son if he would be willing to shave my fairly long hair off. He had just shaved his brother’s out in the garage while I stripped beds and vacuumed. He seemed dubious, but said he’d do it if I insisted. I was relaying my saga to my friend Pam from California who was so appalled by the idea that she found a nitpicker who came to my house that night. No more lice, no shaved head.
Fast-forward two years and I am admiring my hair stylist Rebecca’s long blue and black hair with one side shaved, which I learned is called an “undercut.” It looked so cool and convenient. No straggly side hair that wouldn’t take to a curling iron. I thought it would be smart to shave mine and get rid of some of the hair that I found so hard to style. But it seemed so radical; I’m middle-aged for God’s sake! After mooning over her hair for several months, I finally took the plunge. Those clippers running over the sides of my head felt as good as I imagined. The cut was so liberating! I was tempted to ask her to shave it all off, give my hair and head a fresh start, take inventory of the gray, perhaps bleach it blonde. My imagination teemed with endless possibilities, and I didn’t even know about graphics yet!
You know how once you venture into the previously unknown it opens up into a whole new world? I started asking around about getting designs shaved into my undercut. Perhaps a floral pattern, my business logo, the possibilities were endless. Rebecca said I needed to find a barbershop with a “Z” in the name, such as Fadz and Bladz, which were often in rough neighborhoods. That took the wind out of my sails. While on vacation this summer, I happened to pass a place called “Jagged Edge.” No Zs, but in the windows were claims that they could do fades and graphics. I went home and called. “Do you cut women’s hair?”
© Courtesy Pat Charney
“I have an undercut and want graphics.”
“Okay. Come in.”
I brought my girlfriend Pat for support. The shop was filled with young men and cigar smoke.
“My goodness, you can smoke in these places?”
Eye roll. “There’s a cigar shop next door.”
I was assigned Anthony, who went to work shaving the sides of my head.
“Do you know what you want?”
“No. You can experiment on me.” Was I crazy? He stared at my bare spaces, waiting for inspiration, and finally went to work. I have never seen anyone use clippers like a carving tool. When he was done, he pulled out a straight edge razor. My stomach dropped.
“You ever make anyone bleed?”
The barbers around me bantered and worked, discussing an upcoming bachelor party. The groom-to-be talked about plotting and planning so his bride wouldn’t hassle him about the festivities. The owner said, “Do you think women talk about us this way?” If you only knew. I found it so cool to be getting my hair sculpted by an artist while experiencing the camaraderie in the barbershop. It was different than my hair salon, rowdier and more energetic. Must’ve been all of that testosterone.
Anthony was as deft with the razor as he was with the clippers. He carved and scraped away at my scalp, and when he finished, he loaded me up with talc—another thing I always wanted to experience. My new barber looked at me expectantly. “Do you like it?”