Hair Naked

revealing tales of fantastic follicles

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Mackenzie Kavanagh

I know you’ve been aching to know more about my hair, so let’s talk about that.

My earliest hair-related memories (besides seeing my Dad with his shirt off) involve my mom shuffling me off to her salon in Eau Claire. She’d have one of the ladies cut my hair as I entertained the entire shop with my unbearably cute jokes and witty anecdotes, mostly about what imaginary pets I owned, which ranged from puppies to giraffes. That giraffe shtick knocked ’em dead. I had those lovely smock jockeys hanging on my every syllable.

I was in eighth grade when things really got rolling. My hair was tall in front. Tall-tall. A majestic tower of follicle flair. I’d get it all done up, then I’d hairspray it. And hairspray it. We’re talking aerosol.

And I’m reasonably sure spending hours in a hair salon at such a young age with multitudes of middle-aged women had little to no effect on my personality and/or social skills and/or relationships. Right? That’s normal, right? Right?

The shop was called Joanna’s or The Style Chalet or Locks o’ Plenty or Miss Sissy’s Fancy Frilly Curlicue Boutique of Tresses and Nail Polish or something like that. I really have no idea. (By the way, if I had my own hair salon, I’d call it Bangs!) All I really know is this – it was located in that strip mall up where Clairemont Avenue meets the old U.S. Highway 53, right next to the Old Country Buffet. And now it’s gone.

Beyond learning what makes an older woman chuckle, I really didn’t think much about my hair until sixth or seventh grade. That’s when I discovered what hairspray can do. Like many pre-teen and early-teen boys (and all real estate agents), I had a whole routine for my hair. I had a couple kinds of product. I had a baseball cap I’d wear for a few minutes while my hair was still a little wet, getting it pre-shaped and ready to be styled. I had a comb I liked. It was awesome. My father was so proud.

I was in eighth grade when things really got rolling. My hair was tall in front. Tall-tall. A majestic tower of follicle flair. I’d get it all done up, then I’d hairspray it. And hairspray it. We’re talking aerosol. I’d take this little brush to school with me and, after lunch, I’d sneak into the boys bathroom, and use it to “break” my hair – brushing out the shellac. That way, it was still towering and awesome, but now it looked totally natural. Yep. A totally natural bluff of hair perched atop my noggin. Not a strand out of place.

Looking back it’s a tad embarrassing, but I’m betting all you gentleman out there did something similar. Well, most of you. You Amish dudes reading this probably wore hats throughout your teen years, so you don’t count.

I got less obsessed in high school, and by college, the super hair cliff (SHC) was gone. And by the time I was working in downtown Eau Claire and deciding to spend my lazily earned cash on a local, non-franchise barber, I wasn’t even using product. Or combs and brushes, for that matter. I went to a lady with a shop near the Grand Avenue footbridge, trusting her with the full-bodied legacy sprouting from my scalp.

Besides scissors, this lady used razors. She was a trained barber, so she could shave your face with a big, shiny blade. The first time she asked if I’d like her to shave my sideburns, I said yes, and SHONG!

What looked like a polished survival knife popped out beside my head. This is how I remember it, anyway. I’m sure it wasn’t all that big, and I’m sure it didn’t make a SHONG sound. But we were all alone in her dusty, old shop, and I remember thinking, “No one else knows I’m here right now.”

But I survived. Today, my mother-in-law cuts my hair, and she does a very fine job.

For all you young men out there, gallantly standing before the mirror to style your hair each morning (and afternoon, and right before sixth period), I guess I’d recommend a moment of reflection.* Where is all this gel getting you? What do you hope to accomplish with your hair? Who are you trying to impress?

I can guarantee you that no one will look at your head nearly as much as you will. So do whatever makes you happy. The sooner the better.

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