Janet Combs

One fun thing about the pandemic is, well, nothing.

But we must invent our fun where we can, which is typically at home. And today, I’m proud to report that my husband and I gave each other fairly adequate if mediocre haircuts out on our back deck.

The process went smoothly, if you consider offering continuous, detailed instructions to the person cutting your hair acceptable. We both were guilty of that. But I couldn’t help but wonder how my professional stylist would react if I made the following remarks the whole time she was cutting my hair:

Are you sure you’re taking enough off?

I don’t think you finished this side.

Is it even?

This activity took considerable mustering of courage for me, because I have some unfortunate memories as well as proof of childhood home haircuts which I will boldly document on my website for your entertainment.

My father was in the Marines, and he owned his own set of clippers for creating that iconic 1960s haircut that never fails to conjure up the name “Butch.” Flat like a hairbrush on top, close on the sides. My Dad would give my two brothers identical haircuts in the basement, and the results were unremarkable. They looked like all the other elementary school boys with buzz cuts. Feeling overly confident, he would then call my sister and me down for our “bowl” cuts.

To be fair, it was dark in our family’s unfinished basement workroom, where we perched on a paint-spattered stool next to my Dad’s workbench under a hanging bulb on a pull chain. This unsalon-like environment definitely contributed to our sharply angular bangs; the fact that our home haircuts often occurred after cocktail hour might also have been a factor. Inevitably, our asymmetrical bowl cuts receded until we emerged from the basement as odd child monks destined to roam Wantagh, Long Island and be mistaken for boys.

My sister and I got accustomed to being referred to as “son” and “young man;” usually when we were being reprimanded by strangers in department stores for playing hide-and-seek among the clothes racks while our mother shopped, or for playing tag in the supermarket aisles. Obviously, there was an upside to these horrendous haircuts, as we were able to experience a joyous boyhood which beat the crap out of sitting around with a Barbie doll.

Later, when my parents could afford haircuts for us outside of the home, we went off to the local “Beauty School,” where nervous trainees would cut our hair for reduced prices. The results were unreliable. In a 1970s school picture, I look curiously like Cyndi Lauper. But I did pick up some haircutting techniques from the always-hovering instructor.

So, let us return to the back deck, where I put these hard-earned styling tips to use on my husband’s first—and hopefully last—pandemic haircut. He showed me how to use what appeared to be the very same clippers my Dad owned to trim the hair on the sides and back of his head. This went about as well as it could have; several times, I suppressed my urge to say “whoops.” I then used a spray bottle to spritz the top of his head with water for the scissors portion of my cut. It was windy, so precision was not entirely possible. After a time, I declared it done, sensing it was at least on par with a Beauty School cut.

My husband was pleased with the results and I had no worries about my turn, next. Having worked with him on home improvement projects, I knew he would not be satisfied with less than a perfectly straight cut. I almost expected him to snap a chalk line across my forehead and take out a level.

We topped off the experience by using a leaf blower to clean ourselves off. Naturally, this elevated the experience to the equivalent of a professional cut and blow dry.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Her column is published regularly in the Georgetown Times. Contact her at https://janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com.