Journal entry: November 1, 1981 (age 12)
This afternoon, my mom stood behind a kitchen chair, smiling and holding a pair of scissors. As I walked across the floor towards her, I almost slipped on all the hair clipped from the heads of my older brothers and my father. The piles of red, brown and white hair made it look like a company of Army recruits had just been processed for boot camp. I was the last soldier to report for duty, and it was my turn to be sheep-shorn.
There are plenty of good places in Binghamton to get a haircut. But for a free haircut, we have to rely on Mom Mollen’s family barbershop. I feel somewhat sorry for my five older brothers, who served as guinea pigs while Mom perfected her haircutting technique. A few old family photos pay wordless tribute to the tonsorial tragedies of the past. My brother, John, eventually refused haircuts of any kind, opting for the Zonker from “Doonesbury” look. By the time I came along, Mom had mastered, if not the art, then at least the basic craft of cutting hair.
I sat down in the chair, and Mom wrapped a bright yellow, plastic sheet around me. The sheet is an official, barbershop “cutting cape.” This lends the proceedings a certain level of professionalism. In that spirit, Mom asked me, in a mock gruff voice, “What’ll it be, sir?”
Before I answered, a flurry of 1981’s pop culture images passed through my head. I thought of the regal haircut worn by Prince Charles at his wedding, and, even better, the blonde fro worn by Luke in his wedding to Laura on TV’s General Hospital. Speaking of GH, I also considered the feathered but tough look of Dr. Noah Drake, played by Rick Springfield. Iconoclast and possible space alien Grace Jones has an androgynous cut called “the Wedge,” which I figured would set me stylistically apart from my fellow humans. Or I could embrace the “attacked-by-birds-with-hair-gel-on-their-claws” look of the new MTV channel.
Briefly, I considered a “Cronkite,” in homage to the recently retired, CBS News anchor. Young upstart Dan Rather’s hair strikes me as overstyled and pretentious. In a show of solidarity with the striking federal air traffic controllers, I imagined wearing my hair in a way that suggests I have had too much coffee, and not enough pay. Another possibility was the “Brownie,” in honor of California Governor Jerry Brown’s decision, in the face of a Mediterranean fruit fly infestation, to eschew aerial spraying of the chemical malathion in favor of ground-based eradication efforts.
But I realized I might be overthinking this. No matter what kind of haircut I get, I knew I would still look like a three-dimensional Opie Taylor or a Howdy Doody with less fiber content. A set of professional-grade clippers and scissors would do no better a job than a large bowl and gardening shears.
I looked up at Mom and said, “The usual, please.”