Hair and now

Another lockdown looms, but there’s hope for the dis-tressed

hair cut Illustration: Azad Mohan

By this time last year, our hair-dos had become hair-don’ts. As the second wave swells to tsunami proportions, last year’s memes that created a buzz (nope, not that soothing sound made by a trimmer) are back for round two. With more pandemic lockdowns imminent, the luxury of getting an online-ordered haircut at home is going off the menu. 

The phrase Bang(s) For A Buck acquired clandestine undertones during the peak of the pandemic. Lockdown restrictions drove the hair grooming industry underground and elevated barbers and hairdressers (the term variably applicable to the size of the bill) to the most-wanted list. Cramped for personal space as we stayed home and stayed safe, we tried to keep out of each other’s hair. 

Also read: Is there a vaccine for that?

At first, the prospect of letting our hair down looked simple. We confronted the challenge with enthusiasm, flaunting Lockdown Locks on camera during Zoom meetings to the appreciative gasps office colleagues. With everyone and her uncle sporting copious facial hair and overgrown eyebrows, it was like early-onset Movember. Months down, the novelty wore off. Online sales of trimmers, now classified as essentials, skyrocketed as the dis-tressed in a do or DIY situation chose the latter. 

Pardon the dad puns, they come with the territory. I guess I should count myself among the luckier — and immensely grateful — husbands at the receiving end of a pair of clippers. In these harrowing times, my heart goes out to the single and the unattached, or even the married yet dispossessed, who have had to cut their own hair, or risk handing over the reins of their reputation to sloppy hands. You stand out in the crowd. You really do.  

Truth be told, this swagger took its time to develop. One lockdown weekend, I watched cautiously as my wife, wielding a trusty (and very nearly rusty) pair of scissors and a mien of rapt concentration, sat our daughter down on a stool before the dressing mirror and snipped assertively at her curls. With bated breath, I watched our little girl’s head transform from an unruly mop to what I thought was a reasonably presentable coiffure. 

Also read: In lieu of paternity

When my lady love stepped back, beaming, to admire her handiwork, and our petulant preteen burst into a torrent of inconsolable tears, I had second thoughts. Pretending to take a phone call, I attempted to slip out of the room. But Madame was on a warpath.

Unfazed, she announced: Next!

Me? Yes, you, she smiled seductively, raising the new tools of her trade triumphantly in the air.  

With resigned reluctance, I shuffled into a swivel chair as my executioner’s hands ruffled my hair with expectation. A dishevelled apparition in the mirror glowered grumpily back at me. Here I was, on the slippery slope of the mid-forties, with a full head of hair that had defied genetics — most of my forebears had gone fashionably bald by their mid-thirties and I was the exception to the norm. Three months into the lockdown, I resembled a Lhasa Apso minus the cuteness. There was really very little to lose. 

I gave my wife the thumbs-up. She snipped tentatively at the back of my head, then clicked her tongue in dissatisfaction and dashed off to the kitchen. She returned, brandishing a pair of meat scissors, the kind that cuts through mutton bones as if they were made of butter. Relax, she said in the dulcet tones of a butcher placing a fresh head on the block. I shut my eyes and allowed fortune to favour the bold. When I opened them a few minutes later, it was a bit of an anticlimax. I was reasonably impressed with the outcome. It was amateurish, but in a past life I had tipped in dollars for relatively underwhelming jobs. 

Also read: In 2021, words are all we have

I’ve not visited a hairdresser in over 14 months. Yet, unlike many men, I look none the worse for it. My wife, ever the Johnny Depp fan, is giving serious thought to changing her middle name to Scissorhands. Through trial and error, she has practised her chops on my once desperate but now willing mane, to the extent that she has recently updated hairdressing as a skill on her LinkedIn profile — I suppose a recurring monthly meeting invite from her husband must serve as the ultimate endorsement. She’s expanded her clientele to include other family members, and her elated sister recently gifted her a professional hairdressing kit. Whew, no more meat scissors. 

As for me, I’ve dialled over to VC mode. I’ve invested the thousands saved on salon visits in her name. Maybe, time will tell, I’ll set up an SIP, at least as long as I have hair on my head.

To the single, some unsolicited advice: in your love-seeking ads, list “hairdressing” among desirable skills. You can sew on your own buttons and cook your own meals, but try buzzing the back of your head for a reality check.

Bring on the lockdowns. We shall overcomb!

Also read: Crossing the laugh line

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