I need a haircut. Badly. I know this because I've completed the entire 'Haircut Cycle'. Everybody -- everybody with hair at least -- has their own Haircut Cycle, and no two are alike. They're like fingerprints, or snowflakes. You could call them 'hairprints', maybe.
(But not 'hairflakes'... there are shampoos for that sort of thing. Yuck.)
Anyway, everybody has their own set of milestones and signposts that tells them where they are in their Haircut Cycle. For the more anal-retentive among us, the signpost might be a calendar date -- it's the tenth of the month, so the hair gets cut. So it is written.
For others, it might be a matter of hair length, or convenience -- the snipping gets done because the salon is next to the grocery store, or the bank, or a favorite crack house. Whatever.
For many of us, though, the Haircut Cycle is more complex. Many factors, both subtle and obvious, are taken into account, until finally it's clear -- the rug needs a clippin'.
And that's where I'm at now. How do I know? Well, because all my milestones have been hit since the last haircut. And, just in case you're curious, here they are. Here's my complete set of Haircut Cycle checkpoints, an unruly ennead of follicular foolishness:
Code Violet: This is time zero -- the actual haircut itself. For my money, you can only get a good haircut in a barber shop. Not a 'salon', or a 'stylist's studio', or a 'unisex cuttery'. No. None of that shit.
I want a barber, dammit -- the older and Italianer, the better. Everything in the shop should be older than I am -- the chair, the combs, the scissors, the tiny little TV in the corner. There should be a few magazines lying around, but not too many. We're not here to read, after all. And they should be either Sports Illustrated and Playboy, or reasonable facsimilies thereof. Oh, and the issues should be at least a year old.
The in-haircut conversation should be limited to three topics -- sports, the weather, and my hair. That's it -- nothing else. The barber should ask a minimum of one question ('Over the ears?'), and a maximum of three or four. Any more than that, and I wonder whether they know how to do their job. I start looking for the certificates on the wall. And 'edgy and anxious' is no way to be when there's someone standing over you with a pair of sharpened scissors, saying, 'So -- is it hot enough for you?'
The whole process should take no more than twenty minutes, and cost less than twenty dollars. And guys, hear me now and believe me... well, now, preferably -- if you find a barber who does everything I've just described, triple-tip that magical man (or woman; women make fine barbers in my world, too -- as long as they're old and/or Italian, and don't cut women's hair). Tip, tip, and tip some more, and keep going back. The true 'barber', as I've laid it out, is a dying breed. Make sure your local specimen isn't going to go extinct any time soon. You don't want to end up at fricking SuperCuts, do you? I didn't think so.
Code Indigo: This is the first few hours after the haircut. The locks are short, the neck is descruffed, and the sideburns are neatly trimmed. If I've done my job correctly, I've badgered the barber into cutting my hair just a little bit too short, to prolong the first couple of phases as long as possible.
This is also when I walk around feeling the back of my neck, like I'm petting a chinchilla or something. Does anything this side of the Barbi twins feel as good as a freshly-shaved neck?
(And while we're at it, I'm not even sure the twins really compare favorably. Can somebody out there hook me up with their info? I'd really like to do a comparison test. Um, for the sake of science. Of course.)
Code Blue: For a week or so, the hair is too short. Add that to the fact that it was recently shaggy, long, and unkempt, and the old noggin gets a lot of attention during this phase. I think of this as the 'Gape and Point and Make a Big Damned Deal Over My Haircut' stage.
People always seem so surprised -- 'Oh, my -- did you get... a haircut?!?'
What do you say to that, anyway? I mean, isn't it fricking obvious that the hair is shorter? And that therefore, it must have been cut? I can't suck in a bunch of air and retract the shit into my head, now, can I? So what's the proper response?
'Uh, no -- I just had an unfortunate lawnmower accident over the weekend. Thanks for noticing.'
Or maybe, 'Yeah, I got a haircut. While I was there, I had my back shaved, my thighs waxed, and I had them sculpt my pubic hair into a litte heart shape. Any other personal grooming information I can share with you?'
Hmmm. Yeah, maybe it's just best to say, 'yep,' and get it the hell over with. I can see where anything else could get me into trouble.
(And make me a liar -- my pubes are shaved into a smiley face pattern. It looks pretty cool, actually -- but the nose itches like hell. Weird.)
Code Green: This is when the hair actually looks like it's supposed to. By now, everyone's gotten over the amazing revelation that I had the mop clipped, and we can all get back to ignoring it most of the time. It's like an umpire at a baseball game -- when it's working right, it's almost like it's not there at all. That's the kind of hair I like. I have plenty of other body parts that are more than happy to take the spotlight; the hair shouldn't be one of them.
Of course, this is the ideal haircut stage. My hair parts where it's supposed to, lies flat, and generally stays the hell out of my way. Not coincidentally, this is also the shortest of the Haircut Cycle stages. The duration varies, but I usually get to enjoy 'Code Green' for... I dunno, six hours or so. I get up one day, and the hair's too short; by the time I hit the sack that night, it's all unruly and long. In between, it looks spectacular, but the time is fleeting. Sometimes, I miss it completely.
I've tried to prolong this part of the cycle, of course. Every time I hit Code Green, I do everything I can to stunt the hair's growth. I drink a lot, I stop eating vegetables -- I stick my head into any industrial X-ray machines I happen to pass by. But nothing seems to work. I get drunk, and sick, and sometimes I develop rickets... but the hair keeps growing. It's like the follicles have a mind of their own.
Code Yellow: This is when the haircut begins to go south. The hair begins to form indivdual curly locks, which cannot be straightened, tamed, or moved by normal means.
(Blowtorches and rolling pins sometimes work, but the process is unpredictable -- and dangerous -- at best.)
Usually, no one but me will notice that the hair has migrated into Code Yellow territory. It's not yet unruly enough to catch the eye of onlookers, but I know. I can see where things are going, and it's not good. This lasts for a week or two.
Code Amber: This is when my wife notices that I need a haircut. I can tell, because she lets me know, in her own subtle, gentle way. She says, 'Wow. You need a haircut!'
(Okay, so it's not so subtle, nor gentle, either. Sorry. Hey, she might be reading this stuff -- I've got to be nice.)
Anyway, by this point, the shape of the hair has changed and morphed considerably. Instead of a smooth, nicely combed do, I've got a lumpy, gangly mess. Not everywhere -- yet. Just in certain spots. It starts up on top, and just behind the ears. My hair gets curly -- sometimes together, sometimes in all directions. My hats don't fit any more.
(Unless you call sitting three inches off my head on a mound of fuzzy crap 'fitting'. And I, for one, don't.)
Generally speaking, this is where most people would bite the bullet and actually get a damned haircut. But not me. I'm just warming up.
Code Orange: This is what I like to call the 'Fozzy Bear' stage. I get up in the morning, and my head looks like that damned Muppet bear's. I shower and wash my hair, then brush it down, and it looks okay. Not 'great' -- just 'okay'. Like something from my Code Yellow days, perhaps. Then my hair dries, and *foosh!*, back to Fozzy Bear. And this goes on for two, maybe three, weeks. Wokka fucking wokka fucking wokka.
At this point, little can be done to tame the hair. It's revolted, and now owns the top of my head. Little fingerlings of the stuff scout down behind my ears, forming Shirley Temple-esque curls that I have to deal with. And there's no good way to 'deal' with them, either. I can't stuff them back up in the nest of hair -- they fall right back down. I can't pull them straight, because... well, it frigging hurts! Duh.
And I can't tuck them behind my ears, because that's a chick thing. And while I might grow long, lustrous hair, full of verve and body, I am not going to do coy man-attracting things with it. I'm just not, okay? I have plenty enough wierdos in my life as it is without finding out where cross-hair-dressing will get me. Or whatever the hell you'd call that. Let's move on -- I'm a little creeped out.
Code Red: This is when the fur on the back of my neck really comes into its own. My hair is still curling and mutating and rearranging itself on my head, but now my neck develops these long, wispy, delicate little hairs. Sometimes, they're long enough to braid.
(Hey, I didn't say I do it; I just said I could. Big difference, there, Tonto.)
But now, all hope of hiding the mess atop my head with a hat is pretty much gone. Anything I place up there -- ball cap, visor, handkerchief -- is immediately slurped into the mess, never to be seen again.
(Well, not always never, I suppose -- during subsequent haircuts, I've been able to recover hat brims and elastic bands. But most of the fabric is just gone. And what's left is riddled with tiny little teeth marks. What does it all mean?)
Code Red typically lasts for another week or so. My sideburns join the fray, inching their way down toward my jugular. (Yeah, you know they want a piece of me. I shave those bastards back every day -- by this point, they've gotta be pissed.) By the end of this phase, I can actually feel the weight of the hair on my head. It gets harder and harder to keep from lolling to one side or the other.
(Even during those brief moments when I'm sober. Scary, no?)
Code Vermillion: This is the 'Quasimodo' phase, when old people and small children point and stare at the maelstrom of hair atop my noggin. At this point, it's fully autonomous; I find it reaching out, grabbing books off of shelves, and poking into other peoples' ears.
(And not in a sexual way, so it does me no good at all. Stupid non-sexual hair.)
I don't even try to comb the shit any more during Code Vermillion -- for one thing, it's pointless. Even if I manage to catch a lock of hair on the brush, it just springs back into place once I'm done with it. For another, the hair tries to grab the damned brush out of my hand and paddle my cheeks with it. So it's dangerous, too. Best to just leave the monster to its own devices.
My favorite part of Code Vermillion is the reaction I get from friends that I haven't seen in a while -- say, since Code Orange or so. The greetings usually go something like this:
Me: Oh, hey, dude! What's up? It's been a while.
Them: Yeah, how long has it -- Jesus Christ, man! Go get a freaking haircut!
Sometimes the conversation continues; sometimes they just shake their head in disbelief and shame. And sometimes, my hair grabs them by the lapels and smacks them around. In any case, I don't get to carry on many conversations during the week or so that Code Vermillion lasts. It's all about the hair at this point.
Code Neon Fricking Crimson: This is my current situation. My hair is alive -- it walks, it talks, it picks my nose and gives me wedgies. Medusa would be jealous of the writhing, hissing mass on top of my head. Women weep when they see me, and grown men cower in fear. My hair amuses itself by assuming different shapes throughout the day. In the morning, I'm Elvis with a pompadour. At lunch, Don King. By evening, Marge Simpson. The fight is over, and my hair has won.
The only way out of this mess, as Lorena Bobbitt once said to herself, is to lop the stuff off. And so, that's what I'll do -- tomorrow, maybe, or the next day.
But soon. I've been in Code Neon Fricking Crimson for a couple of days now, and I've never gone much longer than that. As it is, I wake up every morning with hair wrapped around my neck and crawling down my throat. It's not content to be brought into this world; it wants to take me out, too. One of us has to go, and I'm the one with the opposable thumbs. So I'm staying.
Hopefully, I'll get this cleared up soon with a trip to the old barberino, thus beginning the cycle anew. I swear, if my wife would let me just soak my head in Nair or something, I'd be done with the whole damned thing. But she's not into bald guys.
(Lucky for me. Kojak, not so much.)
Anyway, that's the way these things go -- a week of looking like a Marine recruit, fourteen minutes of simply fabulous plumage, and then six weeks or more of being mistaken for an extra on the set of a Great White Lion Snake video shoot. Meh.
Screw it, I've had enough. Somebody give me a hatchet or something. This shit's coming off!