It’s All About the Hair

Not kidding. When I was young I got my haircuts when the horses’ manes and tails were getting clipped.

June 21, 2017 | | Headwaters Nest

It’s 7:30 a.m. I can smell hair products and the slightly burnt whiff of the hair dryer. It’s going to be a good hair day.

Grade 7 brings about new routines – nicely scented hair products, combs and styling mud. Wash, then dry, style, spray to hold. Don’t touch.

A few weeks ago it was haircut time. We went to Launch on Mill Street in old Orangeville, where Cassie has been cutting Adrian’s hair for years. All the beautiful women at the salon greeted him with a smile, remembering when he was two and needed pillows to boost him high enough for his first cuts.

He is almost as tall as me now, and doesn’t need a boost. This time we had saved a couple of pictures of his favourite YouTubers on our phones to show Cassie what he wanted. A little longer on the top, so he could get some height and movement, please. I love hair and its versatility, and how it is an absolute expression of self.

Taking her time, Cassie went in with scissors, clippers, scissors again, stepping back to assess and refine. Adrian looked down the whole time, blowing the thousand sharp spikes of muted blonde hair from the black cape, and rubbing the back of his neck when he had the chance. Eventually, when Cassie was done, he glanced quickly in the mirror before we left. At home he had more time to work on it, and two weeks later it’s growing in perfectly.

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  • When I was little, haircuts didn’t involve trips to salons or specific styles until about Grade 7. Before that? Horse clippers.

    Not kidding. When I was young I got my haircuts when the horses’ manes and tails were getting clipped. I was my mom’s sidekick as she built a business raising and boarding horses. The horses were spit and polished before the weekends, to be ready to travel to shows.

    The grooming included their haircuts. I helped comb out their manes and tails – every girl’s dream, except for the nasty burrs that required near-precision surgery to extract. Next, as barn kittens tumbled and frisked dangerously near hooves, out would come my mom’s clippers. I was allowed to oil the blades carefully and plug in the long extension cord. Some horses stood patiently as their manes and whiskers were trimmed, others tossed their heads defiantly and needed calming, sometimes requiring the application of what’s called a twitch to their lip to halt their head shaking.

    How tidy and handsome they looked! Especially after the next step of hoof polishing. Sigh. Gorgeous. My Little Pony, in real life.

    Then, if my hair had grown too long and was getting in my eyes, it would be my turn. I would sit on top of the stool while my mom combed my hair straight with whatever horse comb or brush was nearby. Angling the clippers parallel to the ground, she would go in for the cut.

    ZzzZANG-zzzZANG-zzz-ZANG. Three swift, straight passes to shear the bangs across my high forehead. Sharp shards of hair, just like Adrian’s now, fell onto my jeans and runners.

    I could smell the oil, the horse hair. I was so excited for a fresh cut – until I saw myself in the tack room mirror. My cowlick, centrally located, forced the hair to pop up joyfully, creating a crooked line and revealing too much skin. I rushed back to my mom in hope of a repair. ZzzZANG. I checked the mirror again. It was worse.

    I would sit on top of the stool while my mom combed my hair straight with whatever horse comb or brush was nearby. Illustration by Shelagh Armstrong.

    I would sit on top of the stool while my mom combed my hair straight with whatever horse comb or brush was nearby. Illustration by Shelagh Armstrong.

    But year after year, the cut was repeated. I have the evidence – several photos showing my mom’s barn aisle handiwork. I think my brother was luckier. He escaped and had real haircuts in chairs in malls or barbershops. Back in the day, he always carried a small comb and could drum up a “wicked feather.”

    Still, I take solace in knowing I was not the only one who suffered such indignities. My husband recently showed me his own Grade 7 photo. “Who cut your hair?!” I pealed with laughter at the extreme straight lines, stepping across and down his head like the coif of a Lego man. “My mom did it,” he replied, “with her sewing shears.”

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    About the Author More by Bethany Lee

    Bethany Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Mono.

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