Ancient family ritual still best


It’s a good thing to have a sunny outlook on life. Studies show that happy people tend to live longer.


And some studies show that we can convince ourselves that we are happy by just smiling. So I try to stay happy; I try to write positive things. I try to smile.

There are, however, many things I don’t like and a few things I hate. I normally don’t hold back when something truly angers me — emotions are meant to come out, not be bottled up.

But there is one thing I hate that has no connecting emotion to release.

I hate getting haircuts.

You’ve got to promise me that you won’t tell my kids, because they hate them about as much as I do. Unfortunately for them, and by extension, for me, I hate looking like a hippie even more. So it’s off to the barber shop for all of us when our hair gets to the point that I can no longer stand it.

I enjoy the stories I hear of men sitting around the barber shop talking about women, sports and politics. I’ve even done newspaper stories about these kinds of places. But hanging out in a barber shop seems just a tad demented to me.

Did you know, for instance, that in medieval times it was the barber who would bleed a sick person with the use of leeches, and if those were not available, an unsterilized knife? Did you know the barber pole came from the bloody rags that were hung outside a barber shop?

That would normally be enough for me to not go to a barber, but really my hatred comes down to a simple phrase:

“Hold still or I might cut your ear off.” This coming from our family barber, my father. To him, the phrase simply meant he didn’t want to hurt me, and wiggling around increased those odds. As a child who didn’t like people touching his head, I interpreted it as more of a threat — if I moved, he would cut my ear off.

So I sat still.

I continue to sit still in a barber chair. I don’t like to talk, and I don’t like it when the person cutting my hair is distracted. I don’t want anything to go wrong, especially anything that might result in bloody rags hanging outside the shop.

Through all the haircuts my father gave me, I was never hurt. I don’t know that I even moved when he brought out the ancient electric clippers that shot out sparks. He trained me well. I didn’t receive any hair cutting injury until my mother took over the trimming duties. It was then I learned just how much my ear could bleed.

When I joined the military, I found the perfect barber-patron relationship after being stationed in Germany. The barbers on base were masters with scissors, trimmers and the straight razor. Moreover, they spoke little English and were not overly concerned with the weather or the president or anything else I could tell other than cutting my hair, shaving my face and slapping a hot towel on my head.

I’ve spent the past 21 years since getting out of the service searching for such a relationship. But I find that everyone who cuts my hair wants to talk to me, while I worry about them nipping me, or worse, giving me a bad haircut.

I guess it may be time to swallow my pride and go back to the one barber who never let me down, my father.

I just need to remember to sit still.

McClannahan is the editor for the Mountai View Telegraph.