I know what you would say to yourself, the first time you see me. You don’t have to be polite.
I remember it well, it was back in my home town. We lived in the deserts of Southern California, not too far from Mexico. I am telling you this because you should know that the summers there were not just hot, they were VERY HOT! People who live there need to keep their heads cool.
“Let’s go Joe!” My mother said one Saturday morning. Summer was coming soon. It was still spring, and already the temperature was 90 degrees.
I jumped in the car. I liked the word “go”, still do. My mother was quiet as we drove downtown. It was just three blocks away.
“Are we going shopping?” I asked. I knew it wasn’t payday.
“Are we going to the doctor?” I asked.
My mother didn’t answer. She was too busy helping my father drive.
“Watch out! Slow down! Be Careful!”
My father stopped the car at a new place. I have never in been there before, but I knew what it was, and the thought of it brought a chill to my bones and fear in my heart.
Outside the door of that place was a pole painted like a candy cane, and it was turning. I stopped to stare at it and watched the red line as it seemed to flow to the bottom. It reached the bottom and I watched the next line flow down, and then another.
“Come along Joe.” My mother said.
“Oh no!” I thought. “She’s not going to take me in there!”
My mother sat me down and we waited. My mouth fell open. I could not believe my eyes. There, I saw it! Grown up men were sitting in high chairs! And they were not even embarrassed! I had felt so grown up when I no longer sat in my high chair. I could finally eat with the rest of my family. And now, I saw that, they make even bigger high chairs for grownups!
“I want to go home.” I started sniffling. I could feel the tears running down my cheeks. This place smelled funny like sweet flowers. Men sat in there and read old magazines. And other men dressed in white were cutting everyone’s hair with their noisy things and then they would sweep up piles of chopped hair and throw it all away!
“I like long hair.” I muttered.
“Don’t be silly.” My mother scolded. “All good little boys get their hair cut short.”
“I don’t want to be a good little boy.” I sniffled. “I want to be me.”
“You’re going to look so handsome when you cut your hair.” My mother told me.
“I don’t want to look handsome. I want to look like me.” I cried.
That was not all I saw! It got even worse. The men on the high chairs were wearing bibs! Bibs are for babies!
“I’m not going to wear a bib!” I shouted. The men in there laughed at me.
“Everybody is going to laugh at me and call me Baldie.” I cried.
“Don’t be silly.” My mother said. “Nobody is going to call you ‘Baldie’. They are going to say ‘My! What a handsome young man you are!'” I wasn’t sure if I believed her.
“That thing’s going to hurt.” I was looking at the noisy hair cutting machine in the man’s hand.
“Do you see those men crying?” My mother asked me.
“No.” I looked. The men on the highchairs seemed to be resting. One looked like he was sleeping.
Soon it was my turn. The man who was going to cut my hair made me sit on a board so I could be even higher.
“How do you want it?” He asked putting the big white bib on me.
“Oh just cut a little bit.” I said. Then I realized he was not talking to me. He was asking my mother.
“Give him a regular boy’s haircut.” She said proudly.
Oh no! I knew what that meant! He was going to get his noisy hair cutting machine and cut all my hair off!
And he did. He cut and mowed and snipped and trimmed until nothing was left! He even mixed up some bubbly soap and got out his razor blade and shaved off whatever was left! Then he spun me around and swept my head with a brush, then he covered me with some sweet-smelling powder.
“All done!” The man said with a proud wide smile. The man spun me around once more and let me see myself in the mirror. I looked. There was nothing I could do about it. On the top of my head was nothing but nice short stubble. Scattered on the floor all around me was all my hair. My head was shiny!
My heart was broken.
“My! What a handsome young man you are!” My mother said proudly. I could see a big smile on her face. It felt funny to rub my hand on my short stubbles. It was kind of like rubbing my hand across our hair brush.
“Very nice!” The man who cut my hair said.
The men who were waiting looked up from their magazines and said, “Very nice!”, and gave me the thumbs up.
“Who is that?” My father teased when he first saw me. He had been waiting in the car all that time.
“What happened to Joe?” He asked my mother. He pretended he didn’t know me with the new haircut.
“Here I am!” I said believing he really didn’t know me.
“Wow!” My sisters said when we got back home. “You look so handsome!”
I was happy to be so handsome. My father kept asking my mother why she traded me in for another good-looking boy. I felt proud dad didn’t know me with my new haircut.
“What’s your name?” He kept asking me. “Where’s Joe?”
I laughed and assured him it was really me.
Later that day I ran outside to play in the front yard. I had forgotten all about my shiny head. I was looking for my lost ball. I knew I left it out there, somewhere.
A neighbourhood boy walked by. He stopped. He looked at me. I looked back. He looked at me for a long time. I looked back.
“Hi Baldie!” He finally yelled. He started laughing as he ran away. I ran too, crying to my mother’s arms. I know she tried to make me feel better, but she couldn’t make me feel that I didn’t look funny. Not even my daddy knew who I was.
Like I said. I’m an old man now. And ever since I was old enough, I have never cut my hair. I never will. And isn’t it strange how things work out?
As old as I am, kids still call me Baldie.