Paperwork: Hair today. Gone tomorrow. Bwa-ha-ha, you are hilarious

Lonny Cain

I’m studying my baby photo at age 3 months.

I see a similarity with my current hairdo. If you look real close you can see a fine covering of hair. Just not a lot of it.

And so it is now, but my hair is more of a fringe thing than a cover over the dome. And the cute factor also has faded.

I still need haircuts or mowing. My wife is my barber when she has 90 seconds to spare.

I had longer hair in the early grade school years, the kind you have to comb. Funny I don’t remember combing it. Perhaps that’s why the hairstyle changed as I got a bit older. Hair is less worrisome when it’s short.

As I rolled into my preteens my hair became quick and easy – for my parents. I think the style was called a buzz cut, which had no style. The barber was my dad.

I suspect Mom monitored the length and gave Dad the signal to mow. I sat on the high stool and stayed quiet. I don’t recall Dad ever asking, “So, what would you like today?”

My buzz was upscaled to something like a flat top. I brushed up a little fence of waxed hair across the forehead, putting an edge on the flat top.

Flat tops were popular, I guess, but my seventh grade class photo shows most of the guys had longer hair. And probably combs in their pocket. Perhaps that’s when I started caring about my hair.

Teen years were rolling in and I studied what others my age were doing. Mom and Dad understood why I was overly concerned about appearance.

We let the summer hair grow and the red ball cap I wore constantly was covering a reddish-blond mop. I had not been summoned to the basement stool, which was fine by me. Then suddenly Mom tells me I need a haircut and sends me to the downtown barber shop.

Fear was my reaction. Was I in charge of my hair now? What could that mean?

That barber shop had big windows where I saw old men sitting and waiting. Now I had to sit with them?

Everyone turned as I stepped into the tiny shop with one barber, one chair. When the chair was mine, I did the usual – sit still and shut up. The barber wraps a big cloth around my neck and asks, “What would you like?”

Uh … apparently needing a haircut was not enough. It’s possible Mom told me to tell him to leave it longer. Just give it a trim. The barber likely knew the choices based on what he saw.

“Just a little trim today, young man?” Whatever he said, I nodded OK. My fate was in his hands.

I had many years dealing with longer hair. I had no curl. No wave. No natural style.

Except for a short period in the ‘70s when I went radical. No, not talking a ponytail. I let a nice young lady at a salon talk me into a perm. Suddenly I had wave. Style. I admit I loved it.

But time takes its toll. And my hair.

The last time I went to a barber shop I was in my 50s. The kind lady did her best. Then one day she hesitated.

“Lonny, what do you think? Is it time to give up?” I knew what she meant.

“Yeah, do it.” And so the mowing began.

And now I make – and endure – jokes about balding. Which, for some reason, is totally acceptable to everyone.

• Lonny Cain, retired managing editor of The Times in Ottawa, also was a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet in the 1970s. His PaperWork email is Or mail The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350

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