My husband, Stan, hates going to the barber, so several years ago I volunteered to cut his hair. "Do you know how to cut hair?" he had asked dubiously.
"What's there to know?" I waved my hand in the air dismissively. "It's like trimming a hedge."
I had never actually trimmed a hedge either, but it looked simple enough.
"People go to school to learn to cut hair," Stan had insisted.
"So go to one of them, then," I said.
I had him there, and that's when I got the job.
One thing my husband hates about getting his hair cut is the small talk that the hair stylists always make. So just for fun, when I'm in the mood, I amuse myself by asking him questions:
"So, are you married?"
"Where do you work?"
"Are you looking forward to the holidays?"
Stan has no sense of humor about getting his hair cut and always refuses to participate in my small talk.
I've been cutting his hair for a few years now. Some days I'm more into the hairdressing playacting than others.
On one particular day I was not in the mood for small talk. I was all business. I got out my hair-cutting kit, which includes an electric clipper that's as loud as a jackhammer and comb guides that you snap onto the clipper. They are numbered from 1 (the military look) to 8 (Brady Bunch, the later years).
I thought Stan's hair should be short, so I snapped on No. 2 and performed a grand, sweeping stroke up the back of his head. I stopped.
It was much shorter than I'd expected.
I cocked my head, fluffed his remaining hair, and said, "Uh-oh."
Stan does not like it when I say "uh-oh" as I'm cutting his hair. Other phrases he does not like are: "It will grow back," and "Go to the mirror and see if I cut it too short."
"What will you do if it is too short?" he says.
He also doesn't like when I laugh during a haircut.
My "uh-oh" concerned him. "What's wrong?" he panicked, "Did you cut it too short?"
"Don't worry!" I said cheerfully, and I snapped on No. 4. "I'll even it out later."
I didn't explain how I would do that.
No. 4 looked more like it, and I started making good progress. Fluffy tufts of hair were floating to the floor.
Ears are the tricky part. I took off the comb guide because you must get all the hair from behind the ears. Otherwise hair sticks out at odd angles. I bent his ear forward as far as I could pull it and very gently touched the razor to the spot where ear meets head.
"Ow!" he yelled. I thought he was just being dramatic.
"Did I hurt you?" I asked, in my most concerned voice.
"It felt like you cut me."
I pulled his ear back again to examine it.
"There isn't any blood," I said. (In other words: "Stop complaining.".)
Knowing when the haircut is finished is more of an art than a science, but eventually I stopped. I sent him to the bathroom mirror, and he conceded that was OK. My haircuts never get higher praise than that, even when I prompt him:
"It looks good, doesn't it?" I'll say.
"It's OK," he'll reply.
"Don't you think it's just as good as the kind you get at the hair-cutting place? Maybe better?"
I'll take "OK." We both get something out of these haircuts. We save a few bucks. He avoids subjecting his head and tender psyche to a stranger, and I get to cut hair, which, it turns out, is much more fun than trimming a hedge.
It's good for building trust, too. If he can trust me with clippers around his scalp then our relationship is in good standing.