The Day After


One Halloween back in the eighties (you know, the eighties–that time period when otherwise normal people wore a sparkly glove on only one hand and the world was separated into two groups: those who could actually solve the Rubik’s Cube and those who just cheated and moved the stickers around) a friend of mine came to school dressed as a nuclear fallout victim. This was the year that “The Day After”, a disturbing cinematic glimpse into the horror of a post-apocalyptic small American town, first appeared on television and ramped up the dread level on the cold war a few notches.

His costume was excellent; I could tell he’d really put some thought into it. The open sores, the jaundiced skin and the purpling bruises under the eyes could all have come right out of the movie. The best part, though, was his hair. Or, more accurately, his not-hair. It stuck out from his scalp in a few ragged patches and scraggly tufts, like weeds poking sadly up through the cracks in an abandoned parking lot. It was so forlornly awful and pitiful, it brought tears to your eyes. For some reason, that stark image of beauty lost was the one that seemed to haunt viewers of “The Day After” the most.

This post, however, is not about nuclear war, or Halloween, or even the eighties.

It’s about Caleb. More specifically, it’s about his head–because after we finished cutting his hair yesterday afternoon, he looked almost exactly like my memory of that kid in the fallout costume.

I say “we” because it takes two people to cut Caleb’s hair–although three would be preferable, so that when one of them takes a swift kick in the chin with a size nine Adidas, another would be right there to take his place. Imagine sitting in a chair with a panicked young wolverine in your lap, trying to keep your eyes and fingers out of the reach of those sharp teeth and flailing claws while using your arms and legs to contain the roiling frenzy.

Now…imagine trying to give the wolverine a shave.

We used the clippers, because scissors are deadly when coupled with the contortions of our thoroughly harassed Houdini. When we were finally done (“done” is a subjective word–here I use it to describe the moment when Caleb finally slipped loose of my grip and neither Paul nor I had the strength left to chase him), all three of us were sweating and crying, and Caleb’s hair lay in little blonde drifts on the carpet. Here and there some longer stragglers still cling for dear life to his otherwise bald head–over his ears, in a couple of patches on the top–but it doesn’t matter.

I’m leaving it that way.

We’ll just tell the Little Old Ladies* that he has mange.

*a flock of sweet, well-meaning elderly women of our acquaintance who came after us with loaded canes when we first committed the heinous crime of snipping off Caleb’s precious little baby ringlets. (A.K.A. The Vintage Vigilantes)

14 responses »

  1. I have found this to be a tad easier as Carson grows older. This past weekend with Matt home & me having a belly in between me & said wolf cub, we attempted a shave as well. Went okay really. Took less than 10 minutes! He cried & kept his hands over his ears & one held his head & patted his back & the other shaved….that brave soul was me.
    I have gotten serious flack from shaving his head while he napped on the floor on his belly. I turned up the TV, then a bit later I turned on the electric clipppers & left them in the floor next to his head. Then after a few minutes of that & he was really asleep & used the those noises, I began. Easiest haircut I’ve ever done!
    Even done it with him asleep in the recliner. Slipped a towel under his head & began the same way. If he stirred, I stopped & moved the clippers away for a bit, waited, then started again. All this with the plan of starting in a pattern that if I had to stop suddenly b/c said wolf cub woke up…I could say his hair cut was SUPPOSED to look like that.:)LOL Or at least get the rest with scissors.
    Jackson now lets us do his with scissors & then lets daddy get the back with the clippers to even it out & over the ears. He doesn’t like it, but we go slow.;)
    It’s a challenge, and for sure something we draw straws for, like mowing the lawn. A lot like mowing the lawn actually.

  2. One time when Mom cut Patrick’s hair, she managed to snip off part of his eyebrow. For years afterwards, he couldn’t get his hair cut unless he could press a washcloth to his face to “protect” his eyebrows.

    You and Paul are in good company. πŸ˜‰

  3. My husband dealt with my boys for their first few haircuts. I have no idea what went on then, but my nine and six-year-old sit perfectly still for haircuts. SOunds like I have it pretty good. I’ll have to thank him.

  4. Hair cuts in our house are reserved for Cool Cuts 4 Kids πŸ™‚ We go there every so often and allow the kids to pick out their game or movie of choice. As the kids sit in a trance watching said movie, or playing said game, the stylist cuts away, and before you know it, she’s done! It’s the absolutely best $13.95 I could ever spend – and for every 5 haircuts, I get either 20% off or $2.00 off, so there’s a reward for our frequent hair cut miles πŸ™‚

    When Morgann was very small, I attempted to trim her bangs a few times, but after getting them krooked (sp?) every time, then attempting to straighten them out, and having them get shorter & shorter, I decided that I’d just spend the $6 to have them done ‘professionally’. In my mind, it’s just not worth the trouble and torture one must go through to save the $$$. I’d rather pay and walk out with stickers or tatoos, and happy, smiling children πŸ™‚

  5. Yes, I am definitely looking forward to the day when this is not such a hassle. I remember similar struggles with Katie when it came time to trim her hair at the same age (except even harder, because we had to use scissors instead of clippers.) But now she not only endures it, she actually enjoys her “big girl” trips to the salon. (I had the same uneven bangs dilemma you described, Jennifer. I’m sure if I hadn’t taken her to a professional, I would’ve ended up years later on Oprah, discussing how my penny-pinching ways destroyed Katie’s fragile self-image.)

    Shortly after Caleb hit two, he declared a moratorium on all personal grooming activities, including not only haircuts, but clipping his nails, cleaning out his ears, and wiping his nose. I know it’s just a phase he will outgrow, but in the mean time, it has to be done, so we just have to grit our teeth and endure the battles.

    I try to look on the bright side.
    At least it gives me something to blog about. πŸ™‚

  6. P.S. Sri, I would post a picture of my little shorn sheep, but I’m saving the photos as blackmail material for when he’s older. If I release them onto the internet, I’ll lose my leverage.

  7. after reading about Caleb’s moratorium on grooming habits, I had a very distinct picture of one of the monsters from Where the Wild Things are. nice picturesque speech.

  8. Rubik’s cube, The Day After, you’re taking me back. That movie had me so scared of the impending nuclear strike, I was ready to dig the bomb shelter in the back yard. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

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