Betty Duffy

Monday, November 14, 2011


The weather has been very moody lately--roiling dark clouds pocked with sunlight, paired with unseasonably high and unseasonably low temperatures, all within the same afternoon. It's the weather that has the most to say about my life these days. I think I've handled November very well so far, all things considered. We've been laying low, sticking close to home, housekeeping, and trying to keep the kids' noses clean.

On Saturday, I cut all the boys' hair, including my husband's. Cutting my husband's hair is one of those things that sounds really romantic in theory. I orbit around his head, periodically bending over to where he would meet my eye, but I'm squinting just to the right and left of his gaze, checking for evenness and effect.

The problem I've realized is that boys, at least the five boys who dominate my life, are very particular about their hair. They have strong ideas about what looks good, and what minuscule irregularities might ruin the next month for them.

They get up from the chair, to glance at themselves in the mirror and see how things are going. They rub their palms over the backs of their necks, and brush hair off onto the floor. And there is a lot of hair, so very much hair, that the romantic prospects of giving my husband a haircut, much like the romantic prospects of making out on the beach, are over-shadowed by logistics that leave you irritable, and itchy all over.

Plus I accidentally cut the back of my husband's neck with the clippers.

Inevitably, one of the boys doesn't want his hair cut at all--and it's the boy with chronically dirty ears, the one whose pants are always too short, the one who most needs a decent haircut, and all the help his mother can give him, really.

I've done the calculation to see what it would cost to send them all to Greatclips--and for five heads, it's about fifty bucks a month, which is about $600 a year in hair-cuts, which is so not in the budget. So there's nothing to do but stand there wagging the fiskers over the boy's head, reigning in tempting digressions about the miseries of pre-adolescent hygiene.

I wish I could say a prayer for serenity, gently squeeze the boy's shoulder to let him know that I love him, but that we've got business to accomplish, and he's going to cooperate. But when the kid keeps wiggling towards the pointed end of your scissors, and you have said, "STILL!" so many times you've quit caring whether or not he gets hurt, it's really best to blow the joint before you earn fifteen minutes of the most unflattering kind of fame.

So I went for a run.

I only have to run for two minutes or so, before I'm in the middle of nowhere. I cross a creek lined with the white trunks of Sycamore trees that have dropped their leaves, and then I'm in the open fields. The corn and soybeans have been taken in, so the brown grasses on either side of the road form the tallest line on the horizon. One could feel overwhelmed by such a desolate landscape, or overjoyed by its openness. I was inclined to feel both that day.

Having appreciated the wonders of creation outside my home, I could think more kindly about the wonders of creation within it. Just kids, back there. Just normal kids, doing normal stuff--being caught up in legos, and not wanting to take baths or get their hair cut. Funny kids, with their own ever-evolving rebellions and modes of escape. Hot and cold kids who, for better or worse, have much in common with their mother.

In fact, it occurred to me, that their mother was the common denominator in all five miserable haircuts administered that afternoon. Perhaps, when that many people are complaining, I can't just blame it on their vanity or immaturity or their male-ness. Maybe I really am not the hairdresser I thought I was.

I'm still not paying for Greatclips.

My Aunt gave us Symphony tickets for Sunday, to the Russian fest: Rachmaninoff and Rimsky-Korsakov at the Cincinnati Music Hall.

Lots of artsy students come to these concerts, along with older patrons, some families with kids. My husband and I parked in a corner of the lobby to check everyone out.

A trio of blond women stood next to us speaking Russian. They obviously represented three generations of mothers and daughters, all beautiful--which spawned a discussion about which Russian lady was most attractive.

I couldn't decide between the eldest, who was approximately seventy, wore her blond hair in a loose bun, and whose mouth full of grey teeth was set off by the bright diamonds on her ears, and the haughty middle woman, approximately forty, with the tight white pants and stilettos and fur collar on her sweater. She went to get their tickets at will-call, and stood with her hip jutted out, and arms folded, glaring at everyone around her.

I was about to ask which one my husband thought most attractive, when the twenty-year-old arched her back, and reached up to tighten her long pony-tail, a move which put all of her remarkable assets on splendid display.

Time to go in.

When the conductor, a petite Asian lady in a silk suit, took the stage, the first thing she did was signal the orchestra to stand up and play the Star Spangled Banner.

My husband and I were confused, because it was the Russian fest, and much of the orchestra hails from various parts of the world, and theater-goers in general are not a very patriotic people, and I've just never seen such a thing done before.

The crowd gradually stood up, a few of us put our hands over our hearts. Some in the balcony stood with their arms folded. One violist really did look sort of disgusted to be playing the Anthem.

I was completely won-over. OF COURSE you would play the anthem at an arts event in America. Americans don't get exiled to Siberia for infusing their artistic creations with criticism of the government.

The concert was fantastic. I've wondered sometimes if Midwestern audiences give away their standing ovations too freely. Really, almost every performance I've been to in the past five years has received a standing ovation. Maybe our ears are not finely tuned enough to catch a mediocre performance.

I really think we're just grateful people. Heh.

As we were leaving town, a Bengals game was ending, and a river of orange-clad fans poured out of the stadium and into the street. Speaking of appreciative audiences, I don't think I will ever understand sports fanatics--the kinds who paint their faces and are noticeably depressed when their team loses. And there are thousands of them. Right here on the sidewalk. Thousands. Someone should tell them that the party's up the road at the Symphony Hall.

On the way home, we swung by Jungle Jim's, because we were on a date, and everyone goes to the grocery store on their dates, don't they? Anyway, I was a little put off at the entry by the sign that said, "Start your carts!" as though I just couldn't get shopping fast enough. Just a little presumptuous on the management's part, I thought--they're so confident I'll find something to buy.

Just for that, I didn't even take a cart, and I spent the first ten minutes or so, pointing out all the ways that Jungle Jim's is just like Wal-mart, until I realized my husband had slipped away to the miles of beer aisles. And when I found him, he was carrying two sixers and wondering why we didn't have a cart to put them in.

And then I remembered we needed milk, and bread, and stuff for the kids to eat, and I found some fenugreek, which I hadn't been able to find in Indiana. So the short of it is, I got over feeling like I wasn't going to buy anything, and we left the place 80 dollars poorer.

Good thing we don't pay for haircuts.


Julia said...


I've been known to offer five cents per clipped toenail around here. I consider it a savings (of sanity) rather than an expense. You *could* pay the boys a dollar or two to sit still for 10 minutes so you can get the haircut done efficiently. It's cheaper than going to the barber.

Jus said...

I spent part of Saturday hovering around a counter stool in the kitchen with CVS hair sheers while doing 5 haircuts as well. I once asked my husband if he wanted to go some place to get his haircut after years of me doing it for him. He looked at me as if I was insane and explained that it is an experience that he has come to associate with me, and love, and intimacy and that he would feel very uncomfortable with someone else doing it.
I have since viewed the task with a very different attitude. I almost look forward to it.

Peter and Nancy said...

I have often thought the same things about standing ovations -- the university venue and our city's performing arts center audiences give ovations 9 times out of 10. During the last performance I went to, the singers' microphones kept going in and out during the first three pieces, and we STILL gave a standing o.

And I wondered if you've ever thought about investing in an electric clipper -- they're about $30, and fast and accurate. If you have a Justin Bieber wanna be, though, you'd be back to the scissors because the clipper only allows 1-inch long hair. (I have the Wahl brand, which I found at Walmart.)

Erin said...

I absolutely love how you transition from one story to the next and then bring it full circle. I aspire to write so well. And I love the story about cutting hair for five boys. We don't have children yet, but my husband has never given me the opportunity to trim his hair and save $8. I don't think he trusts me... and he is so picky about it anyway. I don't know why boys/men think women are so picky about our looks when they are exactly the same way. Ha!

BettyDuffy said...

Nancy, I have the Wahl clippers--two pairs. But one of them I dropped and the corner broke off. On the other pair, the motor's a little sluggish. So I took the head off one and put it on the other, and... it's a little ghetto. I should just buy a new pair. But I do cut the tops of the boys' hair with scissors because they have giant heads, and if their hair is too short they look funny.

Hope said...

I love reading good writing and this post is full of it! Thanks for the smile.

I used to cut my boys' hair with the clippers. They were always nervous because of getting nicked too many times. I used to do my husband's too until I went on strike.

Then he made his own hair appointments and I was happy. He has hair that curls if it gets long enough. I like it. This fall he decided it was too much bother and now he runs the clippers over his own head and I miss those curls.

Melanie B said...

Yesterday morning found me wielding the clippers on my two guys. Cutting the two year-old's hair is just not fun. Somehow he always ends up with a mouth fill of hair.

It never occurred to me to think of cutting my husband's hair as romantic.

ElizabethK said...

I always thought it was shaving a man's face that was supposed to be romantic. Maybe because of the knife near his throat? I dunno. This reminded me of the days when I used to cut my brother's hair, until the day I totally messed it up and he was really mad at me. Plus we were late for a family dinner, because I kept trying to fix it, and it kept getting shorter and shorter.

Anonymous said...

I used to be able to cut my son's hair by bribing him with a sucker and letting him watch T.V. while snipping away. ( This stopped at the age of 4 or 5). I am impressed that your older kids and husband trust you. You should be very flattered and proud that you are saving money for rare finds at Jungle Jims!

Rebekka said...

Wow. I think my husband would shave his head before he let me cut his hair. Although I've never cut a guy's hair before...

Carla Dobs said...

I have been cutting my DH's hair since our early married days. He was in the Navy which required trims every 6 weeks, which was not in a " double student loan repayment while one one grad is working" budget. Now I cut our 3 boys hair as well. The 19 and 17 yo love it since they are cheap too...the 5 yo just hates sitting still...

We estimate we have saved over $10,000 dollars by me getting adept with the Wahl clippers....


Anna B said...
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