I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with haircuts. According to my parents, I did not enjoy my first trip to the barber shop. When documenting the occasion in my baby book, my mom charitably wrote: “He didn’t like it!” She later told me she didn’t want to write that I screamed my head off the entire time.

This photo “was taken mere hours before I was finally relieved of my COVID hair,” Rick Bradbury says. Photo courtesy of Rick Bradbury

As the years went by, I didn’t mind the actual haircut itself as much as the spotty results. Once I was old enough to make the trek alone, I loved those summer mornings when I was given $3 and sent downtown to get a haircut, enjoying the smell of fresh-cut grass mixed with the occasional whiff of salt air coming off Narraguagus Bay.

At one time, our town had two barber shops. The newer shop had been opened by a younger man who’d gone to barber school, which meant he learned that there were more styles than “short” and “really short.” His cuts were preferred by my classmates and me. Then one day he decided that driving a bus would be preferable to cutting hair and sold the shop to his brother-in-law. If Bill had any training, it didn’t show. He often cut hair while watching soap operas on a portable TV. I arrived home after one such haircut looking so bad that Dad took one look at me and hauled me back to demand a fix. I was both mortified and thankful.

Adulthood brought college, jobs and new barbers. There was the shop in Bangor with two barbers where the quality of your cut depended on which chair you ended up in. If unlucky in your timing, the results were horrific. My job required travel, which meant getting haircuts wherever and whenever you could, not always a recipe for success. The haircut in Millinocket was so-so; the one given by the lady in Fort Kent was fantastic. Marriage brought a new experience – the salon. While the haircuts were vastly improved, they required scheduling, not one of my strengths. It’s the striped pole and Bay Rum for me.

Moving to southern Maine brought a new barber. He’s also a minister and a great guy. Haircuts had become consistent and enjoyable … until COVID. My hair has always grown fast and unruly. In an abundance of caution, I went 10 months without a haircut. My appearance on Zoom meetings became a running joke. Comparisons to Doc Brown from the movie “Back to the Future” were made. Descriptions ranged from “Colonial settler” to “Civil War general.” Ponytails were suggested; man-buns were discouraged.

When I finally went to the barber in December, Rob didn’t recognize me. I told him that my wife actually liked my long hair, so he suggested leaving it longer than he usually does. It turned out OK, but honestly, he could have hacked it with hedge clippers for all I cared. I was getting a haircut, and I liked it.

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