My mother, of course, was right. I would have looked better if I had my hair cut. This became clear to me recently when college friends from the late ’60s and early ’70s shared some old photos. Like pretty much every other guy back then, I had grown my hair long. Too long.

Peter Vose says his hair is as long now as it was in the late 1960s and early ’70s – because of the pandemic, not politics. Photo courtesy of Peter Vose

Long hair had become essential. The Beatles’ hairstyles suggested that longer hair could be sexy. Protests against ROTC on campus and the war in Vietnam reinforced the idea that anything that made established authority uncomfortable was righteous. So hair became one more way to express disdain for middle-class values. I distrusted political leaders, especially those who supported a war I had come to believe was mistaken. Actually, I thought it was more than a mistake – it was a tragic waste of blood and treasure, and the prospect of wasting my own blood was especially unnerving. So I protested and marched and avoided barber shops.

Thus, there may be some irony in the fact that the best haircut in my life was the one I received while in Hanoi, Vietnam, a few years ago. My wife and I were visiting my sister and her husband, who both had Fulbrights to study in Vietnam. We spent a week in Hanoi in April.

As soon as I arrived, my hair led to a few curious encounters. I have had a full beard for decades, but this was quite unusual in Vietnam, and teenage girls, for reasons I never fathomed, wanted to have their pictures taken with me. We happened to visit the Vietnam National Museum of Fine Art on a day when a girls school was there on a field trip. Seeing me – or, rather, my beard – caused lots of excitement, and many asked me to pose with them while someone took our picture on the girls’ phones.

I had specifically allowed my hair to grow out a bit because my brother-in-law, who had visited Vietnam several times, told me that he had received wonderful haircuts there. So, one afternoon, I wandered along a busy street seeking a place to secure a haircut. Although some offered haircuts on the sidewalk, I wanted to get mine in a shop. I found a promising one and explained that I wanted a haircut and a beard trim. I was the only customer, and the three employees (or owners – I had no idea) all worked on my head. First, they shampooed me. Next, another of the barbers cut my hair and trimmed my beard. Finally, one of them massaged my head and neck. The experience lasted nearly two hours and was extremely relaxing. Even with a generous tip, it cost less than a haircut here.

Now, because of the pandemic, my hair is as long as it was in those early photos. I am so eager to have a haircut that I am sure that haircut will become my new favorite.

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