11. How to shave your wife's head
The little girl with the light-up sneakers running up and down the aisle of the restaurant stopped cold in front of our table. It wasn’t tough to figure out what caught her attention.
A few hours earlier, I had shave Stephanie’s head. It had been her idea, chemo was taking it’s time de forrest ing her scalp, so she decided it was time to take matters into her own hands. Or my hands. Forty dollars at Macy’s gets you an okay rechargeable clipper set with various attachments and a nice faux leather bag to store it in when the sheering is done. I picked a middle-length sheeth to give me the most room for error. Slicing open her skin was not an option at this point, but certainly a possibility.
I started at the front, left side, and worked it front to back. It doesn’t come off in a perfect bouquet of locks. You need to keep backing up, to clean the hair from the machine, and retreading areas you think you’ve done, to catch any stragglers. Over and over, slowly making progress until, to misquote DaVinci, the head is free’d from the hair.
She looked a little like a Dalmatian, or a woman wearing a Dalmatian-colored wig. It was spotty. Not the smooth pate of a Patrick Stewart but more of dirty bath-matt that you would never ask to pilot the Starship Enterprise.
She said she wanted to take it shorter. The blade guard was coming off, and the risk was going up. Still, I was starting to feel like I knew what I was doing. Channeling some inner barber, I started to move her head from side to side, front to back.
No word of a lie, there was a strange, new-found intimacy involved; a dance, one where you lead, trust with a blade, a communal goal. It doesn’t last long, or long enough. And as soon as it’s finished, you’re anxious to try again. (I suggested shaving in solidarity… the answer was an emphatic “are you fucking kidding me?”)
Heading out, I wondered if they would take her for a cancer victim - naw, too fit and healthy looking - or a Silver Lake Hipster - yeah, that’s it, “Hey lady, why don’t you ride your unicycle over to the holistic crystal tea store?”
But any reactions I clocked on the walk to get some food were politely muted. (The wife’s hat may have played a roll, but I could tell they could tell.)
Except for the little girl in the restaurant. The waitress had just regaled us with the story of how she once shaved her boyfriend’s hair. We smiled, she was sweet, and she made sure we ended up with extra full glasses of wine.
But the little girl had no words. She just looked. Not scared. Intrigued. Wowed.
Her mom hurried over, mumbled an apology about the kid’s rudeness.
“She’s great” I said.
“And I like your shoes” I told her.
The girls eyes never left my wife’s head as she was hurried off, lighting up with every step.
Let them see you make a statement, I thought, as we returned to our meals. Let them see.