I think there’s something about restrooms that makes me stupid. For example, most people know enough not to build enormous fires between themselves and the only avenue of escape, especially when they’ve locked out anyone who could rescue them. I, however, have done that twice, naked. Both times I got distracted on the way to the shower. Also both times the danger surprised me, as though nakedness, traps, and fire could ever combine into something pleasantly helpful. (“What, the city’s in danger? Quick, take my pants and fetch some matches; I’ll be in the cellar!”)
Therefore, if I had tried to cut my own hair outside for example, or in someone’s living room, I probably would have stopped before the first fateful snip. Instead, I went home to my dorm, to the large restroom that my suite shared. My supply of common sense, which is questionable at the best of times, thus abandoned me completely. Suddenly I was standing in a pile of my own hair, looking in my reflection at the unredeemable muddle I’d created on my head, and whispering with dawning recognition, “This probably wasn’t a good idea.”
What would have been a good idea was to leave the restroom. Instead I grabbed a razor. I can say this with an embarrassing degree of hindsight-granted certainty: pretty much no good plans begin, “Instead I grabbed a razor.” It wasn’t even a fancy razor; it was a cheap disposable razor. In fact, it was a cheap razor of which I should have disposed several days earlier. Even before I decided to push it through the bramble that I call hair, it didn’t have much edge and I think it had started to rust.
Also I had no shaving cream. I generally don’t like lotions and creams–(I have a grudge against them that started with lip balm, but that’s another story)–and I had a goatee. It didn’t seem worthwhile to keep shaving cream around for just a part of my face. By that point I’d been shaving dry for years. I suppose, from a certain perspective, that might make me sound rugged, but it wasn’t as though I shaved my face with an enormous knife while staring menacingly into a fire. I shave my face with a little aquamarine razor while flinching into the mirror above the sink.
Clearly I had everything I needed to make my first attempt to shave my head a success: desperation, a history of poor choices, and a dull razor. What could possibly go wrong? It wasn’t as though pulling blunt rusty metal over thick long hair would be like yanking out whole clumps at a time. Certainly my head didn’t have any unexpected bumps and divots, and certainly the razor wouldn’t try to level those spots with all the subtlety of a bulldozer. Also, while not being able to see the back of my head had caused me trouble just minutes before, it played no role in what followed. The whole process took a mere two hours, too, so it flew by before I knew it.
Then I was standing in front of the mirror, bereft of hair and only bleeding a little bit. Sure, I felt like I had tried to stop a speeding car by dragging my head against concrete, but there was a little spark of triumph in the bewildering pain, at least until I started wondering if I had missed any spots. I knew that I was going to be embarrassed with people saw me without hair; I didn’t want to be more embarrassed about having left random tufts behind.
At that point I realized that I needed to recruit help. Yes, at that point. Fortunately, I had heard people laughing in the adjacent lounge. Unfortunately, hearing them was the easy part.
I’m shy, which is an understatement of such proportions that I can’t imagine an exaggeration big enough to encompass it. With my new haircut and the fact that I wasn’t wearing a shirt at the time, just the thought of other people made me want to curl up in the shower with ice cream and a teddy bear. (In a manly way, of course. Always remember that I’m like Bruce Willis in Die Hard.) Nevertheless, I knew that I had to act or risk even further embarrassment in the future.
So I went to the door of my suite, opened it as little as I could while hiding behind it, and called out into the lounge, “Can one of you guys come help me? I need someone to look at something.”
Silence fell immediately. In retrospect I realized how terrifying the situation must have seemed from the other side of the door. They didn’t know that I wanted someone to make certain I had shaved my entire head; they just knew that a man was hiding behind a door asking for some someone to inspect something. For all they knew, I was naked and concerned about an unfortunately located rash. Or worse. If one of them offered to help, how could he know what he would need to look at or how close he might need to get?
Frankly, I’m surprised that they didn’t all evacuate the lounge completely. Moles, rashes, and unusual body issues of any kind, God gives wives to men for those situations. And to women he gives doctors. (On behalf of men everywhere: sorry, ladies.)
My friend David took one for the team, although he walked through the door as though walking to his own execution. I think he was relieved when I asked him to look at the back of my head, but I’ll never know for sure. To this day, we don’t talk about that moment.