How I was Independent Back Then

Now and then I pull out photos from my distant past and laugh at myself. I stare at those wide eyes and half-smile and ask that innocent little girl, did you really like your hair style back then? Did you even think about your appearance?

My first grade haircut. That was one of the dresses I rotated wearing. Mom rolled my hair in socks for the school photo.

When I was in first grade, I remember telling my mom that I planned to switch back and forth between wearing two dresses to school, even though I had more choices. I distinctly remember her nodding and encouraging me to make those important decisions. So I must have thought about my appearance. Or was I thinking more about creating equal wear on those two dresses? Giving one a rest, using the other, showing no favoritism? I wonder if I continued that plan through the entire school year with just those two dresses. A detail of my past long forgotten.

But the hair. The bangs. Honestly. The bangs. Chopped straight across my forehead, cleanly, expertly. As though a shallow bowl—perhaps a large coconut half-shell—had been overturned on top of my head and the stylist had just trimmed along the bowl’s edge.

And in my case, the stylist was a men’s barber. It was a big deal to get my bangs trimmed by the barber.

My second grade hair cut.

Mom would take me to the barbershop with the candy cane post out front and guys inside waiting to get styled. Or should I say buzzed. Always there was the buzzing because men got their hair buzzed off.  Although I don’t remember my father ever sporting one, seems to me I saw a lot of flattops then. I remember the zzzz of the shaver on the back of some guy’s head. Now I can only imagine the buzzing on the top. Maybe I never saw that and the barber used scissors there instead. But I’d like to imagine a buzzer traveling the top of a guy’s head, creating a nice clean flat place where someone could serve tea.

A poster on the wall showed men modeling hair style choices. Seems like short haircuts were the norm in the early 60’s, like butch and crew and flattop cuts. No pompadours or mullets or jellyrolls or ducktails. The barber probably never updated his poster with those styles, popular later or among younger guys. There certainly were no photos of smiling little girls with bangs cut high on their foreheads. If there had been, they could have called the style “coconut head” or “bangless beauty” or “bowl edge.”

I’d have to be lifted into the big black chair. A plastic sheet would cover my skinny chest, and the barber man would snap his shears.

“Just the bangs” Mom would say.

I watched in the mirror. The shears went snip-snip-snip high on my forehead, nearly at the roots. My straight shoulder-length locks stayed just the same. That was Mom’s domain. She reserved my bangs for the professional. The barber.

After I got a few bangs trims accompanied by my Mom, she gave me money one day and let me walk to the barbershop on my own. It was a half mile or so from our house. But back then, I was used to walking all kinds of places by myself.

Ordering my own bangs trim was the height of independence for a nine-year-old. I never told the barber how short. I never said, “I want a medium-high bowl edge” rather than “ultra-high bowl edge.” It was just a bangs trim.

My school photos from first and second grades show me with that bangs style. I’m sure I thought the look was fine, no big deal. The more important thing was I sure knew how to walk into the barbershop on my own and order a bangs trim. Like I belonged. Like I belonged in that big black chair, my mirrored image staring back at me as the barber did his work.

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