I have had some unfortunate home haircuts in my day, captured in school photos for the amusement of future generations. There's one in particular that stands out.
I am about 8 years old, in a maroon polyester dress with a drooping collar that manages to create a "beagle-ears" effect. But it is my hair that commands attention; I am sporting startlingly asymmetrical bangs that slope sharply down my forehead.
I remember sitting for home haircuts on a stool in my basement; hair dripping wet, a towel pinned around my shoulders. My father did most of them - a former Marine, he could wield the clippers with the best of them. My brothers always had a crisp, recently incarcerated look about them. But my dad's lack of beauty-school training with scissors was more evident in my younger sisters' and my "styles."
They were the no-frills version of the "Dorothy Hamill;" very short with bangs. We were frequently mistaken for boys. Which is why even the beagle dress was a must on picture day - I wanted to avoid the potentiality of the photographer addressing me with, "Young man, you're next." Other than that sort of embarrassment, I can't say that I was much affected by my home haircuts. Maybe it was because almost everyone I knew had home haircuts, too.
Probably, though, it was because the home haircut was a highly entertaining event. My dad has always been witty, with great stories, and it was a pleasure to sit in that chair and be the focus of his attention, even if he got a little carried away.
Still, you'd think that after experiencing the occasionally traumatic home haircut, I would shy away from giving them. But, no! Janet's World has always been a take-charge kind of place: Once I reached the age where I cared about how I looked, I went to the local "beauty school" to get discount haircuts. And I paid attention so I could learn the basics.
The girls at the beauty school took their time because I was usually their first head of hair not disembodied on a wig stand. Sometimes they forgot my skull was not made of Styrofoam. But generally, it was a pleasant and lengthy experience.
I asked a lot of questions and became a student of the sectioning and snipping of layers. After a year or so of in-the-chair beauty-school instruction, I was ready for my own cape and haircut scissors. I was determined that my youngest sister, Patti, would never be mistaken for a Patrick.
I started cutting hair for family and friends, and I think I was decent at it. In fact, I cut my children's hair right up until they went to school, only stopping because I did not want a permanent record of my work.
So I was not at all alarmed when my husband purchased dog-grooming clippers to use on our Goldendoodle, Moose. Moose has a shaggy, curly coat - how hard could that be? But while my dad never quite mastered the scissors technique, I never quite mastered the clippers. I guess my husband didn't, either.
Let me just cut to the chase and say I think that our dog's hair was way too long to start with. Perhaps we should have gotten him a decent haircut; then "copied it" with trims.
But what we did was replicate my aforementioned asymmetrical home haircut in the dog world. See for yourself on my Web site: www.janetgilbertonline.com.
I had to call my dad. I told him we had given Moose a home haircut, and that it looked choppy, uneven and just plain bad.
"As long as the other dogs aren't laughing at him, don't worry about it," he said.
And just like that, I was back in my basement on Long Island, sitting on that stool and smiling, my bangs getting shorter by the minute.