Yesterday I went to get my hair cut. In recent years, my haircuts have been an exercise in getting my locks clipped progressively shorter and shorter, because I find that I really don’t like longer hair and the work it involves at this point in my life. So I go to my hair-cutting emporium, say I’d like to have my hair trimmed a bit shorter than the last time, and my stylist responds with numbers that I don’t understand.
“Okay,” she says, with a look of knowledgeable determination. “Today we’ll try a 3.5 on the sides.” I recognize she is referring to some kind of setting on her professional-level electronic clippers, but I have no context for what that means in reality. It would be like the produce manager at your neighborhood grocery store earnestly telling you that the onions in the bin are a 3.5 on the Pyruvate scale. You might nod knowingly at that information, so as not to appear stupid to a guy wearing an apron, but you wouldn’t know what a 3.5 means until you actually taste the onion to see what that amount of Pyruvic acid tastes like.
As a result, it seems safer to approach things incrementally, and inch toward the ideal cut as the stylist gradually ratchets down the settings.
In my mind, I’ve got a pretty clear sense of what I ultimately want to get to: the same on the sides but a little bit longer on top than the haircut Christopher Lloyd sported in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, shown above, so that the hair on top can just barely be combed. I’m reminded of the old Jerry Seinfeld line about how they develop “maximum strength” pain relievers: apparently they determine what amount of pain relief will kill you, and then back it off just a bit. I want to find a haircut just shy of the Cuckoo’s Nest line.