My father used to cut my hair. He would sit me on a wooden chair in the kitchen and drape a towel around my shoulders. Then he would put a piece of scotch tape across my forehead on top of my bangs, and cut above it. I'm not sure where he learned this method, but the result was usually horrible-looking. Through much of my elementary school years I walked around with extremely uneven bangs that started somewhere behind my ears and sometimes came to a point in the middle of my head, like a Star Trek character. As bad as I looked with a fresh haircut from Dad, there was one that has held the prize my whole life for Worst Haircut Ever.
The summer after Kindergarden, I watched one day as Dad had my sister Kate in a chair in the kitchen, snipping above a piece of tape across her bangs, the first time I had seen my father's technique unveiled. His face was set in engrossed determination, with his tongue touching his upper lip and a squint in one eye. Kate looked terrified. I, on the other hand, watched in true awe as he stooped in front of her, whispering, "Don't move...stay still...stop wincing." The only time I remembered getting my hair cut was when Mom had taken us a year or so before to a salon. Kate had been so upset about having her hair cut that she had kicked off her red buckle-shoes and slouched down in the barber chair, throwing a hysterical tantrum. I had sat quietly mesmerized by Kate's display as the nice lady cut my hair into a Beatles bowl cut. Now, Dad was cutting Kate's hair without so much as a peep from her. I decided in my head that it had be the tape that was magically keeping her quiet. I knew I needed to try this experiment for myself.
The next day, I began planning early. I knew nap time was after lunch, so I had the morning to gather supplies. I snuck the scissors up to my room and under my bed while Dad threw the ball outside for our dog, Chance. Then, as he made my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I smuggled the tape upstairs and next to the scissors in my hiding spot. After eating lunch as quickly as possible, I began stretching and yawning, showing Dad that I was barely able to keep my eyes open, ready for a nap. As soon as Dad shut the door to my bedroom, I hopped out of bed and grabbed the tools I had hidden earlier. I started to put the tape across my bangs, but realized I was too out-in-the open in the middle of my bedroom floor. If Dad was to check in on me, I would be caught immediately. So, I did the only logical thing I could think of. I rolled under my bed and pulled the tape and scissors in with me. This was a secret experiment, and I need to be absolutely sure I wouldn't get caught. Once I was situated in such a small space, I reapplied the tape to my bangs, blindly feeling the line I had made. I decided it felt straight and well-positioned, so I picked up the scissors and sliced above the tape. That first cut was intensely satisfying; the thick mass of hair being severed and falling to the hard wood floor in front of my eyes. Even the sound of each hair being cut seemed delicious. I cut again and again, feeling each time to be sure that my bangs were even, finding pieces that seemed a little long and shortening them to match. It all seemed to be going well, but soon I started noticing pieces of hair that were shorter than the rest. I had to put the scotch tape across my bangs again and cut a new line across. I couldn't, in my hiding place under the bed, use a mirror to make the process more simple. I was going by the feel of my bangs alone, and they felt incredibly uneven. I began to panic. I cut furiously, trying to give them a uniform length. Finally, I decided to put the scissors down. I looked at the hair on the floor in front of me, a mound of blond with tape intermingled. I knew the tape had no magical power, at least not for me.
I climbed out from under the bed and made my way downstairs, catching my reflection in the dining room mirror as I walked by. My bangs had been almost entirely cut off. They were so close to my scalp that they were sticking straight out from my head, jagged in places, wispy in others. I sat at the kitchen table waiting for Dad to come in from mowing the lawn, raking my fingers across the spikey line I had made. He walked through the kitchen door, sweating through his collared shirt from the summer heat. Our eyes met, and I watched as his grew wider and wider, his neck craning forward to get a closer look. "What...have...you...done?" he asked under his breath, his hands going to his hips. The only response I could muster was a shrug. The truth was, I really didn't know what I had done. The scissors had gotten the best of me. I waited for Dad to scream, to punish me, to maybe even spank me. Instead, he began to chuckle. He shook his head and said, "Be glad your mother isn't here to see this." He laughed harder and harder, until finally, I started laughing too. He ran his hand across what was left of my bangs, his shoulders shaking as he tried to muffle his giggles. "You look like a baby bird!" he proclaimed, picking me up and whirling me through the air above his head. I laughed and flapped my arms, squawking like a crow. After that incident, I retired the scissors forever, letting Dad work his own kind of magic with the scotch tape.