I got my scheduled haircut today.
I wouldn’t think that I’m the kind of person who would schedule an appointment six weeks out at a fancy salon with the same woman I’ve seen for the last ten years. I have always thought that I was more of the barbershop type, one who would casually walk into an establishment complete with barber’s pole, wide leather chair, and the enduring smell of some kind of cologne-hair tonic mix. But I’ve come to appreciate the fact that I don’t have to explain how to deal with the hairline that seems to follow the slope of my neck all the way to my back, or that I’d like my hair thinned out, or that there’s always a stray couple of hairs sticking out of my forehead. Number two clippers on the side and finger length on top are presumed, and any suggestion of deviation is only a joke poking at my severe lack of progressivism when it comes to hairstyle.
Besides the integrity of the haircut, I’ve come to rely on the fact that I can schedule each appointment and secure it on my calendar. When I look ahead in my planner to schedule this, I’m always amazed by everything else in my calendar that has yet to take place, but will surely be in the past the next time scissors are leaving another inch of brown (and grey) clippings on the floor.
Last time when I scheduled this haircut, I turned past events like a summer outreach program, three camps for kids, a workshop for teachers, and a road trip out west, among other things. All of these events were blips of anxiety on my horizon, but I knew that as sure as my hair would grow, these would be behind me by my next appointment. This isn’t anything profound, but it’s become my most standard measure of meaningful time.
I can picture the events in between haircuts as the “present,” those appointments and tasks that are real and in my immediate grasp. Even as they would have once seemed abstract and even foreboding, once they’re within the range of one haircut I know that they’re a part of my reality. Each haircut represents my most distant but inevitable horizon, and everything before the next haircut is laid out before me.
I’ve long been fascinating and mystified by geology, and in particular I’ve always struggled with making sense of various measures of time. Epochs and eras that a geologist labels slabs of rock with — Mississippian or Jurassic or Cenozoic — are just words to me, and I can only remember which ones compare to one another when I have some full color diagram and legend splayed out for me in some book. I’d never understood why they didn’t just label fossils, rock layers, and events with numbers instead of these arbitrary names. But now I liken these to my chunks of time bookended by haircuts. Each period has its own pieces in play, a set of events and organisms that are interrelated. I now want to go back to my calendar and stack it vertically, leaving fossil evidence of a vacation or a project in some hardened clay. I’ll name the span of time something arbitrary and file it away. At some point I’ll no longer remember the individual details of any of those projects or events, even though I may have been wringing my hands over them while I was in that era.
So my hair is cut, short and without any need for care. And, my immediate calendar is defined by my next appointment. Between then and now is the Septemberian era, an age in which there’s a rebooting of projects, piles of meetings, a new half marathon, a trip to Athens, Georgia, the beginning of a new school year, and even midterm exams — all things that have seemed so distant to me for so long. But now I know these will all happen, only because I’ve scheduled my next inevitable haircut.