If there is any physical feature of mine that I have always been especially proud of, it’s my hair. I have always loved the feeling of being able to run my fingers through it. I’ve always loved the feeling of being able to stroke my beard in contemplation. That’s why shaving alternating sides of my hair, mustache, and beard would have been unthinkable at one time in my life.
For those of you who don’t know, the reason I shaved my head in such a bizarre way is because the Knights of Columbus council does an annual April haircut fundraiser. Guys who participate find some strange hairstyles and have people vote for them with their money. The potential haircut that gains the most money wins, and the unlucky gentleman has to wear that haircut for a week, no matter how bizarre.
For a guy who loved his hair as much as I do, I don’t know how I ended up participating. I wasn’t egged on by the other Knights. It certainly was not any kind of peer pressure from everyone else doing it. Only one other knight participated, David Baird, and his haircut ended up looking far more normal than mine. Either way, I felt called to do it.
I found a milk jug, and drew each of the haircuts that people could vote for. The one I would not have minded as much was the “tonsure” (only the top of my head shaved, like a monk). Another was what I called the “vertical hoop,” which consisted of a vertical ring of hair from the top of my head under my chin, with everything else shaved. The “Cossack,” named for medieval Ukrainian cavalrymen, was a mustache and a tuft of hair on top. Then of course there was the “alternating.” Side of my head shaved, opposite side of my mustache, opposite side of my beard. This was the lucky winner. A few days in I added Guy Fieri, which is bleached blond spiked hair and part of a beard. But this one and the Cossack were the unfortunate haircuts who received no votes.
The tonsure was winning for a while, which I was thankful for. This would have been the easiest to recover from. Just shave my head, keep my beard, and I’d look like one of the badass guys with a beard and shaved head. But no. My friends wanted to make it difficult for me, so they did. Alternating won. I was able to raise 68 dollars in total, with alternating composing almost half of that.
On the day of reckoning, my friends all crowded into my room to watch the shaving go down. When it was over, it looked like two different people occupying the same face. I even came up with alter egos for them. The side with hair and a beard, but no mustache, was humble Amish farmer, “Jedidiah Yoder.” The other, with a shaved head and half a mustache, was “Ricky,” a lovable scum bag. Those who knew me, or knew about the fundraiser were amused, but even for them it got old quickly. Most people just stared, not bothering to ask, or were too nervous to ask what would compel me to get such a haircut. A lot of people asked me if I lost a bet. But having to face that tiny amount of disdain and embarrassment through the week was humbling.
I went on the Antioch retreat with it, and it was interesting how important it ended up being to the weekend. As soon as I returned to campus, however, I shaved off what was left of my head hair and facial hair, leaving me as bald as I have ever been. It was symbolic, in a way. Shaving off the old man, so the new one can grow. It was an experience that I do not regret, and one that made me grow in some small way as a man. Hair grows back, and so will I.