Getting a haircut is like going to confession. You don’t go as often as you probably should, and you feel embarrassed and awkward when they ask how much you want taken off. The penance of looking funny several days afterward ought to be punishment enough, without your head feeling cold once shorn of its natural covering. At least in my experience. The truth is I like long hair. Biblical-length hair. The truth is also that many people think it inappropriate for a guy my age. I always eventually bow to peer pressure, but it can take a while. Beautician forgive me, it has been six months since my last haircut. Absalom, after all died because of his long hair. O Absalom!
This isn’t just idle musing on my part. I grew up in the Evangelical tradition that is now ripping our nation apart. One of the greatest markers of that faith is conformity. In college I learned to call it the “Evangelical haircut.” Any guy who had hair over his collar or ears was suspect of not being “Christian.” I began to notice that this same mindset preferred well manicured lawns, cutting down trees and keeping outward appearances neat and tidy. There’s no better way to mask what goes on internally than to present an outward look of a well-ordered world. Getting a haircut always brings this back to me—it is a statement being made. I’m not sure how to explain this to the poor girl standing there with scissors in her hand. I don’t want to look Evangelical!
Of course, the beard helps. Until recently Evangelicals didn’t permit beards. The girls in college said they made men look unclean. As if they were never washed. And these days some Evangelicals have come to support the stubble beard—electric razors, those allies of Occam, can be purchased to keep the half-way bearded look fresh. I prefer to get my money’s worth out of a haircut. I also prefer to signal that I am not one of them. Absalom may have been an overly ambitious young man, but despite Michelangelo’s famous statue, David the man was himself in all likelihood bearded and might’ve sported a mullet. Samson wore dreds. Uncomfortable with history, Evangelical illustrators in the ‘80s began portraying Jesus with a Roman haircut and neatly trimmed beard. Perhaps I’m overthinking this, but now that I’ve got Samson’s fate in mind I find it difficult to open the door, knowing I’ll walk out after confession not feeling so much redeemed as just plain chilly. Even Absalom, I remind myself, had his hair cut once a year.