I had gone 54 years and 39 days before anyone had uttered to me what my barber said to me last month.
By MATT KEENAN
Special to The Star
I was sitting in the barber’s chair at JD & Jake’s in Martin City, getting my hair cut, enjoying the sports page, and my mind was in a care-free zone most parents rarely get to enjoy. And everything came to a screeching halt when he asked me the following question: “Do you want me to trim your eyebrows?”
My brain skipped. My heart fluttered. My throat tightened. My eyes crossed. I looked up and I imagined a series of life events, running together like the Coke Zero ad — babies born, birds flying, leaves rustling, water splashing, people shouting, bulls running, and the check-out lady at Price Chopper repeating to me over and over: ‘paper or plastic?’ When I snapped out of my funk, Jake was standing in front of me, staring above my eyes, waiting like Edward Scissorhands, ready to pounce.
Everyone else in the barbershop seemed interested in my answer — even the toddler who had stopped playing with his Hot Wheels. This was not a moment for Q&A — like, “What?” It was decision time. “Uh, no thanks.” He moved on to my sideburns.
I returned to the sports page but the question never left. My worry list was plentiful and didn’t need any additions. For him to suggest that my eyebrows needed a weed whacker means I’ve been, well, blind to the issue. My brain trolled the database of people with eyebrows that had work done — trimming, waxing, shearing, or even fake ones that fall off, as happened to Ron Paul during a presidential debate last year. I always thought bushy brows were an endearing feature — like those adorning the eyes of Ted Koppel, Andy Rooney, Regis Philbin and Vincent Price.
Body language experts say eyebrows represent a huge part of the facial expression matrix — anger, confusion, dismay, even joy — all but the last one I was experiencing at that moment.
“The barber asked if I wanted my eyebrows trimmed,” I said to Lori when I arrived home. I was off kilter a tad but she was surprisingly tone deaf to it all. “You should have said yes. You have some long ones. They could use some attention.” My daughter chimed in. “Dad, OMG yes.” Bernie cared nothing of the bush-brow crisis du jour. Besides, she had her own hair issues.
Who knew? Who cared? Who declared a crisis?
I went to the bathroom and tried to get an upclose look. It was hard to do so without readers, which I refuse to buy. I squinted and got a sense for things. Generally speaking, these kinds of inspections are the domain of dermatologists and absolutely no one else. My face, my eyes, my bags — my skin resembled an asphalt road with too many salt treatments. The Mars rover Curiosity beams back more appealing images. The brow had some issues, no question. There were some grand-daddies in the mix. I briefly looked for a clipper to maybe, just maybe, do some trimming but stopped on further reflection.
It may sound strange to ask this but when you are my age and have a hair that has never been cut — how old is it? Fifty years? Forty? Like my own personal redwood tree. I admired those hard working buddies and pondered how many times they had to flex over the years. Moments of joy, sadness, confusion, anger. Amazing! When needed, they were there. Cutting them down? No chance.
If this is the first time you’ve ever read a column about a man’s eyebrows, you probably have lots of company.
Freelancer Matt Keenan writes every other week. His book, “Call me Dad, Not Dude. The Sequel,” is available at thekansascitystore.com.