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Hair-raising episode at barbershop

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The Little Viking, 18 months old, just had his first barbershop haircut, an experience that turned out to be terrifying, memorable and quite delicious.

First off, we had mixed feelings about cutting the Little Viking's auburn locks, whose tips had turned golden from the summer sun. He was so cute in that surfer dude kind of way.

But when his hair, particularly his bangs, started interfering with his vision, we knew it was time. Equipped with a regular camera and a digital video camera, we headed toward an old-timey barbershop frequented by Marines and other locals.

Yes, we were a little concerned about ending up with a "high and tight" cut or a completely shaved Little Viking, but we decided to take our chances. This would be fun, or so we thought.

When we arrived, Roy, one of several barbers at this conveyor-belt-style barbershop, looked at us and loudly said, "Next." We hurried over to his chair and were instructed that one of us would have to hold the Little Viking in his or her lap while the haircut took place. We decided this was a job for dad.

Father and son sat down in the barber's chair, and as they were covered from neck to toe in a black smock -- which only helps so much -- a true adventure started for all of us.

The Little Viking started sobbing as Roy threaded his hair through a comb and then trimmed the tips with an electric trimmer. Farewell golden tips, full of summer memories from Lake Michigan and Mackinac Island.

Roy's technique looked a bit random, and we inwardly wondered about the outcome. Had we made a mistake? Would the Little Viking look as if he had given himself a haircut?

While we, the parents, had our inner turmoil about the decision to take our 18-month-old to the barber, the Little Viking's turmoil was very much outward.

The sobbing escalated into screaming, and the squirming turned into attempts to flee. His father and I had to hold the Little Viking relatively still while Roy swiftly and steadily worked with electric trimmers and sharp scissors just inches from our guy's little eyes and ears.

The scariest part was the trimming of the Little Viking's "sideburns." He kept turning his head to look at the source of the humming sound each time Roy approached with the trimmer. Visions of shaved eyebrows -- and worse -- flashed in front of our eyes.

It felt like an hour, but the haircut actually took less than 15 minutes. The outcome: fantastic. Roy was a pro, and we silently felt ashamed that we had doubted his ability. He obviously had done this before and said our 18-month-old actually had done very well.

Looking at the Little Viking's tear-streaked cheeks and quivering little body (quite a contrast to the muscular, stoic Marine sitting next to him) we found that assurance a little hard to believe but felt encouraged. What had other, more terrified children done? Fled the barbershop? Threatened to sue?

More important, though, our guy looked adorable in his new hairdo. Yes, we missed the locks (one of which we saved for the scrapbook), but on the flip side, we finally were able to see all of the Little Viking's lovely face.

The best part for the Little Viking had nothing to do with his new haircut or even the fact that we were "all done," as he said. The best part was the strawberry lollipop Roy handed to him when it was all over.

He closed his mouth around the lollipop, his first-ever piece of candy, and smiled. Judging from his contended expression, he seemed to think, "I forgive you both for putting me through that awful experience because this is the best thing I have ever had. Just curious: Why have I never encountered this scrumptious flavor before?"

The lesson here, as we see it, is that getting a professional haircut, like herring or Russian caviar, is an acquired taste. Adults go to the beauty salon or barbershop to relax, pamper themselves and get a whiff of the latest gossip.

A trip to the barbershop is not a child's idea of fun. You're restrained in a chair, and buzzing sounds and sharp tools fly around your head. What's so fun about that?

If the Little Viking could utter the words, he probably would say, "Hey guys, next time, let's skip the haircut and have a lollipop or four."

Lesson No. 2? Lollipops are not an acquired taste.

Gabriella Boston and her husband welcomed their "Little Viking" in May 2002. Send e-mail to gboston@washingtontimes.com.

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