I took my boys to the barber today for their quarterly haircuts. I wanted them to get summer cuts (short) so that they wouldn’t need to go back until school starts in the fall. Neither boy wanted to go, but my youngest was philosophical. “Just tell Char that I want it like it is now, but shorter.”
My oldest was another story. At the end of fifth grade, he is very aware of what’s cool and what’s not, and apparently short hair is not. The most prevalent style at the school he attends is basically what he already had: overgrown, slightly past the collar, with bangs pushed just far enough to the side to not interfere with his vision.
In the waiting area, he went through various stall tactics until he realized the futility of that (I threatened him with cutting it myself) and sat down in the chair. Stone faced, he would not speak to the barber, and I finally took pity on him and told her not to buzz it or anything, just trim it a little bit and keep it long in the front.
Several minutes later, I looked over and saw that she had not understood. It was shorter, and she had left it long in the front, but the sideburns were somehow non-existent. The whole look was similar to a cube with a face in front. My son had tears in his eyes, and I could understand why. “Uh, maybe trim up those sideburns a little bit, and expose the ears,” I suggested.
“But this is how they’re wearing it,” said the barber.
“Not at his school!” I said.
She did what I asked and it looked better, but as far as my son was concerned, the damage had been done. He glared at me as she vacuumed his neck, and was muttering fifth grade cuss words as I paid her. Rather than expressing gratitude for my saving him from total humiliation, he whispered, “I hate you.”
It occurred to me that the process of editing was similar for me. I liked my manuscript the way it was. I didn’t mind trimming a few adverbs here and there, and was grateful when critique partners pointed out echoed words, but when they suggested some changes that were more dramatic than that, I experienced a great deal of conflict. It was not that I didn’t see the value of their ideas, it was that I knew what I wanted it to look like, and that’s what I wanted to go with. Striving to be reasonable, I weighed their suggestions and realized that the story might benefit from some of them. The current version is not dramatically different, but the pace is better and the action begins earlier. I suspect that it is more marketable than it was.
As we left the barbershop, I noticed that my son’s hair actually looked pretty good. In my opinion, there had been a happy compromise between what each of us wanted and what he’d ended up with. I don’t expect him to admit it, but I think that he basically felt the same way. By the time we’d made it to the parking lot, he was playing with the little car he’d chosen on his way out, and hasn’t mentioned the haircut since.