How do you know you’ve been spending too much time at home?

When a home haircut starts to look like a great idea. When you find yourself looking at your shaggy-haired loved ones, browsing Amazon for home haircut kits and thinking (foolishly), “How hard could this be?”

I found myself in that deluded state of mind a couple of weeks ago, when I decided to cut my boyfriend’s hair. Dexter has health problems that make him skittish about going to a hairdresser, meaning his locks hadn’t been cut since March. He mistakenly believed his long hair was “cool” and made him look like a bad boy.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that, past a certain age, a man’s long hair makes him look less like 1985-era Sebastian Bach and more like late-stage Vince Neil. And so I coyly suggested that I order a hair clipper to “just trim it up a bit” around the sides. (Translation: I intend to completely remove the sides.)

To prime the pump, I talked glowingly of the hairstyle favored by the Irish and Roma gang members on one of our favorite Netflix shows, “Peaky Blinders.” If you haven’t seen it, the show revolves around Cillian Murphy, a devastatingly cool, handsome and natty sociopath. I championed this cut not only because we both liked it, but because it looked relatively easy: shaved close on sides and back, long-ish on top.

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As we waited for the clipper to arrive, I attended the lowest-rent hair school I could find: YouTube. Mostly, I watched a lot of young women cut their boyfriends’ hair using clipper techniques that seemed oddly inconsistent. I did learn a few things:

  • Use a longer hair guide than you think you’ll need, because “you can take more hair off, but you can’t put it back on.”
  • Don’t rush.
  • The back of the skull that juts out the most is known as the “occipital lobe.”
  • As a blending tool, you should pull the clipper outward, away from the head, with each upward sweep of the clipper.

I also learned about the latest trends in “COVID-inspired haircuts.” (Ugh. What’s next? Pedicures with a coronavirus decal?)

These included buzz cuts, long bangs, pixie cuts, grown-out long hair (duh) and something called the “blunt lob.” It sounds like a tennis swing, (“Serena completely caught Venus by surprise with that expert blunt lob,”) but it actually stands for a bob that has been grown to collarbone-length.

When imagining Dexter in a blunt lob, I could only envision Garth from “Wayne’s World,” so we stuck to the close-shorn idea. Upon receiving the clipper, I prepared the home-salon area as if we were about to perform heart surgery. Tools were neatly laid out, Dexter was draped in a vinyl sheet and I furtively read through the enclosed haircutting instructions one last time.

The actual haircut wasn’t bad enough to warrant a #covidcut hashtag, but surely would have made any professional cosmetologist cringe. I realized that there is a perfectly good reason why people spend thousands of hours in beauty school: cutting hair is hard. In school, you learn valuable things, like “how not to cry during an appointment" and "how to cut bangs that don’t look like current stock market charts."

And then there are the ears. If the head were a nice oval — like an upright egg — it would be much easier to prune. Instead, these two fleshy outgrowths present themselves, with no hint as to how to cleanly trim around them. In fact, one of my noticeable errors was shaving too much hair away from behind one ear, so that it looked like he was being treated for ringworm.

I’d like to think that it’s just a coincidence that Dexter has pretty much worn a hat every day since his Tamateur cut. Every once in a while, he likes to point out a longish clump of hair that I somehow missed. We laugh about it, although I think: “Hey, you get what you pay for. Show some gratitude, bub!”

It all goes to show that haircutting is a bit like giving yourself a tattoo or delivering your own baby.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at tswiftsletten@gmail.com.