Jen Melchert last wrote for The Toast about perfidy.
* Electric clippers, full-size or of the “personal area” variety
* Mirrors, lots of them
* A lot of time. More than that. Like, eleven times as long as that.
* Absolute solitude
* 2-8 cups of tea, depending on how many times you repeat step 4
So you’ve seen pictures of Natalie Dormer on the set of The Hunger Games on Tumblr, and you don’t have a full set of tactical gear but you’re pretty sure you can at least rock the hair. Good, you’re with me. Let’s get started.
1. Prepare your space. Lay a towel on the floor, remove all objects from the vanity that you don’t want covered in hair shrapnel, and put on a buttondown flannel which can be whisked off directly into the laundry at the end of this process. You know which towel and shirt these are. They live on the bottom shelf and remind you of every hair experiment you’ve ever undertaken, from the time you soaked your head in laundry bleach with Darla when you were eleven until now, when shaving just one side of your head suddenly seemed like a good idea.
2. You know hat bin of random hair stuff that you never use but can’t throw away? Get it out of the cardboard box in the back of the closet from the last time you moved and go through it for stuff that might be useful, like weird clips or pointed combs. Hey, is that a tube of neosporin?
3. Haul out your clippers, plug them in. Brush your hair while staring at your head in the mirror. Is this really a good idea? It will take forever to grow back. What if the side of your head is a funny shape?
4. Go make some tea. Drink it while patting your head, wondering if it will feel lighter after shaving the side.
Oh no, what if you shave the wrong side and everyone laughs at you? Don’t worry. People who don’t understand that Natalie Dormer’s hairstyle is now a legitimate sexual preference will laugh anyway. They’re not your real friends. You will grind them into the earth with the awesomeness of your hair.
5. Go look at Natalie Dormer on the internet again, but don’t bring your laptop into the bathroom. You’d never get all the hair out of your keyboard. For good measure, look at Skrillex, too, and then Cyndi Lauper.
Stand in front of the mirrors. It is time to do this. For real. Let’s go. Do it. Do it now.
6. Just start shaving.
7. Ha ha, just kidding. Better plan more first. Get some combs and use them to draw out the lines on your head, delineate the “shaving area”. Use clips and hair binders to tie the rest of the hair way over on the other side of your head. Once you turn on those clippers, no telling what will happen, and you don’t want to look like that time Sally DeLong put gum in your hair but you refused to get a pixie cut so your mom said “fine” and took a scissors to the gummed-up part.
8. You can get the lines a little straighter than that. Just that one tiny section, see? Pull those twenty hairs out of the clip but leave the rest. That didn’t quite work right, so take down that whole clip full of hair and rearrange it. Maybe the one next to it, too.
9. Now you’re really ready! Hold the clippers in your hand. Stare at them. Look in the mirror. Now back at the clippers. Take a deep breath, hold it, and push the power button.
Gosh, that’s loud! Maybe get another cup of tea.
10. At this point, your eyes might stray to the pink safety razor on the bathtub edge. Don’t try it. The razor is fine for armpits and sideburns in a steamy shower but it is no match for dense, powerful head hair. Just trust me on this one: Daisy razors are for daisies and your head is more like kudzu.
11. Try the safety razor anyway. There, you see? Didn’t work, did it? Now trust me. The best thing for the job is that little teeny shaver from Hammacher Schlemmer that didn’t work for the bikini area and was probably going to languish in the cabinet under the sink for another twenty years because it’s “perfectly good” and you can’t throw anything away and THANKS MOM for passing down those hoarder genes.
12. You want to shave up from the temple first, then progressively further back to cover the main area. Don’t worry just now about the bit around your ear, you can come back to it at the end after you get the edges straight. No, don’t — I said not to worry about that yet! Okay, so minor ear wounds can bleed quite a bit, but stick a little wad of tissue on that sucker and keep going. Don’t try to put Neosporin on it until after the bleeding stops.
13. When you get to the region that is more back-of-the-head than side-of-the-head, that’s when you’ll need a truly elaborate mirror set-up. If you have one of those “tri-fold” medicine cabinets, it will be easy, but if not, you’ll have to try hanging them on the walls, dragging in a full-length one and propping it up on the toilet, hanging one from the ceiling, anything to reflect the back of your head in a way you can see. If necessary, move to a new apartment with better mirrors in the bathroom.
Oh, sure, you could just ask a friend to come and help hold a mirror for you, but then they’ll think it would be helpful to take the clippers and shave your head for you and then you won’t be in absolute personal control of every single hair on your head, so obviously that’s right out as an option.
14. Getting a straight up-and-down line in the back is tricky, so take your time. Shave, like, five hairs at a time and don’t be scared to use a ruler for reference. Just be careful to stop and move your neck and shoulders frequently so they don’t lock up that way, because you’re already going to get a killer headache from all the anxiety and you don’t need postural distress on top of that.
15. After you’ve finished, and put your shirt in the laundry, and showered all the bits off itchy hair off your shoulders, and swept the bathroom twice, peer deep into the mirror some more. Compare it to Natalie Dormer’s perfect head. You look good! But you didn’t really shave a big enough section, did you? It could go just a little higher on top and further in the back, couldn’t it, or the hair is just going to sweep down over your ear and no one will ever see the shaved section.
16. Get out your supplies, lay down a towel, and get ready to shave at least another four square inches of your head. Should you really, though? Maybe this is extreme enough. But you want it to be perfect! Get a glass of wine and think about it.
Jen Melchert is a student and freelance literary assistant based in Jersey City. She reads, writes, tweets, and travels.