I’m going to dispense with the “oh noes, vacation is over, and I didn’t do anything except sleep in, install a toilet, and play Wii” in one sentence and be done with it. There.

Also, before I get back to 120 Seconds tomorrow, I have another first to share. (That’s another beautiful thing about this job; even after almost 20 years, I still get surprised.) I have this thing about haircuts. I don’t like them, never have. I didn’t like getting clipped by my dad, I didn’t like going to the barber shop, I don’t like going to the salon. I always had to stuff my hair up into my headgear for wrestling, back in the day. I was a long hair (rock and roll stylie – middle of the back) for many years in the 80’s. I even did my first student teaching with hair like that. (Parent conferences were a beauty; parents with whom I had had fine phone conversations reacted quite differently sometimes when meeting me in person. I like to tell those stories during The Outsiders.)

My wife has cut me now and then, but after a slip of the clip once, she has begged off. So now I’m down to about two haircuts a year, very unevenly spaced. I used to try to time one of them while we were in the middle of reading The Outsiders, and I would transform from a greaser to a Soc overnight. But these days, between my laziness and my tonsurephobia, I really lagged on this one: this is the first since last April.

As most of you know, middle-schoolers are incredibly fascinated with any changes in your looks or clothing. Or seeing you outside of school. It’s like they are so surprised you have a life.

“I saw you downtown last night.”

“OMG! I exist outside of school?”

So I spent most of the day like this:

“OMG! Mr. Coward got a haircut!”

“I got them all cut.”

“OMG, I can’t believe how different you look.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

A walk through the cafeteria this morning is a cacophony of OMGs and he-got-a-haircuts. A few bemoan the loss of hair. I have a set of long-haired twin boys who looked like they were in shock, staring out from under their blonde surfer hair. They were hoping I was going to go back to the 80’s with my hair. Some say, in the manner of every seventh grader, “you should…” and suggest some ridiculous cut that they wouln’t foist on their dog. Most (especially the Latino kids) like it.  All this I’m used to. However, today, one girl took it to another level.

She’s not the best student, and we’ve had a conference or two with her parents, and she isn’t exactly passing the class, but she still says she loves it. This morning, as I am headed for the cafeteria to see what the lunch ladies have for me (Belgian waffles and snausages…mmmm), “Heather” sees me in the hall, and spots the haircut from range. Running up (literally), she screams (literally),


And before I can deploy the Bubble, she drops in for a huge “haircut hug.”

“You know I don’t really hug, Heather.”

“I know, but I JUST LOVE IT!”

“Thank you.”

You’d think she was my mom or something.