So frugal living has become the new black. In my own little Private Idaho blog world, I keep encountering beautifully written posts by my fellow blogging sisters listing ingenious ways for saving pennies and cutting corners. It is timely stuff, a proactive response to a volatile market and soaring costs. Frugal sisters, I salute you.
But no one is talking about the dark side.
There is a dark side to frugality, my Gentle Readers, and while I don't want to rain on anyone's prudent parade, I would be irresponsible if I did not open the vault of my collective wisdom (a locket though it may be) and shower you with the wealth of my experience.
Because someone has to do it.
There is a dark side to frugality. Consider this an Octamom Fable, a venue for teaching a greater truth within the construct of a memorable story. I'll be sure and make an obvious application at the end, so as to make sure you don't miss the point...being that I'm so deep and metaphorical and all.
It was Autumn of 1995. Yes, I know the majority of you were still in junior high at the time, but some of us old gals had already set up housekeeping. M was in the early season of his career. We had two babies. We were young, in love, and scrambling to build a business and keep up with our little mortgage. We were doing all things cost-cutting, eating lots of cheap pasta and somehow surviving without cable. And gas was up to just over a dollar a gallon...crazy inflation, I know.
It was very important for M to look professional and well put-together in his particular industry and we had a challenge with which we were having to deal. Now M is one of those guys who looks clean cut even after hiking 16 miles up some of the steepest terrain in the U.S. M is one of those guys who looks refreshed and coiffed after running on the treadmill. M is one of those guys who somehow manages to still look well-groomed after mucking out a septic system . Well groomed and put-together was not the problem.
It was M's stubborn refusal to look any older than 14 years old in an industry that would frown upon teenagers running the home office.
So we were diligent in doing all we could to overcome this curse of youthful appearance. We kept his shirts perfectly pressed, his shoes perfectly buffed. And we always made sure his hair was kept in perfect preppy polish.
M had landed a meeting with a huge potential client in that Frugal Fall of '95. We spit and polished and shined and ironed and starched. And then M asked me to freshen up his 'do.
I had been cutting M's hair for several years, all in an effort to cut costs along with follicles. I had gotten pretty good at it, had invested in some nicer scissors and and clippers. We had pretty much gotten our hairdo dance down.
M sat on a kitchen stool, I got out my scissors and clippers and went to work. ZZZZZT. ZZZZZZT. Clip. Clip. I finished up this latest trim by removing the guard from the clippers and cleaning up the back of his neck.
For those of you unfamiliar with clippers, they come with guards of various lengths. You can choose to run the clippers over your boy's head with, say, a 1/2 inch guard on the clippers and it will give you a longish buzz cut. You can change out the guards to whatever desired length for various looks. Or you can remove the guard completely if you want to use the clipper as a pseudo-electric razor. But I digress.
I clipper-cleaned up the back of M's neck and stood back to survey my work. I circled to the front, looked at M carefully and said, "Okay, all done. Well, wait--there's an area over your left ear that I need to touch up just a bit." I grabbed the clippers and gave it a quick ZZZZZT.
But I had never put the guard back on the clippers.
And now M had a shiny, white 1 inch by 1 inch square of naked scalp over his left ear.
I stood for a moment in shock. And then I grabbed M's head and pressed it to my bosom (because I find all bad news is softened if I tell him from this position). "You're gonna kill me! You're gonna kill me!" I wailed. And I started to cry.
I am not a crier.
M disentangled himself from my bosom half-Nelson and gave me a little pat. "It can't be all that bad..."
"It is, it is , it is that bad!!!! It is very bad! It is very, very, very bad!!!!" I was now two shades shy of hysteria.
M slowly stood up, carefully brushed the cut hair from his lap and proceeded to the nearest mirror, me trailing him, wailing.
Arriving at the mirror, he took in his shorn visage. And was silent. And then was silent a little longer. And finally said, "Yeah, it's pretty bad."
"I know, I know, I told you, I told you, it's all my fault and I forgot the guard and why do they make guards and shouldn't there be a warning light or something and I've never, never, never done anything like this before, remember, remember, remember?!?!?! I mean never and I'm sossososososososso sorry......" me, wailing, wailing, wailing.....
My creative right brain then borrowed some synapses from the logical left brain and I began to construct some possible solutions.
"Okay, okay, okay, here's what we'll do....okay, I'll get a Sharpie and draw stitches on it and then you can just tell the client that you had a little cut and that's why that part of your head is shaved...."
"Somehow I don't think a head wound is the best way to build confidence with a potential client," M said slowly.
"Okay, okay, okay....we'll just shave it up over the ear on both sides....you know, kind of a severe flat top kind of a thing--you know, a lot of the the kids are doing it now...."
"Somehow I don't think converting my image into a surfer/skateboarder dude will engender client confidence." M was now responding in a flat monotone.
"Okay, okay, okay.....wait here, wait here, wait here.....I can fix this, I can fix this...." I ran to my craft supply cabinet, grabbed an item, ran back to the hair cutting carnage, scooped up some fallen tufts and ran back in the bathroom.
And proceeded to use Elmer's Glue and left-over hair to create a hair adhesive, applying glue and hair to the shaven spot.
And it worked. It worked well.
Until it dried.
And this is where I have to take issue with Elmer's Glue. Because for all the promise that it will dry clear, it.does.not.
At least on a human scalp.
On a human scalp, if you create a blend of hair and glue, it will at first look like a genius idea. And then it will dry. And then the glue will dry a milky shade of white.
And then it will look like a pus-seeping, hairy mess.
By this point, M's reservoir of grace was pretty much tapped out. And I was frantic.
And then, like a voice from the heavens, I heard 'Covergirl WaterProof Eyeliner in Chestnut Brown'.....
I ran for my makeup bag, found the right cosmetic product and like a woman following a vision, I colored in M's scalp.
CoverGirl Chestnut Brown.
It worked. It worked best in indoor lighting if you didn't look at M from the side. M met with the client, who was none the wiser about the naked, colored scalp until M had sealed the deal and then told the client the story--who thankfully thought it was highly amusing.
M carried his eyeliner with him for a couple of months. His hair apparently takes a long time to grow in when it's been shaved down a couple layers past the the top most epidermis. He had a special pocket in his briefcase where he kept his CoverGirl Chestnut Brown Eyeliner so he could make touch-ups throughout the day.
And we did have a few incidents of him yelling from the bathroom, "Octamom (he's prophetic like that, seeing as how we only had two kids at the time...) Octamom, where's my eyeliner? Did you borrow it again?!?"
And now the moral of the story.
The dark side of frugality.
I forgot to take any pictures of this incident.
The only photo I have of the side of M's head from this time is our picture for our '95 Christmas card. And because I'm so thoughtful, I'll crop this in a little so you can hopefully see a bit of the scalp through the CoverGirl Chestnut Brown Eyeliner.
And now a little closer....
See, that's the danger with frugality. You may forget to photographically record the results of your frugal efforts. And that's a real shame. That's the danger. That's the dark side.
So, please, please learn from my mistakes. When you are cutting your husband's hair so as to save money, and when you shave a big ol' square on the side of his head before an important meeting, don't forget to take pictures. Several. Take one for me. Make it a close-up. In thirteen years, you'll thank me.