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This Won't Hurt--Hold Still

How to save Big Money around the house.

12:00 AM, Apr 10, 2006 • By LARRY MILLER
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I'VE TAKEN TO GIVING MY KIDS haircuts at home lately, but I think that's rapidly coming to an end. Not because my reasons for doing it have changed, but because the kids hate it, my wife hates it, and--Well, that about tells the tale right there, doesn't it?

I love giving them those haircuts, but, as with everything else in family life, what Dad likes or doesn't like is not a factor. I--seriously--giggle all the way through them, beginning to end, a lot and out loud. In fact, I positively cackle; and, of course, we've been saving so much by not taking them to The Yellow Balloon (I know you can tell what that place is just by the name) that in ten or twelve years, left to my crisp, no-nonsense stewardship in the matter, we might have saved enough to buy a brand new catcher's mitt. That's right. Maybe even a case of Rheingold, too. ("My beer, is Rheingold, the dry beer . . . Think of Rheingold, whenever, you buy beer . . . ") That's real folding money, folks.

Now, the money isn't why I started doing it. I'm not cheap. Just the opposite. I pick up every check in every restaurant, whether liquored-up or not. My wife and I regularly buy five, eight, or a dozen at a time of those stupid, XXL candy bars for every marching-band-uniform-fund-raiser/friends'-daughters'-soccer-team-tournament/temple-youth-group-trip-to-see-Christopher-Wren-churches-and-then-swing-down-through-Israel-raffle that comes down the pike, and give to anything that sounds right. I'm not saying that to look like a big sport here, I'm just saying I'm not cheap.

Also, frankly, we're not strapped for cash. Not yet, anyway, and if the bottom ever falls out, at least we're set for candy bars for the next 10,000 years.

I hate when people who are not scraping by try to sound like they are. I've been lucky enough to make a very good living in show business so far. Maybe not much by Cruise-Hanks-Pitt standards, but giant vats by any other sane measure, since, as you well know, even lunkheaded actors in Hollywood can often out-earn any twelve pre-Christian Persian kings put together.

Still, a man's got to have his standards, and for years that $25-a-pop for a 7-year-old's crew cut stuck in my craw like a chicken bone. By the way, craw means stomach. Not craw, craw. (Oh, come on, somebody out there gets that.)

I had to look it up, but craw actually has two definitions, and "stomach" was the second; the first was "the crop of a bird". I didn't know what in the world that was, either, so I looked it up, too, since it also started with "c-r", and, I figured, how many more pages could it be? Crop had seven definitions. The first is "a saclike part of a bird's gullet, in which food is stored before digestion", and the last and seventh was "hair cut close to the head", which, oddly enough, brings us right back to where we were before I reached for the dictionary.

I THINK THE HAIRCUTS I've been giving the kids are pretty good, too, if what you're going for is to make them look like Dillinger. I got one of those oh-fficial, ee-lectric, Wahl barber razors (made in America) for myself about seven years ago when it finally became clear that elaborate haircuts were no longer going to be a big part of my life.

For the first year or so I thought the thing was handy and fantastic, but then my wife started looking at my head oddly, as if I were an alien who was just trying to look like her husband. I didn't take the hint, though, not even after she said, "I think you ought to stop using that thing. It looks terrible." But after seven hair dressers in seven makeup trailers on seven jobs also recoiled and said, "I think you ought to stop using that thing. It looks terrible," I put it away in a drawer in our bathroom. And that's where it sat till this latest, gleeful brainstorm: "I know! I'll use it on my children!"

Our kids have very thick heads of fast-growing, dirty-blond hair, but then again, at that age, so did Ed Platt. (Sorry, now I can't stop making Get Smart jokes. If it gets to Bernie Kopell saying, "Vell, Shmart . . . " we'll both know I've gone too far.) We've never been Johnny-on-the-spot with haircuts, anyway, and only notice when shampooing takes more than forty minutes.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and The Divine Mrs. M. was over at Starbuck's with all the little league moms for an important, pre-season meeting to discuss the size of the strike zone, and why husbands just don't want to go to Hawaii. The kids and I were downstairs, and I was wrapping up telling them in no uncertain terms they'd just have to watch the last fifteen minutes of Ride The High Country with me whether they liked it or not before I'd let them turn their narrow range of father-approved cartoons back on. Then I noticed their hair was really, really long.