Bzzz

“Don’t run,” he said. I didn’t.

Three cowboys escorted me from my house and out to the driveway. Kids from the neighborhood circled out front on their bikes or sat on our lawn watching.

Bzzzz

The cowboys used sheep shears to remove most of my hair – all but a strip of bangs in front, a tail in back, and a circular tuft on top.

My dad, who would soon take a job with the Texas prison system (no joke), took some mugshots so I’d never forget the day. Like I could.

Decades before, the seniors on the football team began the tradition by shaving a “T” for “Tyler” into the heads of freshman players – a “rite of passage” that, in wussier states like Vermont or California, would be called hazing.

By the time I was a ninth grader at Robert E. Lee High School, all Seniors, not just ball players, could shave the head of any freshman. And though the practice was still called T-ing there were no T’s involved. Instead, a kid might walk away with a “Bozo” – hairy around the edges, smooth on top. Or “mange” – random gouges of hair taken out at random intervals all over.

I was both horrified and honored to be T-ed by my girlfriend’s big brother and his 4-H friends that day. On the one hand, it meant looking like an idiot for a week, at which point I was allowed to shave all the hair on my head and go to the big dance looking like slightly less of an idiot. But still, I had to go to the first formal dance of my high school life looking like I’d just stumbled out of Auschwitz in a tuxedo.

It was an honor to be T’ed though because it meant Seniors actually knew I existed. ย A freshman boy would never cop to it, but walking around with a vandalized head was a reward of sorts, proof that he was known to someone presumably cooler, someone with sheep shears.

My sister-in-law Kathy gave me the do that got mentioned in almost every review of my first album. Then she moved on to bigger and better jobs, cutting hair for Thirty Rock, and Cristie Brinkley, and Diesel models, guests on Conan O’Brien, the cast of One Life To Live and The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants and the stuntmen of Dukes of Hazard and, last and certainly least, Beerfest. Then she left Manhattan to be a missionary of hip to the burbs of Houston.

Kathy came to Tennessee this week to visit her sister Amy – still recovering from numerous eye operations and procedures – and doled out her services to the entire Nashville branch of theย family. Becky and Amy got some color. The kids got trims. But she saved the shears for me.

Bzzz

I’m both horrified and honored by what’s happened.

Horrified because the haircut Kathy has given me is much cooler than I actually am. As my brother-in-law Brian put it so well yesterday: “Does Kathy know you drive a minivan?”

Then there are the reactions of the kids. Twelve year-old boys say my new haircut is “rad” and “wicked” but little girls ask, “What did you do to your head, Uncle Shaun? Is it going to stay that way?” Do I want my head to be a distressing mystery to small children and the envy of tween boys?

I’m also honored though, because when Kathy saw a guy with cool hair in an airport – a good fifteen years younger than me – she said to herself, “This haircut would be perfect for Shaun!” And then flew to my house and told me not to run.

I may shave my head in a week. But for now, it just feels good to be thought of by the cool kid with shears.