Thirty-three years ago this morning, at twenty minutes after nine (or thereabouts), I stopped being in the United States Air Force. It was, more or less, a mutual decision; we both decided to see other people. I offered to turn in the clothes, both the olive-drab (pre-battle dress uniform (BDU) days) utility uniforms and the off we go into the wild blue yonder blue ones and was thrilled beyond words when they opted to keep their haircuts.
I never really got the hang of the haircuts. When I asked the recruiter in East Brunswick, New Jersey, a wise old Master Sergeant about the haircut we'd get in Air Force basic military training (BMTS) at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas (the largest airbase in the world without a landing strip, I kid you not), he paused and looking very steadily at me offered, 'your hair will be much closer to your head than far away.' Believe it or not, he was right on the money with that.
In the years I served, I learned there were two types of haircuts men got in the military. One was the haircut they got when they needed one and the other was the kind they got when they were told they needed one. You strove to avoid the latter and in my eight years of active (if not enthusiastic) service, I prided myself on never needing to be told to get a haircut.
I was never a big fan of head gear either, I should add. It was the era before everything and everyone had ball caps (except baseball players) and no one I know, in any service, ever enjoyed the bus driver hat (the formal one we've seen in all the photos) or the flight cap for which we had a rather coarse nickname I shan't repeat here but I certainly used enough in my time. It always seemed to me that in the interest of "uniform" appearance, if we all wore the same cover, who cared about the haircuts.
For reasons I never fully understood, I failed to press that argument successfully to those in charge of my every waking and sleeping moment. I always suspected the Air Force was a leisure time activity of the barbers' union or some other hirsute conspiracy because no matter the discussion (we never argued in the Air Force; actually, those of us who were jeeps never argued upwards) and no matter how correct your position or research, the famous last words always seemed to be "and you need a haircut." And I certainly never got to say them.
So in honor of a moment of my personal past I've passed out of, I'll walk past the barber shop during my lunch break and not hop up into the chair and ask for the special. I decided long ago that eight (years) was enough. It was a close shave, but I've never regretted not living on the knife's edge.