In honor of my Mother’s birthday, I decided to try to write something that would make her laugh (I hope.) I got a haircut yesterday, and often joke about how uncomfortable the experience is for me, so I decided to take some creative liberties with the whole process and embellish it. Hopefully you’ll find this funny, as I do, Mom. I’m so deeply grateful to have your support in my creative, academic, emotional, and spiritual endeavors. You’re the best, Mom. You inspire me.
Happy birthday Mom. I love you.
Haircuts: A Necessary Evil
Most of us have been subjected to, at one time or another, the horror of getting a haircut (or hairs cut) at a barber’s or salon. O, the awkward torment one must suffer to look presentable in this world!
Think about it. You walk into the shearer’s shop, sweating and nervous. You want this all behind you as soon as possible, but the chapeau’d gentleman at the counter informs you that there’s an hour-and-a-half wait and that, while you’re welcome to have a walkabout in the neighborhood, you must return no later than twenty minutes prior to the appointed time lest you lose your spot, to remain the teen-wolf you’ve become for another agonizing day. Do you want the beard trimmed, too? he asks, visibly scoffing when your polite refusal is sheepishly uttered.
Now you’re panicking. I must have just made a huge mistake. A faux-pas of epic proportions. You can’t go back on your word. You’ve come too far now for regrets. No beard trimming today. You try to feel confident. A lump forms in your throat and you promise internally that you won’t cry in public again today. Twice has been enough, you say to yourself.
Now the world is your oyster. Oysters aren’t kosher and this makes you very uncomfortable. You walk down the street, suddenly doubting your choice of direction. What if there isn’t a café in this direction? Then you remember you’re in San Francisco, in which you can’t take a thirteenth step without seeing a new café modérnéé, full of people whose coiffures you will match in Jesus, I still have an hour and ten minutes to kill.
You wait in line. In front of you, bespectacled hipsters are talking about their nouveau-post-classical hip-hop aspirations. There are three people in line in before you, ordering coffee beverages you’ve never heard of. There’s a twinge in your pinky, and you have no idea why.
You’ve spent more than enough time looking at the menu but you still have no idea what you want to order. You need some caffeine. Maybe the stimulants will shock you into less of a cold terror. You try to ask for an iced coffee, but the words spilled out and turned into a mumble that sounds more like udlikkawfeepleez. The guy at the counter has a thick, well-groomed beard–it was a mistake saying no to the beard trim, wasn’t it–and he’s looking at you quizzically. What was that? he asks. You clear your throat again and announce in your best high old-english that you want an iced coffee, if you’d be so kind.
We have two kinds, which do you want? At this point you’re wishing you were a turtle. At least then, you can run home from wherever you are in a matter of seconds. Which is better? You ask, feigning confidence. I always like trying something new. You’ve been recommended some organic-free-range-meat-free coffee beverage, which you heartily accept, relishing in the opportunity to try something new. Inside, your stomach roils and all you can think is isn’t coffee coffee?
An hour and five minutes remain. The worst is yet to come.
You get your pint-glass of iced coffee. There’s bitter in it. Cinnamon, too, but mostly bitter. After the first sip you start feeling the caffeine coursing through your veins and you can’t imagine finishing the glass but at least you have your Kindle and you can read fantasy novels which provide you some escape and you’re starting to doubt the necessity of getting a haircut in the first place and you’re sure you could just get up and leave and not feel that much shame for having given up on the whole enterprise.
Whoa. Strong coffee. You back off of the glass for what feels like a few minutes, enjoying your book and the scenery. You glance at your phone, checking the time. Fifty minutes. You take another sip of coffee and shudder visibly.
The cup of coffee is half empty and the progress bar on your kindle shows that you’ve read 51% of your book. Thirty five minutes left but you feel like you can head back to the barber’s without feeling too silly. You drink until about a quarter of the glass is full of the bitter dark beverage. The caffeine is in every one of your extremities, and you’re sure it’s making you walk funny.
You’re heading back down the street, realizing that giving yourself thirty five minutes to walk half the length of a San Francisco block might have been silly, but you’re already on your way; turning around would be pointless. You return to the barber’s and the chapeau’d man asks if you’re there for a haircut. A spasm takes control and you fumble at your pocket to produce the receipt you were given when you put your name down an hour ago. The chapeau’d man smiles weakly and nods, signaling that you should take a seat on the bench by the shoe-shine and barber’s stations. The kindle is back out, and you reach a temporary, blissful equilibrium.
A few minutes pass and you hear something that could be your name, so you stand and turn around, only to find that another person is being escorted to a station. You pretend like you needed to stretch, crack your neck, and sit back down. Before you’re fully seated, your name is called, but you’re feeling unsure, so you awkwardly turn, to find a short-haired woman and the chapeau’d man looking directly at you, so you stand and walk over as casually as you’re able.
Names are exchanged and hands are shaken, and now the true horror begins. You walk over to the chair, remove your glasses and long-sleeved shirt, and take the kindle out of your pocket. You’re seated and she leans against the shelf in front of the mirror.
Well? she asks. What do you want today? The temptation to stare dumbfounded is intense. You’re the expert, aren’t you? is the response you want to give, but that would be the most ghastly of improprieties, so you say I don’t know…shorter than it is, I guess? This is an incorrect response, and the experience is made more awkward by the obvious frustration this coiffeuse has already developed with you.
This stranger will now begin to act intimately with your head. She drapes you in a black tarp, and it might as well be an Iron Maiden. She gathers her tools, which consist of a spray bottle, scissors, and a comb. She goes to work, gently massaging here, cutting there, moistening locks without a hair of concern for whether or not she’s placed a finger knuckle-deep into your eye or sprayed you in the mouth. This is so personal, you think. Quotes from a Coen Brother’s film come to mind and you’re haunted.
Do you ever wonder about this hair?
This hair. Do you ever wonder about it?
What do you mean?
I mean, it keeps growing and growing.
Yeah, lucky for us, eh pal?
No, I mean…it grows, and becomes a part of us. Then we cut it off and throw it away…
You can’t smile at all now because you’re suddenly mourning the loss of a part of yourself. Your dour expression is feeding the coiffeuse’s energy and she, in turn, looks dispassionate as she continues to maim your poor, poor head. How do the sides look? she asks. You examine your reflection, supposing that yes, it does look reasonable. You say so with your best smile, hoping that the situation will either improve or be over as soon as possible. She begins cutting the hair on the top of your head, and there’s so much tension in your neck and jaw that you’re developing a headache. She takes off more than you wanted, but you can’t say Oh, you know, I actually was hoping you could put some of that back. You recall that hair continues growing and stop worrying about it to the best of your ability, which is dismal. An inheritance of yours is an uncanny ability to worry. The cutting is almost done, and she walks away to get a hot towel soaked in eucalyptus oil for your face. It might as well have been housed inside a volcano. Your face feels like it might be boiling, but you try to get into it. She’s holding your head at an awkward angle and your neck is so tense that you’re sure she can feel it.
The towel is removed and, as expected, your face is entirely red and your eyes look swollen, but you smile and nod. She extracts her straight-edge razor for the back of your neck, lathers your neck with hot foam, and goes to work. It only takes a minute, but the act of trusting someone with a razor on the back of your head is excruciating. She finishes up, wipes off your neck, blow-dries the hair off of you, and leaves you be for a fleeting moment so that you can examine yourself.
You actually look pretty good, so you smile and thank her, allowing her to remove the black tarp she draped over you to prevent dirtying your duds with the leavings of her shearers. You stand and head back to the chapeau’d man, pay for this horrific experience and ask that the coiffeuse be given a cash tip, which you leave with him rather than return to her to deliver it by hand. That exchange is always too awkward.
Finally you walk out of the barber’s, relieved at having survived another haircut, already beginning to dread the next time you’ll have to endure the experience. On the road, comfortable in your car, you start to decompress and calm down. You’re grateful to be heading home.
You get home, and your roommate takes the measure of you, and nods approvingly.
You look good, man. Don’t you love getting your haircut?
What?! No dude. I’m terrible at it. It’s the worst.