I have a friend who describes himself as being “a choc-oholic, except with alcohol”.
I suppose it’s all in the phrasing… I like to think of myself as having a full and luscious head of hair, except with no hair. That’s not exactly true. I have just enough hair to be really annoying and the hair I have grows ridiculously fast. This requires me to get a few strands of hair cut every couple of weeks or so. Do you know how obnoxious it is to pay $20 every 2 weeks to cut what I’ve got? There’s one additional catch. I’m like a normal guy, except that crazy people seem to think I’m their best friend.
Near to my house there is a studio. It’s affiliated with one of those big unisex hair-cutting joints. Just to be fair (and to avoid a lawsuit) I’ll call it SuperClips. Since this is their training studio and because somehow I got on their email distribution list, I get invited every few weeks to schedule a “free” haircut. The first time I went in I was pleasantly surprised. The “stylists” were completely trained and competent people who had been cutting hair for years. It just so happens that in order to work at SuperClips they needed to undergo SuperClips training. Apparently there’s a certain “way” to cut “hair” at this “place”. In any event, the clipping wasn’t bad and all it cost me was a tip. “Stay away from lava,” I shouted as I left the chair. OK, I’m not an ass. I left cash.
And then there was today — a day so bizarre at the hair-cuttery that I realized why these things were free. I hadn’t scheduled an appointment but found myself home from work early. I reached out to the woman who runs the place and, sure enough, I was able to come by at my convenience. They weren’t busy at all. Should’ve been my first clue.
Walking through the door I was greeted by a
barber stylist Cher. Actually, it was a man in drag pretending to be a lady who was pretending to be a man. I don’t know. He had blue hair. And he couldn’t stop talking about his blue hair. Look, I don’t mind blue hair. I appreciate the artistry and the guts it takes to be a little different. But I don’t need to hear about how you custom created that shade for the next five minutes.
The thing is, while he was telling me about the color blue he was nervously pacing and looking around. He was also completely oblivious the fact that I could see him as there was a mirrored wall in front of me. I actually heard him “mutter” the following. “Now is it stand right, clip right? Stand left, clip… fuck it, where’s my manual?” Not exactly inspiring confidence but as I like to point out, you can’t really screw up my mop. That’s because there’s not much mop left. And that brings me to my next gripe.
If you’ve been asked to cut a man’s hair and that man is in his late 30’s and clearly balding and we don’t know each other… Why would you assume it’s a great business tactic or even simply polite to continue to point out the fact that he’s losing his hair? Dude, I’ve come to terms with it. My dad’s bald. He’s distinguished. Bald men are manlier. That’s just nature. You, Cher, need to stop saying things like “Wow, you’re bold for wanting to wear it this short. Usually balding men want to go really longer because it hides the baldness. But you’re doing the right thing, baldy.”
I would have responded with my standard bemused look while mouthing the letters “WTF” (or just saying the words outright) but Skippy had already moved on to his next parlor trick. “So, tell me what you do for a living…” Again with the small talk. “I’m a teacher,” I said. And then I waited for three minutes. He had zoned out. He literally stared at the back of my head that whole time, not saying a word. Until finally… “Sorry, I zoned out. I do that all the time! Oh my God, what a fantastic whirl!” By whirl he meant the whirling pattern of my hairline at the back of my scalp. Apparently it’s a work of art. “It just goes on forever! I LOVE it!”
It is not an exaggeration to say that I endured another 40 minutes of this. Have I mentioned my hair looks like Charlie Brown’s? No, at one point he even admitted that “I’m sorry, I just don’t get the whole ‘clipper’ thing.” I was praying he was talking about the LA basketball team because he was holding hair clippers at the time. “I mean, I worked for ten years in really high-end salons and I never touched clippers once. I just don’t understand them, how they work…” On that one his voice trailed off as he once again zoned out. I think he was playing with my whirl. “Do you want me to try to cut these here?” He was pointing to a few hairs on the back of my head. Truthfully I wanted him to finish up and release me from this bizarre barber shop hell. “No, Barbra, it’s a cowlick. It’s always going to stick up.” To which he responded “It is so brave of you to just accept all of this.” He said it as though I’d just been diagnosed with cancer and vowed to climb Everest before I died.
It got worse. He very casually asked “Can I hit the eyebrows?” For a man who couldn’t help but extol my falling hair he seemed to think my brows were too full. Oddly I let him. Because I was afraid.
Mercifully he finished, clipping and all. But he had to throw one last cautionary tale at me. “So, this one time at the academy…” No, seriously, he said that in the hopes that I’d treat the beauty academy the same way mentally as a police training facility. “One time, I brought a model in and my friend, she was cutting his hair and she went to hit his neck with the clippers and she kept going lower. My motto is stop at the collar! But she did it. She made the fatal mistake of pulling his collar back and the next thing you know he’s asking her to shave his back.”
Tossing a $5 bill at his counter, I ran to my car. Quickly I opened about five pieces of Nicorette and began chewing. As I drove home I weighed the merits of whether a “free” haircut is truly free if you pay with your dignity and a pinch of sanity. Walking in the door I realized it probably didn’t matter since no one noticed the two strands that had been trimmed. All in all, I think I’ll have to go back there. There are just too many characters and this story needs to be written.