When I saw myself in the family photographs from our Christmas gathering, I knew that the time had come for me to have my hair cut. I don’t schedule haircuts on a regular basis—I tend to go for a haircut when I feel the need. Usually I get a shorter haircut at the beginning of summer and let my hair grow longer during the winter. The way my hair was sticking out over my ears in the pictures, though, made me decide that it was time for a trim.
My last haircut was in August, just before classes began. After that haircut, I told my family and my friends, “I’m not going to that barber again!” As I intended, they asked me why, and I told them, “He’s moving to Canada,” which was the truth. But for the past twelve years or so, he has been my regular barber, which meant that it was time to shop around for a new place to have my hair cut.
I did some online shopping, comparing prices at national chains, which were much higher than what I had been paying. Finally, I decided to have my hair cut by a student at the local salon and styling school. The contrast between that salon and the traditional American barber shop is immense. The barber shop is rarely entered by a woman, but in the salon women far outnumbered men (though I was not the only man there). The barber shop had one barber, one chair, and one set of tools, but the salon was equipped to handle many customers at once. The barber shop had no background music, just quiet conversation between the barber and his customers; the salon had a radio tuned to a top forty station playing the latest hits, whatever they may be.
The biggest change, though, was for me to sit in a chair and have a young woman, all of eighteen years old, begin running her fingers through my hair. My barber was adept, but his manner was definitely masculine; the young woman’s gentle touch took me by surprise at first. We did not have much to say to each other, apart from discussing what kind of haircut I wanted. The lack of conversation drew my attention all the more to the intimacy of our situation, even in a crowded salon, filled with the buzz of many voices.
She even shampooed my hair after the haircut, which is the regular policy at the salon. I am used to washing my own hair, not to having someone else wash it for me. That morning I walked out of the salon with shorter hair, but also with the feeling that I had experienced something new and different.
Will I go back to the same salon? Probably, but most likely not until summer approaches and I am ready for my summer cut. J.