Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"A Visit to the Hairdresser's"

My usual barber isn’t exactly a master of his craft. A typical experience at my barber involves me holding my breath for ten minutes as he struggles to manipulate his stout frame into position to cut my hair, all the while expelling a disgusting odour of stale cigarettes and salty fried meats with every wheeze that accompanies each waggle of the razor. Last time I wrote about him, he had left my sideburns woefully imbalanced – just two weeks ago, I left his shop before realising that he had neglected to cut a considerable amount off the top of my head, making my hairstyle look like an aborted prototype faux-hawk.

I’ve long been aware of his incompetence, but he has two crucial qualities that keep me going back:

  1. Proximity: His shop is no more than a five-minute walk away.
  2. Taciturnity: He makes no effort at insipid chitchat.

Since a visit to the ladyfriend was looming, and my features would no longer be transmitted through a forgiving 320 x 240 resolution at 8 frames per second, I thought it prudent to exercise my oft-neglected sense of vanity and consult a coiffeur who would not succumb to their cigarette-craving midway through cutting my hair and abort the mission.

I found myself at my brother’s barber, and predictably enough, I was fending off wave after wave of attempted conversations, taking care to be as thrifty with the syllables as possible lest I provide a hook for cross examination.

So, are you working today?



Isn’t the weather just dire?



Looking forward to the holidays?


Are you spending it with your family?


Are you doing anything special?



Amazingly enough, my responses were enough to prompt stories that went nowhere, as she regaled me about driving a car on a windy road, or her sister’s plans for the New Year, or her mother’s affinity for Christmas music. Listening to her inane nattering was made all the more arduous due to the effort spent trying to control my facial muscles from revealing my revulsion to the entire undertaking.

“Lipstick on a pig” was the thought that prevailed as this creature with heavy make-up and absurdly coloured hair hovered over me in the mirror, her many undulating protuberances wobbling up against me as the razor droned and rattled in her hand.

I became desolate. Is this all necessary? Must these hairdressers fill their days with the exchange of banal pleasantries and the transmission of dull tales featuring vapid cretins and their esoteric undertakings? Just because the process of removing a man’s hair isn’t particularly stimulating doesn’t mean that I should shoulder the burden through your painful attempts at affability.

Don’t get me wrong - I’m as sociable as the next person (some may even consider me gregarious), but shouldn’t it be a staple of good manners to minimise the boring exposition as much as possible when dealing with people who aren’t your friends? Why must the ritual of a visit to the hairdresser’s involve an empty conversation between begrudging participants?

There’s a dignity in cutting a man’s hair that the superficial simplicity of the task belies. Enjoy it quietly.


Eoghan said...

Thats why you go to a barbers and not a hairdressers.

Gamma Goblin said...

I went one step better: I cut my own hair now :p

I actually kinda miss the banter, but I got sick of paying people good money to do hatchet jobs to my head... I could do that myself for free. So that's what I do now. I've been doing it for the last few years.

Jason said...

Some people seem to have blindspots - of varying severity - for that kind of thing (unable to see, or maybe ignoring, the cues to shut up).

My barber is actually a cool guy, I enjoy our little chats - from the genetic details of microevolution to the way dogs are lucky they can lick their balls.

Sully said...


Let me use my synonyms, ya prick!

@Gamma Goblin

Despite my talk of rarely exercising my vanity, I don't think I'd trust myself to take my hair into my own hands. Not without some kind of ridiculous 'as-seen-on-TV' idiot proof apparatus.


I'm pretty sure that the problem here is that I'm a class A asshole, and not any failings on the part of the hair-cutting people in my life. I had a barber in Pittsburgh who was a good laugh, but mostly because he was as much of a contemptible prick as I am.