Wednesday, March 23, 2011


   I got my hair cut today.  When I was a kid I went to the barber.  There seemed to be one on every corner with their striped spinning pole.  By the time I was nine or ten my mother would send me up to the corner by myself to get my haircut.  When I was a kid there were only a few choices as far as haircuts went: part on the left, part on the right or part in the middle.  I’m not sure why the part in the middle was an option, I didn’t know any boys with that particular style.
     Worse than that was the dreaded “bowl-cut”, so named because it looked like your mother put a bowl on your head and trimmed off any hair that stuck out.  I don’t think any mother has done that to her son since the first half of the 20th century, but in the seventies in north Jersey there must have been some horrible barbers because every few weeks there was always at least one kid in class who showed up with that particular hair style.  I may have even arrived in class sporting a bowl cut at some point, but I have probably blocked it out of my memory and I know my mother certainly didn’t give me one.
     Mom, of course, went to the beauty parlor.
     Around the beginning of high school I was going to one of those places in the mall, Holiday Hair I think it was called.  You had a few more choices than you had at the barber shop, but not much more.
     Nowadays you have salons, and terms like “barber” and “beauty parlor” have kind of lost their meaning.  In my mind that change came around 1984.  I say that because towards the end of high school I started to let my hair grow longer.  All my life in school I tried to go unnoticed, but in 12th grade I kind of lost it and wanted to be different and generally rebellious; but that’s part of another story.
     My mother was grudgingly tolerant of my hair, but she decided one day that is I were going to have long hair, it would have to have some kind of style.  She mad an appointment at her salon and we went with my father in tow.  It seemed like a big deal, mom probably seeing this as the last chance she had to exert any kind of control over me.  Why dad came along, I don’t know.  I don’t think he knew what to make of the long hair and I’m sure he wanted to see what the “salon” was going to do to his son.
     I waited at the salon until it was my turn, and I met Galen, who owned “Hair Creations” in Souderton, Pennsylvania.  He was somewhat effeminate, as I think I can safely say men who own hair salons usually are. 
     It was strange having a man wash and cut my hair.  One of the perks of going to the place in the mall was that a girl washed and cut your hair.  For a sixteen year old boy there were few bigger highlights in your life than having a twenty-something girl brushing up against you while they did your hair.  I was secretly angry at having to miss out on that.
     Not that I wasn’t outwardly angry about the whole thing.  I was still a teenager and I had the normal mix of anger and apathy regarding the whole experience.
     “What kind of style were you thinking of?”  Galen asked me once I was in the chair.
     “Whatever.” I replied with my too cool for you teenage attitude.  For the past few years my entire vocabulary in conversation with adults consisted of that word, “whatever”.  It was a universal response for anything.
     Galen studied me for a few moments and then cut my hair.  Actually, he styled my hair, and when he was done I was amazed.  I didn’t let on that I was amazed, of course.  I couldn’t let my mother have this victory, but damn my hair looked good!
     All the way home my mother told me how good it looked and my father agreed, although I could tell he still didn’t know exactly what to make of the whole thing.  I imagine somewhere in his mind he was asking himself ‘did I just take my son to the beauty parlor?’ and not liking any answers he was getting.
     I remember we stopped at the IGA, a local supermarket, on the way home.  While my parents were at the check out I took up my customary position fifteen feet away from them and pretended to look at magazines.
     It was then that I noticed two girls looking at me and smiling.  Check that, they were actually flirting with me!  Seeing as this had never happened before I had to assume it was due to the new hairstyle.
     And so my fate was sealed.  I have never gone anywhere else for a haircut since.  In that time the salon changed locations twice.  At one point Galen made it into a salon/flower shop.  How stereo-typical can you get?  About four years ago Galen stopped cutting hair and Kevin started cutting it.  Kevin had been working for Galen since I had first  gone there, and if Galen was effeminate, then Kevin is… well, really effeminate.
     Galen had some sort of breakdown or midlife crisis soon after and eventually sold the place to the people who owned the gym next door.  Well, the gym plus the salon made the whole thing a “day spa”.  I guess we’re on the third evolution of the beauty parlor, at least in my lifetime.  It is now called Genesis Day Spa and Kevin still works there and cuts my hair, but I haven’t yet gone in for any of the massage or exfoliating procedures they now offer.
     Getting back to today’s haircut, when I got off the highway at the Souderton exit I noticed a sign stuck in the ground at the top of the ramp.  It was an advertisement for “Sage Day Spa”, directly across  from Staples.  Had Genesis changed their name?  Had they built a Staples across the street from them in the last month?  Souderton hardly seemed a big enough town to support two day spas.
     I pulled into the parking lot and it was still Genesis and there was no Staples to be found.  Once in the chair I remarked to Kevin about the sign.
     This started a long dialog from Kevin about Sage Day Spa.  Apparently some woman he knew, Karen I think her name was, had opened the spa last month.  He proceeded to tell me how he had gone to dinner with the woman last week and she had drunk too many cosmos.  She had gotten loud and abrasive, and he had been mortified and he was going to just leave her there.  It went on in much greater depth and got very catty.
     My mind started wandering and I questioned my need to drive twenty miles to get my hair cut.   Was my hair really that big a deal anymore?  I had cut it very short years earlier and it didn’t really need that much expertise, did it?  I certainly had more pressing needs as far as my personal appearance goes. 
      I remembered seeing a place close to home that advertised itself as a man’s haircut place.  Apparently they had sports on TV, gave you a free beer and had hot girls cut your hair.  I suddenly realized that they had tapped into that boyhood scenario of the mall haircut with it’s twenty minutes of titillating contact.  I wondered if I should just get my hair cut there.  It would certainly be manlier than listening to Kevin’s melodrama about the salon wars of rural Pennsylvania.  Plus there would be that fleeting brush of swaying breasts on the back of your head…
     By the time Kevin was finished with me, I had just about convinced myself to find somewhere else to get my hair cut, if not at the manly place at least at a regular barber, if they still existed.  I paid my bill, resisted the urge to buy more froofy hair gels and styling waxes, and left.
     On my way home I had to stop at the grocery store.  Standing in the produce section, I caught a woman checking me out.  In the international food aisle a woman engaged me some meaningless conversation about which canned bean brand I thought was better.  In the checkout line a woman complimented me on my haircut.
     At that moment the teenager in the back of my brain informed me that I damn well would keep on going to Kevin for my haircuts.

© David Ferraris 2011

1 comment:

  1. At least you keep your teenager in the back of your brain. Mine keeps trying to take over.