A little off the top
I got my hair cut today for the first time since early January.
For years, I’ve patronized local barbershops. That’s how I was raised, going to places like Ruth’s in downtown Salem, New Jersey, and Lisa’s Place farther out in the hinterlands of the county.
In the Baltimore area, the Beatnik Barbershop was my pick for years, and last year I started going to Brenda’s in Canton, mainly because it was only a couple of blocks from the house where I lived. I appreciate the artsy atmosphere of the Beatnik Barbershop; the main reason I switched to Brenda’s was that the day of Kacey and my first vacation rolled around last year and I realized my neckline was starting to look like a coonskin cap.
But since I don’t know any of the local establishments now, today brought a trip to Hair Cuttery. It was a happy accident, really. I went to Target and remembered that a Hair Cuttery sat right next door. “No wait — come right in!” the sign outside proclaimed.
I dawdled in Target, pairing my phone with the Bose speakers and playing “Everybody Talks” by Neon Trees. It was the first song that came up on Pandora. Fooling with speakers at Target isn’t something I’d normally do, but deep down I had some reservations about having someone else see the back of my scalp, where a couple dozen staples held things in place not long ago. I myself haven’t seen how it looks in a while; I can’t find any hand mirrors around here, and I’d obsess over it anyway.
After killing some time by looking at DVD boxes for “The Breakfast Club” and a couple of other movies, I made my way into Hair Cuttery. The stylist, Chris, said a few pleasantries but not much else as she went to work. I kept expecting a question like “What happened to your head?” or, better yet, “Does this hurt?”
Chris kept cutting, whipping her hands quickly. She told me my hair was baby soft, which I’ve always thought was code for “You’re going bald.”
It seemed she might be avoiding the area of the injury. Or was it just my perception?
Snip. Snip. Snip.
I’m probably a stylist’s dream. A quick buzz with the clippers around the edges — #4 guard snapped onto the end, please — and then take a little off the top. Fifteen minutes, tops.
Chris kept cutting efficiently. As I sat there, I found myself coming to a realization: It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be asked about the signs of injury on my head — it was that I did want to be asked.
Chris never said anything about it, though. I declined the complimentary shampooing, paid my $17 plus tip and left. I suppose that’s the difference between a small-time barbershop and a huge corporate chain. At a chain, you’re just another customer. It’s easy to be just another customer in modern society, but as humans we need more than that.
Now I need to find a new barbershop.