Sunday, January 13, 2008

Beauty School Dropout

On Saturday the time came for my bi-monthly haircut. Since I’ve pretty much had the same haircut for as long as I’ve been able to grow hair---and will likely keep the same ‘due’ until I ultimately lose that precious ability---I’ve always felt that getting my hair cut is kind of like going into a fancy restaurant and ordering a Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich (which I’ve also done on occasion). But since the mop top went out of fashion a few years before even my parents met in high school (henceforth known as the beginning of time), I’ve been forced to get my hair cut at least once every two months for the past 26 years, if only to remind myself that I do in fact have ears. Luckily for me, long ago salons and nail parlors replaced firehouses and Rotary Clubs as my quaint, Nuevo-rich hometown’s focal points, so I learned how to deal with high-stress scissor artists at a very young age.

From what I can remember of those blurry pre-Propecia years, every time I’d try a new barber shop, or “salon” as they are called in scenic Westchester, NY, the guy or girl operating on my hair would give me some sort of “slight makeover” and the next morning I’d wake up with the exact same bowl haircut. I tried using gel, growing out my latent Jew-fro, shaving off my sideburns and, even, during one particularly heady summer, cultivating a neo-bohemian beard (which my bartender said ”gave me age,” my girlfriend said “scratched her face” and my Grandma said “made me look like a terrorist”). In fact, I think a major reason I decided to pursue a career in music journalism is because the kid in Almost Famous had my haircut and managed to score a job at Rolling Stone (as well as Kate Hudson).

Yet, even without factoring in the obvious trauma of watching my last remaining hair cells float slowly to the ground like Edward Scissorhands operating on the American Beauty bag, I’ve always found getting my haircut an utterly awkward experience. First off, I’m never sure how to say “just a trim” without somehow insulting the artist working my scalp and, no matter how old I get, I still find it impossible to look in the mirror for 30 minutes without making some sort of 2nd grade silly face Worst off all, though I have absolutely no problem emotionally undressing myself online, I’m really, really bad at making small talk in person and, let’s face it, they don’t teach you about hippie chic in beauty school. Also, I’ve always feared that one day I’d find out that I shared a barber with one of my co-workers, which I feel is the only thing more awkward than bumping into your high school teacher at the mall.

But, since moving to the New York, I’ve found a decidedly not-hip, back ally hair cut place which falls somewhere between a turn of the century Barber Shop and the type of establishment Tony Soprano would probably hang around at before heading over the Bada Bing Club. In fact, as if they were pitching an HBO pilot, each employee seems to represent a different facet of the hair cutting community: the Italian guy who still speaks more Sicilian than English, the Russian guy whose answer to every question is usually “buzz cut,” the fair skinned guy who is either a homosexual or metro-sexual (or both if that’s possible) and the Jewish guy who, according to stereotype, only seems to handle the money. Interestingly enough, they are all named Sal.

Like entering any mafia organization, it took them a while to truly let me into the family, but, once I figured out how to tip without using my cell phone calculator, my shaves got softer, my waits got shorter and my reading material went from People to Playboy.
We’ve also managed to bond over some good old fashioned rock-and-roll, particularly, Elvis Presley, whose mug is plastered across the room like Phish posters in my college dorm (I like his music, they like his sideburns). Since I have a good six weeks before my own sideburns start to double as ear plus, I’m also toying with the idea of either compiling some highlights from to bring in as a loose script or creating some sort of completely fabricated story about myself that I can develop a visit at a time until I really start losing my hair. Or until the mop top is cool again.

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