Formality and Haircuts

TWO BITS ... Get it?

TWO BITS … Get it?

So, today I had a religious experience: I got my hair cut without once speaking to the barber aside from my initial instructions and the final, murmured approval. In the words of Ice Cube, today was a good day. I went in with enough hair to stuff a pillow (out of laziness; over the summer between High School and Freshman Year of college I let my hair grow and then didn’t get it cut until the next year, and all I can say about having hair that long is never again) and came out looking like Don Draper, if you squint. And ignore the sallow jaundice of a boozehound and the physical fitness of Bluto from Popeye fame. Or Bluto from Animal House, either works.

Sitting there in blessed silence, I was able to contemplate the barber experience and the unnecessary formality forced on us. When I was a kid, there was one thing you did at the barber’s – got your damn hair cut. Later it dawned on me that you could also get a shave, which involved hot lather and a straight razor, so no thank you, psychopath. Now I know there are a lot of intricate things that go on at the barber shop. Shampooing. Neck scrapes. All sorts of fancy hair styling. And the slightly creepy hot towel and shoulder massage they always give you – again, no thank you, psychopath.

Of course, I’ve always been afraid of and intimidated by formality. When The Duchess and I first started dating she insisted we eat at real, actual restaurants. Places that had wine lists. I almost shit my pants, and entered the first few terrified that I would do something to mark me as a Jersey City Rube and be laughed out of the place. This was reinforced on our honeymoon when we entered a fancy restaurant and I was wearing shorts – this was Hawaii, people – and the hostess nearly had a stroke. After a hushed consultation with others she allowed us to be seated, but insisted I drape a napkin decorously over my hideous bare legs.

That didn’t help me get comfortable with formality.

Slowly, I’ve learned to not care so much. Luckily we live in informal times, and luckily most places are much more concerned with your ability to pay the bill after four bottles of wine and six generous whiskies. This is good, because I get itchy in formal wear. Suits never feel right on me, even when tailored. I still don’t know how to properly tie a necktie – no, seriously, I just make up a knot. Who has time for these things? I once started to read an essay on how to choose a suit and almost made it through the second paragraph, which discussed something about the width of the lapel in relation to … oh my god, who cares, you psychopath?!?

I’m a person who is exhausted at the end of every episode of Downton Abbey because of the formal clothing rules those people followed. Sweet Jebus.

So, the barber. I could get all sorts of grooming tasks done there and emerge the best version of myself – well, the best version of myself at this dilapidated age, that is. But who has time for shit like that? Not to mention the opportunity for conversation that sort of lingering would open up. If I never have another conversation with a barber about how I work from home and can get my hair cut any time I want, it will be fine by me.


  1. Jen Donohue

    I kind of rotate hairdressing establishments I go to; for the most part, I only need my bangs trimmed, and allow the rest to grow for a long time. As a result, the hairdressers are strangers each time and it’s super awkward. I thought they were supposed to be better at random conversation?

    My aunt and grandparents once went to a restaurant that had an authentic train car you could dine in….and were turned away because my aunt was in “dungarees” (oh, the 70’s!)

  2. DeadlyAccurate

    I sympathize. The last salon I went to, my hairdresser would. not. shut. up. He was a nice guy, but I swear I learned more about him than I know about anyone I’m not related or married to. I don’t even know the names of my neighbors, and I’ve lived beside most of them for over a decade, but I know practically every detail about how my hairdresser met his wife (who was working the chair beside him) and what he thinks of his stepkids (bratty teens). I never got to read my book.

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