I want a haircut. This is to say that I have been in desperate need of one for a while, but today I find I have mostly important and very dull things to do, so with wife and daughter both a bit under the weather and my enthusiasm for doing the laundry all used up, procrastination is necessary. There really is nothing like a haircut to use up valuable time when you’ve got marking to do – there’s the strong likelihood of a queue (I don’t go to places where you can book ahead), and the walk there and back to begin with.  And the great thing about a haircut is that I always look better for having had one, so it’s completely justifiable.

I don’t know if the barber’s is open today (it’s Easter Saturday), so I’ve brought my laptop as a contingency – I’ll pop in to a café or the pub and work if there’s no cutting today.  I get to the shop and find a guy I don’t recognize hanging listlessly by the door, and as I head inside he follows. He grunts, and gestures towards a vacant chair. I thank him, and sit. The sight of my hair in the mirror is harrowing. It needs an intervention. He spots this too, and possible clocks my look of mortification, which I cunningly disguise as mild scorn begging pity. He politely asks what I want. I resist the urge to say “a haircut” (whew), and tell him I liked the way it looked two weeks ago; I didn’t actually like it all that much, but my experience is that barbers without fail remove more than you ask them to, so I expect a month’s hard cultivation to be undone.

I wish haircuts were more straightforward, but find I am lost in a maze of psychology and peril. The fact is that, whatever power I might think I have in this relationship, I am sat in a chair in front of a guy brandishing razors. And I have never fully dealt with the fact that a friend from my hometown (another Gareth, a year younger than me) had his flowing locks reduced to stubble in one fell swoop of misunderstanding. There is an underlying ethnic tension (in my head at least, which is, right now, where it matters) because everyone else in here is Greek Cypriot and I am white British with a posh accent (I always sound fraudulent if I try to disguise this). There is also the difficult moment every time I visit a barber, when they offer me a wash. I don’t want my hair washed, for three reasons – 1) it costs more (too much!), 2) this is something I Can definitely do myself, and will feel the need to anyway after being shorn with public clippers), and 3) after a haircut there are always bits of loose hair lying around on my head which I’ll need to wash out, so obviously I don’t want it washed twice (although I have never quite articulated or understood why that should seem like such a dreadful thing to do – did I hear it would fall out?). He can see my hair needs a wash, and he has just called me out on this. I say I’ll do it when I go home and take a shower; this then unhelpfully implies that I either a) haven’t washed yet today, or b) think this place is unclean. The fact that both a and b are accurate makes nothing better.

So I face the facts – I look ridiculous, I am dirty and rude, I only narrowly avoided a massively sarcastic and alienating retort upon arrival, and everyone here speaks to one another in Greek, really loudly. When the guy asks me how I am, I say far too much (too quietly, having to repeat myself), over-compensating very obviously – and now he’s wondering what for. I can’t give him my inner monologue, because he’s holding scissors, and neither can I say I’m not over-compensating, because I am, he knows this, and he’s holding scissors.  He comments on the short bits of hair on my crown, and the barber next to us pipes up – he’s cut my hair here three times already. I confess (again) that I can’t help twiddling my hair there when I’m anxious or writing (which is all the time). The two barbers and another customer talk in Greek about me and laugh, and I feel about 8 years old. Then he deliberately (it can’t be accidental, can it?) cuts one side of my hair shorter than the other. I wonder if just it’s me, so I tilt my head, and then freeze as I catch his eye in the mirror – does he think I’ve noticed, or that I’m a total moron, or both? This is so intense. What if he really did cut it lopsided by accident? Either way I can’t mention it, can I? He dries it and asks what I think. I say it’s fine, enjoying vicariously the power trip he is savouring over me (god, this uncomfortable and weird), but somewhere I find the courage to ask if he wouldn’t mind thinning it out. I had already asked this about twenty minutes ago when I sat down, and I interject late because barbers always seem to leave this to a different point in the haircut, just to test, I ‘m sure, whether or not I have the balls to remind them. The stress is becoming unbearable. My haircut is, fortunately, OK. If it wasn’t, the guy would have won the ultimate victory – southern Europe over the North, working class over middle, sword (well, scissors) over pen (laptop). Then he asks me for £10. It was bloody £9 last time!! Damn it! Unquestioning, I give him the money, then he ups and leaves! He basically runs down the high street and in to the distance. Does he even work there?! Does he just go and hang by random shop doorways, fooling customers in to thinking he works places, and then giving them uneven haircuts, estimates and lattes?

I head to the Heritage Café, a broken man. I am defeated and shorn and in need of some coffee. The café to is run by a nice man who looks a bit like my dad did twenty years ago, and the music is quiet so I can work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Responses to “Haircut”

  1. I agree – haircuts are a pain!

  2. Just let it grow long. Nothing wrong with that and then you won’t have to go to the hairdresser!

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