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Barbershop Russian Roulette
I got my hair cut at the same barbershop for 10 years - right up until I left the country. When you went in there, they placed your head on a guillotine and shampooed you so vigorously that it unblocked previously forgotten memories. The shampooing was done by the callous, big hands of a man who likely worked a construction job before deciding that his true calling lay in giving haircuts to middle-class youth. For a significant part of my childhood, I was terrified of someone pouring water on my head. In 5th grade, my father took me to the fancy new salon that had opened uptown. They placed my head face down on the guillotine. Next, I remember the fight-or-flight instinct kicking in as the first drops of water fell on the back of my head. For the next several minutes, the hair washer - that was their lone job at the salon, held my head down as I grunted and panted - this, I imagine, resembled what waterboarding sounds like in an American torture camp. My father stood there ashamed of his only son, who was too weak to get his hair wet. When I lifted my head, relieved that the torture was over, I caught sight of a girl who went to my school. I mentally prepared for the embarrassment that awaited me when I went to class but soon realized that the expression on her face was not one of amusement - It was one of pure fear. She never mentioned this incident.
Two men worked at my regular barber shop, and they were shadows of each other. One had a full head of hair, the other was balding. One moved around like a cat, the other made his presence felt when he moved. One was good at his job, and the other was unhappy to be trapped there with us mere mortals. I had no choice as to which man cut my hair - whoever was available was assigned to do the job. More often than not, I ended up with the balding, loud, incompetent fellow. He got done with his clients quickly because of the aforementioned reasons. My shoulders drooped as I approached the chair, and he remained unhappy as he always had been. I got approximately the same haircut for ten years but liked to pretend it was slightly different every time. No one in high school had the agency to decide what haircut they got. Everyone got the same haircut, with a 10% variance caused by hair type, texture, and shape of your head. In fact, even after earning agency as an adult, everyone keeps getting the same haircut. I was at a tattoo pop-up the other day, and 70% of the men and women there had mullets. A haircut that departs from the norm by 10% or more still signals delinquency or depression.
When I sat on the chair, I described the haircut I'd like to get. I did not have a phone to show reference images, but I was most often describing David Beckham's spiked mullet from the mid-2000s. The bald barber would listen to my description, look straight at my reflection in the mirror, and say, "Why do you want to do that? It won't look good on you." I'd smile sheepishly and proceed to get the same haircut I always got - the sides of my head almost fully shaved and a patch at the top that looked and felt like a dry paddy field. The haircut revealed the bump on the back of my head. I like to joke that my mom dropped me when I was a baby, but in all likelihood, being the anxious woman she is, she likely gripped my head too hard. Sometimes, I'd get the competent barber, who would listen to my description, agree with me, and then proceed to give me the same haircut that I always got - the paddy field special. The bald barber would walk by the chair, usually near the end of my haircut, and remark, "Why do you do these things to your hair? you know it does not look good, right?." I went there for 10 years.
I only found out that my hair was wavy once I moved to the United States. I briefly dated a girl with curly hair who made me clairvoyant about the nature of the mop on my head. She said, "Don't use a comb and air dry your hair". Since this involved not doing things, it was easy to practice. I wish more life improvements were of a similar nature.
I got my hair cut short again after a long time. I asked Hannah, who cuts my hair, "What if I go through a breakup and have to do something drastic, like bleach my hair? Would it work?". She said, "Don't do that. Men are getting perms these days for their hair to look like yours." I guess people like getting the same haircuts.
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