I had my hair cut just t’other day (as we Southerners like to say when we’re impersonating Northerners in the typing medium.)
It’s always a good sign when you walk into the barbers or hairdressers, they look up to smile or nod, and you can see the fear in their eyes as they spot the bird’s nest on your head. It says: here is a person who is not blind and merely responding automatically to changes in air density through the doorway. Always a good sign. Always.
I have very fast-growing hair. Both the hair on my cranium and my facial growth are record-breakers or would be if Norris McWhirter was still alive. Guinness just don’t want to know now though. Apparently I’m not "commercial enough" and my "face will scare away potential customers" and "we will call the police if you phone again." My hair-sprouting rapidity means I should probably go to the barbers every, ooh, let’s say … week. I tend to be "busy" or "lazy," though, so two months is more reasonable. It means I get my money’s worth and keep the barbershop staff’s skills honed to perfection.
There’s another benefit too: if I’m ever captured and held hostage without access to scissors and a Gillette Mach 3 Turbo I can simply hold out for a few days and wait for Han Solo to rescue his wookiee pal.
It was damn hot at the barbers. My usual Hair Manipulation Technician wasn’t there. Instead, there was:
- Woman Hairdresser #1 : dark-skinned, skinny, usually sporting thick glasses which were disturbingly noticeable by their absence – can you get inch-thick contact lenses? -, and enough bangles, chains, and rings to make me wonder whether Mr T was going to burst through the back of the shop any second pitying the foo’ who’d half-inched all his jewellery,
- Man Hairdresser #1 : wouldn’t look out of place in a stereotypical film about football hooliganism and held the electric razor much like you imagine a broken beer bottle would be grasped. I got the feeling that he mostly told his customers they would be getting all their hair shaved off just like his and they were glad to sit still and obey,
- Woman Hairdresser #2 : if you remember Chumbawamba then picture an amalgam of all the women. Actually, you can throw in a few of the men too. We’re talking … disturbing. I didn’t want her. I hadn’t seen her before.
I got her.
I cursed God’s name. I then retracted the curse and asked that He please not remove any haircutting power she may have until about half an hour later.
So, I’m now seated and covered with the special cape tailored to funnel all the little hairs snipped off down to the small of your back. Ingenious design. And it’s damn, damn hot under the cape. There are fans in the barbershop but they’re not on. The television is on. It’s tuned into one of the MTV stations. MTV Pap I think. The one that plays Mariah Carey, then Steps, eight minutes of adverts for ringtones, then Generic American R’n’B Combo #42, back to Mariah, a little Westlife or Boyzone to spice things up before it’s a ringtonefest of adverts again, Girls Aloud, Rachel Stevens, ringtone adverts, a different (possibly) Girls Aloud song, ringtone adverts, and loop. Turned up loud enough so that everyone can hear it when all the electric razors are on at the same time only none of them ever are.
I barely heard the question asking me what I’d like done with the Grenadier Guard’s busby I’d come in wearing. I shouted back my usual – number one, back and sides, short and thinned out on top please. Strange-looking, beaky woman apparently heard me better than I did myself and said something back. I couldn’t make it out but her hand movements seemed to indicate she was asking whether I wanted my hair pushed forward removing any parting and lifted up at the front. It’s how I usually have it done. I nodded. She mouthed something like "French Crop." They always do every time I ask for my hair cut. I’m wary of actually saying I’d like a French Crop though. I’m scared it will be misheard as "Fringy Bob" or something equally distressing.
When I was at school – maybe sixteen years old – I’d had my hair cut by a doddery old fart of a barber once and my desire for a grade one fading up to a nice short back and sides was not met. Instead I received what could best be described as a classic bowlcut. Shave a patch into the top and I could have played a monk in an exciting television reproduction of The Name Of The Rose, this time with two naked women. I was mortified but since it’s impossible to do anything other than nod and say "that’s great" when the mirror is held up to the back of your head – it’s the law – I had to live with it until it grew back out. That wasn’t that long with my hair obviously but it did mean I had a week or two of merciless ribbing from schoolmates, teachers, bus drivers, parents, and coach parties bussed in specially for the spectacle. A year or two later and the Madchester scene was big. Everyone raved about the Inspiral Carpets. I had the hairstyle first. I was the trendsetter.
I knew she wasn’t happy about cutting my hair. She probably thought she should charge me twice as much at least. She wielded the electric razor very quickly. It hurt but I’m a manly man and I only cried on the inside. Torrents. And boy, did she ever go to town with the water spray on my hair. A waterfall cascaded down my face, down the cape, and down my back. The pulling of my hair and snipping with the scissors was no less perfunctory and I really knew she was pissed off when a large triangle of wet, cut hair fell and landed right on the end of my nose. She never tried to remove it and I couldn’t lift my arms which were stuck to the inside of the cape due to the heat. I was also afraid I might brush against her breasts and I think she’d already come to the conclusion I was secretly looking at them in the mirror, marking me down (correctly) as a filthy pervert but for all the wrong reasons. I hadn’t been trying to look at her breasts. I’d been looking just past them at the reflected television trying to work out what the caption on the adverts alleged the ringtone currently playing really was. Turned out they were all Eminem songs. The problem was that every time she glanced in the mirror I glanced away. You can’t make eye contact with strange women in mirrors. You just can’t. What happens if their hostility towards you is inverted in the mirror and becomes lust? You could end up with a maniac stalker or, if you’re single, a wife who resembles a chicken and lesbian children with beaks and bulging eyes. I saw all this flash in my mind. I kept glancing away and put up with the man-hating venom.
She asked if I’d like some wax in my hair. I heard this. There must have been a lull in the television volume. Did I want her hands running through my hair accidentally dripping goo into my eyes? I did not. Besides, I’d have to shower to remove the hair trail stuck to the sweat on my back. She handed me a tissue to wipe my face and told me to "die, you sexist pig" only not using those words. I paid up and left a hefty tip as compensation for having to put up with me and also to avoid having to wait for her to fish out change from her ‘Coins Of Misandry’ drawer. She didn’t smile. She may have thanked me but Mariah Carey was hitting about thirty different and unpleasant notes at the same time at that precise moment.