Monday, October 22, 2012

Haircuts: An Intimate Portrait

When very young, my haircuts were managed by a gentleman named Albertucci: a man with a Super Mario Brothers mustache. My elder brother once asked him for a surfboard-shaped head of hair. Although Albertucci gave him the usual mushroom haircut (that dismal standard for 90s children), our youthful, imaginative minds could unmistakably visualize the surfboard surfing atop my brother’s forehead. “I want mine to look like lightning!” I chirped.

“It’ll look like lightening when you wash it out,” he said, and a part of me believed him. As always, he would lean his wrist on that sensitive, nervy part on the back of my neck, I would scrunch-up, and then he would have to reposition me to see what he was doing. These exchanges would continue until everyone besides me affirmed how “cute as a button” I looked. Then, my brother and I would grab a handful of oval-shaped lollipops and visit the grandparents, sporting stunning new dos.

For a while, the parents treated my pre-teenage self to a barbershop run by two tall, young, blond twins; they dressed like 1987, blasted 90s club music and always wore stilettos. My attendance here abruptly ended when, presumably, my parents decided that this too closely resembled the sexual fantasies of many a teenage boy. Thus, up until the end of High School, the stiletto-heeled twins were replaced by a woman who owned an ottoman-sized pet bunny. She would entertain me with stories about her sensitive, lettuce-loving pet while her rabidly-Republican coworker railed incessantly about those evil, anti-American liberals, who wrecked America worse than she would wreck her clients’ hair. My barber's Republican colleague must have believed a little too firmly in cuts.

I avoided haircuts throughout most of university. As a result, my hair blossomed into a giant Jew-fro, which a friend later dreadlocked for me. Alas, as hairballs began shedding from my increasingly unhealthy scalp, in order to keep baldness at bay, I eventually lopped the locks from my head and began patronizing barbers again.

Glasgow offered some interesting haircut experiences. Before an interview for a PhD program, I went to a salon instead of a barber shop, where a stoic Scotswoman shampooed my hair and massaged my scalp. It was, quite frankly, an erotic experience; as her soapy fingers went in and out and in and out of my hair, I had to bite my lip. The PhD interview, incidentally, went worse than a flamethrower party aboard the Hindenburg, but on the bright side, I did learn something about sex that day.
These days, in Brooklyn, my local barber is a youthful, burly guy with tattoos twisting up his arm. Most recently, he cut the front too short but left the top too long, giving me the appearance of permanent hat hair. A flirty Brooklyn gal saved me from the usual, awkward small-talk by winning most (or all) of my barber’s attention.

Nevertheless, we did have to speak business after he had finished cutting. He asked my name after I paid. I told him and, in line with that formality, I asked for his. Obviously, I misheard him:


The Brooklynite lady laughed. “Laser,” he corrected: genially but without humor. “Areyougonnacomeback nextime?”

I assured him I would.

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