I went to get my hair cut the other day. I meant to get it cut a month earlier, but my wife went into early labor and had a kid and the kid had to stay in the NICU forever and there's no good time in the middle of all that to be like, "Excuse me, guys. Daddy needs some time for Daddy at the beauty parlor." As a result, my hair got big, and I passed that murky threshold where you go from wanting a haircut to saying FUCK IT and seeing how long your gorgeous, flowing locks can grow. I wish I had the balls to grow my hair out for a period of, like, two full years. I always get images in my head of what my gruff biker hair would look like, with random women walking by wanting to stroke it. But then I remember that growing your hair long results in dandruff. Endless, repulsive dandruff, as I quickly found. You could have staged a nativity scene with my flakes. It was terrifying.
Thus I succumbed to societal norms and opted to cut my hair back down to size. There is a protocol to getting a haircut in this country if you're a white guy like me. None of this Barbershop shit where you hang at the place all day long to talk politics and spread gossip. Chances are, your gentrified neighborhood barber doesn't speak English anyway. Here are some basic guidelines.
1. Even if you have a smartphone, the barbershop has to provide adequate reading materials or a TV running SportsCenter on a loop.
Anything that keeps me from having to chitchat with the barber. I'm not here to make friends. I'd like that day's newspaper ready for me so that I can open it up in my barber chair and watch all my hair fall onto it. It's awesome. Magazines would be nice, too. But they have to be up-to-date. Sometimes you'll pick up an issue of Time or something and you won't realize until six pages it in that it's dated Aug. 16, 2008. WHO IS THIS FEISTY PALIN LADY? SHE MIGHT HAVE WHAT IT TAKES!
2. That spray bottle they use to wet your hair is evil.
So cold. So very, very cold.
3. If you end up having more hair on the floor than the other patrons, you win something.
LOOGIT ALL THAT HAIR! Can we round it up and put a pair of goggly eyes on it and sell it for 10 bucks? Who wouldn't want my hair toy? I get very competitive when it comes to falling hair. If the guy next to me gets more of his hair chopped off than I do, I feel slighted.
4. You get to fuck with the footrest all you like.
It flips up, then flips back down again. Now tell me that isn't the coolest thing ever. I will never get tired of flipping the footrest.
5. If the barber needs you to look up, you look up initially, then try to get away with slowly lowering it back down.
I have to get back to my magazine, Mr. Barber. If I'm not staring at the magazine, you may find an opening to talk to me, and we can't let that happen.
6. You can't comment on the barber's handiwork until he's made the turn.
The barber I went to kept me facing away from the mirror for the duration of the haircut, so that he could turn the chair and do a dramatic reveal at the end. VOILA! Whole new you. These are proud craftsmen. They want you to love what they've done to you. I think it crushes them when you tell them they fucked up the bangs. Sometimes I get the urge to micromanage the process and make sure the barber has taken some off the top, because I'm terrified he'll just leave the top alone and I'll end up looking like the lead singer of King's X. Also, after every haircut, I run my hand through my hair and fuck up all the meticulous combing they just did. I can't help it. GOTTA LOOK A LITTLE ROUGHER.
7. If the barber uses a straight razor, you totally get to daydream about him trying to slit your throat.
When the barber busts out the razor, that means your haircut is coming to an end, which is nice. But what if the barber is a deranged serial killer? Or what if he's a Mafia bagman looking to take you out? I always keep my guard up when the straight razor comes out.
8. If your barber gives you a surprise scalp massage, don't go into a gay panic.
It's shockingly nice to have another man run his finger up and down your neck. Don't fight it or else you hate gays.
Image by Jim Cooke. Photo by Warren Goldswain/Shutterstock.