A friend had driven me around Western Hills last week looking for one of those express haircut places on Glenway Avenue. Trying to find a particular one, we, by accident, came across another. I figured one was just as good — or bad — as the other. Also at this “hair express” place, the price was cheap: 12 bucks for a haircut.
It had been over a year since my last haircut; my hair was now shoulder length. It was becoming uncomfortable and a pain in the ass to wash and take care of. Also, people I didn’t know were approaching me from behind thinking I was a woman.
Downtown on Eighth Street a couple weeks ago, I kept hearing someone say, “Miss, Miss...” It turned out I was the Miss. She was asking for directions to get to some place. She looked a little shocked when I turned around with my graying beard.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” the woman said. “It’s the hair, it’s the hair, but it’s pretty.”
Pretty or not, that was a signal it was time to get the hair whacked off, time to put up with something I hate putting up with.
Let me explain and I’ll try to put this as delicately as I can. I hate getting my fucking hair cut because I hate making small talk with the person doing the cutting.
Why do these people want to get to know me? Why do they want to know what I do for a living or how many kids I have or how I think the Reds are playing this year? They ask these types of questions because they think its part of their job to chit-chat.
The person cutting my hair doesn’t need to ask me how I am. They don’t care. They don’t need to fake a concern about my split ends. I don’t care. The person annoying me with their fake interest also needs to know that he or she is risking death if they try to sell me any kind of hair product.
And while I’m complaining and being a grump, it’s bad enough when a hairdresser fakes interest in my life but when I’m forced to fake an interest in theirs, it’s almost enough to send me over the edge and look for a gun.
Last June, the last time I got a haircut, was a miserable experience. I went to a salon downtown and got a young girl going through a personal crisis. While shampooing my hair, she volunteered to me, a guy she didn’t know, that she thought her boyfriend was cheating on her.
“I’m beside myself,” she said. “You’re an older man, maybe you can help me.”
So there I was, sitting in that chair with her clipping my hair and talking about her boyfriend and her love life. I know I’m sounding rude in this column, but I’m really not that way. Feeling the pressure, I was trying to come up with words to help her when I really didn’t have any. I felt like I was being put on the spot by a person with sharp scissors in her hands. What if she didn’t like what I had to say?
When I lived in Clifton, I didn’t have these issues or problems with hairstylists or barbers or whatever you want to call them. I found someone who knew I wasn’t interested in making small talk or discussing personal problems.
I’ll call her Allison here. We sort of became friends before I even knew she cut hair. When I found out she did, this set the stage for what I liked and didn’t like about getting a haircut. Allison and I set some ground rules.
We were friendly enough during the haircut, but if I didn’t feel like talking and if she didn’t either, there was no obligation to force it. Neither one of us felt the need to be talk show hosts or had a desire to entertain each other. It was the perfect arrangement.
But Allison left that salon in Clifton three years ago. I haven’t been able to find her and the people who work there don’t know where she went. That began an adventure with trying to find someone else to cut my hair which resulted in bad experiences which resulted in me not getting a haircut for over a year. It wasn’t worth the effort.
Maybe my luck has changed. The young woman at “hair express” on Glenway Avenue hardly said a word to me, and maybe I was in the chair all of 10 minutes. She cut my long hair in record time.
After the haircut, she took my 12 bucks and I gave her a generous tip. I did this for two reasons: The first being she did a decent job cutting my hair, the second reason you probably have already figured out — she shut up and just cut it.
She was grateful for the tip and gave me a coupon for my next visit — $2 off. I’ll be back, my new hairstylist with the closed lips. I’ll be back.
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: firstname.lastname@example.org