Haircut et. al.
October 23rd, 2010
Haircut is one of those things which never seems to have been done well. It's like a photograph which inadvertently makes you wonder what the reason was for your dumb expression. You always feel that something in the photo is not quite right and things could have been a whole lot better if only you had tilted your head slightly to the right or restrained that retarded smile by a smidgen. You subconsciously blame the harsh light, the heartless, uncultured flash, the amateur framing, the colors of your clothes which seem to stand out like a sore thumb, and the rest of the humanity in general which has made your day a little less enjoyable just by existing in a way which falls short of your exacting measures. You fidget, you shuffle, you empty out your pockets and scrape the bottom of the barrel looking for excuses as to why, oh why, the photo doesn't look quite right. And amongst all this deliberation the elephant in the room is just you, with your features which were never really selected by nature by the yardstick of how well they frame within a 4 by 6. Even if your features do not look as if they have been picked straight out from an Evil Dead sequence, the humbled 'creation' has never really been so good so as to make a specimen which is satisfied in its own eyes.
I mentioned all this because I wanted to connect it to the dilemma of the bad haircut. While sitting in the barber's chair with him snipping away at my locks with the nonchalance of a 'mere job', I often wonder which exactly is the point where he botches it all up. Because it seems to me that I have never really had a good haircut (Burrito Barber excluded out of kinship.) Not only have I not had a good haircut, I always have a feeling that while I am sitting there in that 'execution chair', my throat restrained by piece of cloth which never seems to perform its purpose of preventing hair from sneaking under my shirt, the guy with the scissors doesn't know what he is doing. It's a huge charade all over the place really. I sit there pretending that I feel that he knows what he is doing. He senses that I am not being honest but he has a reputation to protect and a bread to win and goes on pretending that he knows what he is doing. And bound in this little knot of mutual suspicion, the two of us embark on a journey which has a vague beginning, an unsure progression, and a muted, disastrous end. I pay up not because he did a good job but because he didn't break the charade and made it uncomfortable all over the place. I think we both understand that we are related. We are both related by ineptitude and cowardice. We understand that we are both puppets in a show where society expects hair to be trimmed periodically. Nature has played a vile trick in Keratine which likes to grow and society has decided that it's unacceptable. And the barber and I are hopelessly stuck in this battle of titans.
But maybe I am just making excuses. Maybe, like the photograph, I was never meant to have a good haircut. Some people can never become mathematicians, some can never balance things on their heads, some people can never have a good haircut. I remember when I was young my mother had me part my hair from the side. I never really liked it, having associated it with the kind of boys who sit on the first bench and raise their hands to answer questions - the kind I hate to this day. So when my turn came for rebellion, as it comes for everyone, I rebelled by shifting the location of my parting a few inches to the right. That was pretty much the most violent gesture I can ever be accused of committing. But the flip side of this transgression, as I have come to suspect, is eternal damnation. I have come to believe that my hair was meant to be parted from the side and nature never really intended it to have a center parting. Therefore, whenever I go to a barber with my very affected center parting, he looks at me with a confused stare, goes around trying to figure out what's there with my hair which is not quite right, gives up, becomes self conscious, pretends that he knows what he is doing, induces an uncomfortable silence, and begins snipping away. If only I could give him the historical account of side parting, maybe he'll do a better job.
But I say that I have never had a good haircut with a few qualifications. One is obviously burrito barber but that is more because I have not yet bought the promised burrito, and the other is the barber I had today. This girl was what Van Gogh would have been had he decided to cut hair. I am not saying that I had a good hair cut. I am just saying that I was completely mesmerized by her craft. She didn't care a damn how to suit my hair to my needs. I entered the saloon, she pursed her lips and squinted her eyes as if she did not at all approve of my existence, inquired if I had been living in a cave, decided that my hair was too long - objectively too long - and after 10 minutes of pure 'barbaric' mastery, said that this was just better - objectively better. And through the process I could only be completely enthralled by here sure scissor, her deft hand movements, her elegant, measured, actions. I think I am not conveying my total amazement properly. And I cannot because it's impossible to convey how one truly feels at reading Nabokov, or listening to Beethoven, or watching Federer play. It's impossible to convey how much of a pleasure it was to be sitting there watching her convert a vague lump of clay to a vase she thought was at least presentable. Oh what a joy!