As a baby, my mother cut my hair. I recently saw some of her “work” in photos I found in my father’s closet. My feeling is that if my mother spent more time breast-feeding me rather than giving me awful haircuts, I would be less neurotic as an adult.
As a child, I got my hair cut at Joe’s Barbershop, which was a block from my apartment building. This was a classic type of barbershop, of which few exist anymore. Outside, there were the spiraling red and white stripes of the barber pole. Joe was an Italian-American of some indeterminate age. He cut all hair exactly the same. He used a comb that he kept in a blue 10% formaldehyde solution. When he was finished cutting your hair, he rubbed in some gooey gel that smelled of Brycream and Old Spice, an odor that I can still smell today.
Eventually, Joe’s Barbershop changed with the times. Joe brought in his wife to cut hair with him, and he changed the name of the shop to Joe’s Unisex Barbershop. All of the regulars immediately stopped going there. The shop turned hands several times over the next few years — first to an orthodox Jewish man, then to two Russian women. Today, Joe’s Barbershop is named Kabul Hair Stylists (I kid you not!)
In college, I met Freya. She paid for tuition by being a part-time stylist. She cut my hair for free. She wasn’t a very good stylist, but she was a brilliant mathematician. For years after college, I associated getting a haircut with oral sex.
When I arrived in Los Angeles, a friend introduced me to the “B Salon” on Melrose Avenue. The haircut cost me fifty bucks! It was shocking. When I told my parents this on the phone, I could hear them falling out of their chairs. But I kept going back to the B Salon, for one reason — “B” herself.
“B” was absolutely beautiful. She was always perfectly coiffed. She served you coffee while you waited for her to finish with her last customer. When she washed your hair, she would press her voluminous white breasts so close to your face that you would become woozy. She flattered you with compliments. She told you how great you looked. She taught you that Flex Shampoo was for losers, and that you should buy her special pH-balanced twenty dollar shampoo from Australia.
I always bought everything she told me that I should buy, from fancy brushes with special “bristles” to fruity-smelling conditioner. I would have married her, but she always brought up her “husband” while rubbing her nipples against my neck. The funny thing is that her husband’s name always seemed to change each time I went there. Maybe she was just distracted with her hair-cutting. She really liked me. I know she did.
Marriage brings many changes to a man’s life, hair stylists included. Sophia didn’t like me going to the B Salon. It had nothing to do with my infatuation with “B.” Sophia thought that was just amusing. Sophia didn’t even mind the high cost of the haircut, although she did call me “a sucker for a woman with nice tits,” which wasn’t exactly breaking news.
Sophia’s biggest problem with the B Salon was that she found it a turn-off for a man to go to a fancy-shmancy hair stylist. If they had invented the word “metrosexual” already, she would have called me that, and said it with disdain. Sophia believed that a woman should get pampered in hair salons, and “men should be men.” I never quite understood what she meant by this, but I hope she didn’t expect me to cut my hair with a switchblade.
Sophia set me up for an appointment with Boris, a friend of her parents. I went to Boris’ apartment. He was a man in his seventies, a professional barber in Russia, now retired and living in West Hollywood. He was a real man’s man — solid as a rock. He didn’t speak a word of English. He guided me onto his patio, without saying a word. He covered me with a towel and unravelled his scissors and a comb from a clean white linen napkin. He proceeded to cut my hair with amazing skill and dexterity. Boris was a true master. He was not the most creative stylist, but extremely efficient. Sophia later told me that back in the former Soviet Union, Boris was once driven in to an Army base to cut the hair of a thousand soldiers sitting in the sun. He rapidly worked on one soldier to the next, chopping and cutting, finishing the entire task in a few hours.
Boris charged me three dollars for a haircut. I felt so guilty by this that I tried to pay him more. But he would only take three dollars because that was what he charged. And he was a man of honor. I went to Boris for a few years, until a couple of weeks ago, when I cheated on him.
It was right before Sophia and I were heading out to New York. I knew I was going to be meeting some fashionable NY bloggers, and I wanted to look my best. I wanted my hair to look trendy. But where should I bring my precious head of hair? Boris was too “meat and potatoes.” The B Salon was now seventy dollars a cut! So, I compromised. I went to Supercuts.
Now, I’ve been to Supercuts before. I know it isn’t exactly a beacon of high fashion. But I was impressed with the work of Andi, the twenty-something Korean-born stylist with wild, curly hair and the coolest highlights I’d ever seen.
“How can I cut your hair?” she asked me during our “consultation.”
“What do YOU think?”
She took out a copy of Us Magazine and showed me some celebrity photos.
“George Clooney? Brad Pitt?”
I started to laugh.
“Do people really expect to look like George Clooney because you give them his haircut?”
She giggled. I immediately liked her. I trusted her with my hair. This was going to be my new stylist. After years of being unable to talk with Boris, I felt the tremendous need to open up to my new stylist, as if she were my long time confidant. I told her all about my blogging, my marriage, my hopes and dreams. She kept on cutting my hair.
I looked at the hair falling into my lap. There were quite a few gray hairs. I complained about getting older and my graying hair.
“I can take care of that” said Andi.
“You mean color it?”
“Yes. Half hour, it’s done.”
I seriously thought about it.
“Does it smell after you do it?” I asked.
“No, no smell. Very easy.”
“What color would you make it?”
“The same. Same brown”
“You think highlights would look good on me?”
“Do men get highlights?”
“Of course. Look. George Clooney!”
“Will it look natural on me?”
I visualized Ronald Reagan, and his fake black hair.
“No one will know. Not even your hair dresser!”
Andi was funny. And talented.
“Let’s do it! Let’s go for the coloring,” I announced.
As Anne continued on with her cut, a fiftyish woman entered Supercuts, branch #5,965. She had this awful-looking orange hair that made her look like a character from a freak show.
“Hello, Andi,” she said to my stylist. “It’s time for an upkeep!”
“So soon?” asked Andi. “It still looks so great, Yvonne. I love that color on you. Let me finish with his hair, then I’ll be with you.”
My face suddenly went pale. I imagined meeting Amanda and Tatyana in New York, my hair all orange.
Andi turned to me with a smile: “Let me get the coloring materials from the back and then we’ll begin.”
I began to sweat. What do I do? Luckily, blogging saved the day! I remembered reading a blog post earlier that day from one of those countless “dating blogger” in New York who kvetch about their miserable dating lives. She had an interesting solution for when she was stuck in the middle of an intolerable date.
I quickly called Sophia with my cellphone.
“Hello?” she said.
“Sophia, this is very important. I’m in Supercuts.” I whispered. “Call me back in one minute and say there is an emergency!”
I made it out of there, my hair still safe, still a little grey. Fifteen dollars.
A year ago in Citizen of the Month: Some Old Time Religion