We live just around the corner from a barber shop, where I have my hair cut about every 6 weeks. It’s one of those old-fashioned places which operates without appointments; as you wait your turn you can help yourself to coffee and the daily newspaper. No donuts though. I’ve been a regular customer for five years or so, but I only know one of the barbers’ names: Jan, the one who goes to church in Utrecht and has a stutter. The others I know as “the lady”, “the gay guy” (he does the best haircut), “the owner”, and “the guy with the lazy eye”. They all know I’m a pastor – Jan told them – and I’ve noticed they’re a bit more careful with their conversation when it’s my turn in the chair.
For most of my growing-up years, my mom was my hairdresser. I think she still does one of my brother’s hair. Considering she never trained for this, she does quite well. But then, she had a husband and 4 boys, so plenty of trial and error over the decades.
I’ve mentioned Okeechobee, Florida before. I went to a barbershop there once, in the late 60’s, when I was 7. I don’t rightly know why my dad took me there for that one time instead of letting my mom do the job. I think we just happened to be in town and he wanted me to experience a bit of Americana; I had never been to a real barbershop before. I drank an RC cola and listened to stories about fishing on the lake. But the cultural lesson I remember from the day was that not all magazines strewn around in barber shops are equally appropriate for young boys. Also an important bit of Americana.
As a teenager I let my hair grow to my shoulders. It was the 70’s and I had nice shiny blond hair. When “Saturday Night Fever” came along one of my girlfriends tried to convince me to part my hair in the middle and get it cut with a feathered effect. It was the style at the time. I’m thankful I resisted her suggestions. I’m even more thankful I resisted her other suggestions.
Just after my 17th birthday I left Brazil permanently and decided maybe it was a good point to make a change in hairstyle. I didn’t trust my mom for this event, so went with a friend to a stylist near the American School in Brasilia, on Asa Sul. He got it short all right, like I wanted, but otherwise made a complete botch of it. Later, at home, I had my mom fix it. I’ve had my hair short ever since.
Renata remembers my tennis ball look, from our time in Morocco. My hair type was unfamiliar to the barbers there, but rather than stop, they had the habit of trying to undo their efforts by doing even more until there was nothing left to cut. Lovely photos from that time.
The strangest experience I’ve ever had in a barber shop occurred during our short sojourn in Canada a few years ago. I kid you not, as I sat there waiting with a handful of other guys, the conversation turned to their latest hunting trips and the (large) animals they had each managed to kill, in one instance with a hunting knife. Frantically trying to come up with something manly to contribute, should the need become unavoidable, the best I could do was a thought that formulated something like this: “Did you guys see that episode of Grey’s Anatomy where George had to shoot a turkey?” Fortunately, God conspired to save me this time and I was called to the chair before the faces turned to me.