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The Unkindest Cut

by Stephen Lautens


April 6, 2001

There's something about your hair that makes you not want to trust it to strangers.

Maybe it's the fact that you have to walk around with it on top of your head all day, and with the weather getting warmer it's harder to wear a hat inside without attracting notice.

But I've been faced with a haircutting dilemma. To begin with, I'm a pretty faithful guy. When I find someone who looks after me, I stick with him. That goes for the local butcher, mechanic, hardware store, and it especially applies to the guy who does my hair.

And that's the problem. After twelve years of faithful devotion I've moved too far away for my regular barber. For the past year, I've put up with the long trek downtown to get my hair cut by Oreste. 

Sometimes that means having to stretch an extra week or two between cuts, to the point that my hair egts so long people start referring to me as "Maestro" and ask where I've got the symphony double-parked.

I want to make it clear I'm not talking about some trendy hair salon called "Curl Up & Dye". I don't want my tips frosted, the back feathered, or to hear the phrase: "Let's try something daring, shall we?" I want to go to a barber, who will put me in a chair and make me look the same, only with shorter hair.

Last week I was reading about a hairstylist who doesn't even have a chair. He makes his customers stand up so he can work on them like he's sculpting a statue. First he gives them a cocktail, and after you've had a stiff one he starts to create. Presumably that's to make sure you're a long ways away before you sober up.

The thing is, my old barber knew my head. He knew (most of the time) not to cut it too short, because I end up looking like one of the bad guys in Saving Private Ryan. When I worked in Ottawa I once had my hair cut by the Senate barber. I didn't need another haircut for six months. You can't say I didn't get my three dollars' worth.

My old barber also knew that one ear sticks out too far (the one my mother claims she unsuccessfully tried to pin back with gum as a child), and cutting too close to my double crown will make me look like I'm wearing feathers.

In short, I have a challenging head. And that's just the outside.

Originally, my mother cut our hair. She had a little device we children called the "Yank-O-Matic". It was a thing like a comb with a razorblade inside that pulled out huge hanks of hair. It was largely behind my decision to let my hair grow long in the 70s.

But with my current barber now all but inaccessible, I was faced with the same dilemma. Where to go for a haircut?

I found myself wandering the street near my office, not sure where I was going because of the hair in my eyes. Then I saw it - Joe's Barbershop. It hadn't been redecorated since the sixties - the sign of a true barber. The posters in the window were blue with age and showed styles popular again because of the Sopranos.

And for thirteen bucks, Joe will look after you himself. I think I've found a new home. 

And the ear is healing nicely.

© Stephen Lautens 2001

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