I had to get my hair cut today. I hate getting my hair cut. I’ve had maybe six good haircuts in my whole life. I don’t remember my first. My dad didn’t live with us so I didn’t have that father-son clichéd first visit to the barber shop. I think my mum cut my hair for an unusually long time. But when I went to the barber for the first time, it didn’t go well.
It was an old-timey neighbourhood place on Beechwood named Jimmy’s. A real barber shop. It smelled of Aqua Velva and there seemed to be Playboy magazines everywhere you looked. As I sat in the chair, the barber (it might have been Jimmy) looked at the top of my head and said quite loudly, “what the hell am I supposed to do with this”? Right away, I was traumatized. You see, I have cowlicks upon swirls upon cowlicks. After that, my mum went back to cutting my hair for a bit.
Next up, my mum had a friend at work who was starting a hair styling business and would come to people’s homes and cut their hair. My mum and my brother and I would take our turn in the dining room chair and suffer the humiliation of getting our haircuts in front of the others. That lasted for a while.
The next time I went to Jimmy’s was during the disco era. Everyone had long hair except for the nerds and the immigrant kids whose parents didn’t know any better. I asked the barber to make sure my hair on the side was over my ears. I meant covering my ears. He cut it way above my ears and I spent the next two weeks wearing my hockey helmet, even though it was July.
In high school I tried to trim my bangs once and halfway through realized I’d cut way too high and so I stopped and ended up wearing my hair in an unusual swoop for the next month, trying to cover up my mistake.
In university, I went to a hair salon for the first time. It was a student special in Toronto’s Chinatown. It was the first time a woman who was desirable to me cut my hair. It was very distracting. I was prepared to go back every couple of weeks but the next time I went there, they’d gone out of business.
In my twenties, there was a barber shop next to the music store. When I needed guitar strings, I’d get a haircut sometimes. I can’t remember the guy’s name. He used to like to sing. Elvis. It’s Now or Never, I remember. And I don’t think he was a very good barber. It cost seven bucks and took seven minutes. He’d say, “do you want the George Clooney or the Bruce Willy”? I didn’t know what either of them were but I always picked the Clooney. The last few times I was there, he always tried to sell me his business. And he’d teach me how to cut hair. I think he made that offer to every young guy that sat in his chair.
So as I was walking to the barber shop today, a school bus pulled up and stopped in traffic and this good looking eight year old kid rolled down his window and shouted to me, “Hey, what’s your name? How old are you? Nice hair!” I knew I was in for it.
And the barber shop I was in was just across the street from where Jimmy’s used to be all those years ago. No Playboys anymore though and the hair stylist didn’t chastise me for my swoops and swirls. But nevertheless, when the cape came off and I walked out the door, messing up my hair the way I like it, I felt the same sense of escape as I did when I was seven years old. The end.