Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Eastern Bloc Haircut

The hardest part of moving is finding someone to cut my hair. I'm happy that this is still a problem for me. A lot of guys my age are not so lucky. In fact, I never get my hair cut without a comment about how thick my hair is. It's the one sure plus gene that I have.

My haircut history, however, is dotted with trauma. When I was about 8 or 9, my mom bought this ronco haircut "comb." Just drag it through your hair, and voila. Dang, that was a bad next day at school. We moved to Portland a few years later and my dad would walk me down to the barber college for haircuts. College is a very generous word for this place. Barber primary school? Barber I-can't-do-anything-else-why-not-this school? The walks home were often teary-eyed. I carry the scars deeply.

I have found people through the years who gave me good haircuts. Typically, I just followed Nancy to whomever she found. Friends would tell me, usually female friends, "just find a friend whose hair you like and ask him where he gets his hair cut." I understand the logic of that sentence, but the first clause is existentially incomprehensible. What would it be like to look at another guy and think, "dude, nice hair cut." I have no frame of reference. I tried it, but seriously never once thought "that's the haircut I want." So, I would overpay a woman in a trendy salon to cut my hair and wax between my eyebrows.

So, what to do once I moved to Rochester? Nancy was growing her hair out when we got here and didn't like the first few haircuts she got. I held out for trips back to Abilene or St. Paul and made sure I got haircuts there. But you can't do that indefinitely. So, I decided to be brave and just see what happened. I had visions of barber college in my fearful brain.

I saw a sign in the window that said "Men's haircuts, $15." It was under a sign that read Beauty and the Beast. I'm neither, waxed eyebrows notwithstanding. Still, something drew me in. (I get my hair cut in a place called Beauty and the Beast. Seriously.). And I've been going back ever since.

This is not a place where you have to have an appointment. The same woman cuts my hair every time, and I have yet to wait except for her to stop chewing whatever it is she's snacking on. I've always been the only "beast" in the place, and always the youngest person by at least 20 years. It's not a place that inspires confidence.

She's an older woman. And she's Romanian. And she's never happy. And she cuts my hair in about four minutes, even through her complaints about how much hair I have and how her son is bald. I'm pretty sure communists taught her to cut hair. Her approach is very marshall. No fine movements here. Large whacking strokes. Whack, whack, whack. She's done. I've got myself a worker's haircut. She always forgets how low my hairline is and she complains about having to get the clippers out again to shave my neck. But all in all, its a haircut I can live with and I feel like I'm living out my missional commitments by crossing ethnic, cultural, ideological, and political boundaries.

It's not a perfect haircut. She never gets my sideburns right. I always have to do a little scissor work of my own between haircuts (and it shows). I ask her every time to cut it a little shorter on the sides and she nods and gives me the same haircut. I've endured worse. I had a woman in Texas who could cut an arc around my left ear, but only a jag around my right. It's like I had one vulcan ear that she had to cut around. But I endured it because its traumatic to find someone new.

I'd be open to someone new here. I know there's a better haircut out there, but its $15, no waiting and no trauma. And it fills that space in me that thinks my life is too soft, absent hardship, or military discipline.