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.


Cheryl Russell said...

Good call on the brow waxing, the unibrow is not a good look for anyone, missional or not!

Scrabbler said...

Mark, thank you SO much for the grateful smiles you inspired here. Much needed today. May your glorious head of hair continue to lead you into reflections upon our human condition with meaning and joy!

Lyndon Way said...

Boy does that bring back some memories - and my favorite stylist, if you want to call her that, retired after Tanna and I started getting haircuts from her back in 1980. OK, so I had a pretty good run... I finally found a local girl who could give me a decent cut at the Orient Barber Shop last year - Naturally, she just moved out of town. And so it goes...

Vegan Girl in Denver said...

I'm with Cher on the waxing! More power to ya! A good haircut is hard to find so if you are good with it I say woo hoo! :)

Ryan said...

You know how I feel about your hair, so I will not comment on that.

"I'm pretty sure communists taught her to cut hair."


(as a side note, my word verification is "hating")

Cameron said...

This reads like a page out of my journal. Last year I decided I was done with the frou-frou salons my wife goes to--done with the $40+ haircuts, the embarrassing little black smock and the really bad Euro pop. I decided to try something more suited to XY chromosones: the mens barbershop.

Down the road from my house was this old, white building I had always ignored. It even had the red and blue striped pole outside and everything else you'd imagine in a place that's been cutting hair for 35 years. That's where I met the woman who would give me not only the fastest, most vigorous haircut of my life, but one one that made me look like I should be wearing a track suit and aviators in a Moscow disco. Who knew one could use a razor so forcefully without cutting a guy's head off? And I thought that by the time she was done massaging some kind of anonymous hair cream into my scalp, I might not have any hair left.

Needless to say, I found another barber after that--a place just for dudes that will serve up a whiskey while you wait, if that's your thing. They guarantee that you'll be in and out the door in less than 30 minutes. And I'll be if I'm not out of there in 20.

All that to say, there may be a great old barbershop out there that can do the job quickly and with less punitive damage. Oh, and here's to low hairlines.

maybetodo said...

I feel your pain. I too have always had very thick hair and at 46 still have a full crop. But unlike you, being a designer by profession, have always been too aware of style.

A few years ago though I grew tired of chasing style and spending money on haircuts so I bought myself a set of Wahl clippers. I clamp in that #2 guard (one step above bootcamp cut) and go to it. It's a cut that is sort of anti-stlye style, probably the cut Jesus would choose if he were around today. It is easy to care for, weather-proof, and one that allows you to sleep soundly thinking of the cash that you've saved.

BTW, I think I know the "eastern bloc haircut" you are referring to. Here is St. Louis we have a large Bosnian population. Most of the men have the same haircut and remarkably similar head shape.

Scott (your favorite student of all time) said...


I usually cut my hair myself in my bathroom. But when I was at CCC I would go to an inner city Barber (who was also a pastor in a local Baptist church). He did a good job but I remember him swiveling me around in the chair, yanking the apron off me in one smooth move and his voice booming "Go and sin no more!" Ahhh haircut memories...