For shear delight, I prefer today's barbers
Hair and hedges share an awkward habit. They insist on growing again after they've been clipped. Why can't they take the hint and desist?Skip to next paragraph
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I sometimes muse on how much better my bank balance would be if I didn't keep having haircuts. Fantasy, of course. My hair is against it. And so are the comments. But getting it cut seems such a waste of time....
It is, however, quicker and easier now that I have discovered Paris. Paris is a woman who runs a happily local salon next to the post office. Her establishment had apparently been there for several years. Somehow I hadn't noticed it before.
I had grown to accept my awkwardly distant hairdresser's. It involved a major expedition. So a haircut - which is exactly what I ask for and with no fancy extras - instead of being a few minutes' interruption to the day, was a big disruption.
I am aware that women have been known to actively enjoy the prolonged pampering and relaxed hour or two under the dryer and so forth that the word "hairdressing" signifies for them. I suspect that this may be the reason why traditionally hairdressing was not coeducational. It was a single-sex thing. So it may be that my impatience with the craft is to be blamed on questions of gender and upbringing. What I want is a quick fix.
After all, from an extremely early age, Dad carted us boys off regularly to the exclusively male sanctum of old-fashioned snippery and clippery in Brown Muff's, the large department store in Bradford, England, our nearest city. Today I suppose it'd be labeled male bonding or something self-conscious like that.
This only-too-regular visit to the barber made an impression on me. I clearly recollect feeling apprehensive about being lifted into the enormous (compared with me) chair and draped with an enveloping cloth, like a dust sheet, before the scissors and clippers started their work so dangerously near my ears. But if I felt vulnerable, I also felt grown up.
That's not all I recall.
I remember some large jars on a shelf immediately opposite the victim's seat filled with a translucent liquid that was a miraculous, indefinable color, neither green nor gold nor blue, but any or all of them.
And I haven't forgotten the waiting. Even for us men, going to the barbers always involved waiting. Waiting is not a small boy's forte. But this particular waiting was alleviated a little by a pile of old Punches. "Punch" was a humor magazine that had been coming out weekly since Victoria's day. I liked the drawings with joke-captions, even if, truth to tell, I secretly puzzled why these captions - which adults would laugh at immoderately - were supposed to be funny. To me they seemed quite serious.
The fruit of it, though, was that I have ever since subliminally associated Punch with waiting to get a "short back and sides."
Another clear memory is the barber's name. We always had the same one. He was Mr. Walton. He had a good crop of white hair like Dad. The two got along famously because they both keenly grew not only hair but also chrysanthemums. Only very recently did I find out that Mr. Walton's large allotment garden, which he cultivated every evening after work while attired in a special suit with waistcoat and tie, was famous among his fellow gardeners for being immaculate. The efficient Mr. Walton tidied hair by day, and plants by night.