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September 20, 2009

  • Got A Devil’s Haircut In My Mind
  • imageMy first clue should have been that he seemed to be taking a lot of time to cut my hair.

    In fairness, I had been lulled into a false sense of security. On the morning of my wedding, I went to a high-end barber shop in the financial district of Toronto and had the best haircut of my life, followed by the best shave of my life. From that point onward, the mediocre string of salons in shopping malls were banished from my life.

    A good part of my best haircut experience was my barber, The Wonderful Elena. Note I said “my” barber. I’ve always wanted to have someone in a service industry that I could say was “mine” and The Wonderful Elena gave me that opportunity. What was great about working with her was that with a minimal amount of description, she knew what I wanted and did it. And when I saw her again, I could say, “Make it look like last time,” and she understood that perfectly and did that perfectly too. It was brilliant.

    Then came the day when disaster struck. I was coming to Toronto for an event on a Saturday and Elena wasn’t working. Would I be happy with another barber? I thought, “It’s a high end barber shop. I’m sure they’re all good.”

    And those words spelled my doom.

    My substitute barber was a very young, very good looking man. He was thin and wiry and for some reason I picture him with a cocksure grin—but that may be exaggeration on my part.

    My exact conversation with him was as follows:

    “What do you want?”
    “I’d like to keep the same basic shape just a little less shaggy.”
    “You want to keep it long?”
    “Long-ish. Maybe an inch or two off the back. Keep all the layering.”
    “Okay”

    I need to stop here to talk for a moment about my hair. Trust me when I say this is harder for me than it is for you, because I hate dealing with my hair. My own form of pseudo-asperger’s syndrome manifests itself that I like the same hairstyle and I do not deviate from it. I like it a little long with it combed back over my head. It works for me as a hairstyle. Comfortable, low maintenance and a little unique. Provided the layering is done well and I stick to getting it cut every couple of months, it’s a nice ‘do.

    Now, to resume my narrative. As I said, my first clue should have been that he was taking a lot of time to do this.

    I can’t see without my glasses so I usually have my eyes shut during the actual cutting, which was, admittedly, taking a while. I wish I had thought to open my eyes. Because when he said, “we’re done”, I reached to touch the back of my head…and felt the back of my neck for the first time since 1990.

    Once my glasses were back on, I discovered, to my horror, that “A couple of inches,”, “Keep the same shape,” and “Keep it longish” translated in my barber’s mind to “Give me a standard haircut. And make it really short—take off four, maybe five inches.”

    I am cursed with a typically Canadian instinct to become insufferably polite when bad stuff happens and in this instance this took hold. I thanked the man for butchering my hair. I paid him a tip. Then walked outside and wore a toque for the rest of the day.

    Eventually, I had to give up the toque, whereupon I made an even more horrifying discovery: it was a good haircut that everyone liked.

    I knew it was going to be bad when I saw my wife for the first time after what I will hereinafter call The Incident. She attempted to comfort me as she knew I was deeply upset. But the way she stroked the back of my head revealed how very pleased she was. That and the fact she could barely keep a straight face.

    It was worse at the office as every employee stopped by my cubicle to enthuse about it.
    “Wow. Short hair really suits you.”
    “What an amazing ‘do, Graeme.”
    “You look really handsome.”

    I would protest this vigorously. “They butchered my hair! It’s awful! I’m so humiliated.” My co-workers would just shake their heads and walk away.

    A good friend of mine said all of the above and when I protested, she smiled and said, “Wow I’ve never seen you this wrong about anything.” Which I suppose could be a great compliment.

    It was clear to me though what had happened. I didn’t have a bad haircut, I had a cursed haircut.

    While everyone applauded by barbery butchery, I descended into a mild-pseudo-aspergers-based slump. My wife noted with mild alarm a week after The Incident, “You’ve been so quiet since that haircut.” She was right. The Incident threw my whole world off. I felt the very core of my being had been somehow violated.

    I sent Rick, the owner of the barber shop, an e-mail of before and after photos featuring me at my wedding and me after the sheep-shearing. Rick, being a decent guy, apologized profusely, promised the employee would be reprimanded (and from all accounts did so) and offered me a complimentary shave, haircut and manicure. It was a profoundly decent gesture—the sort of thing that should happen more but doesn’t. Because, even if it was a good cursed haircut, it still wasn’t even remotely what I asked for.

    I took Rick up on the offer, though it took me four months after my hair was long enough to do something with it. In fact it took almost 10 months before my hair had completely returned to its original state—so much for the bromide, “It will grow back”.

    One’s own hair is an interesting thing. Some people use it to live out their adventurous side by trying new styles and new approaches. I am most certainly not that type of person. My hairstyle is something dependable that provides me with structure and reasonable expectations that can be met. It’s a very male attitude, I am sure.

    I stuck with The Wonderful Elena from this point forward, though recently she wasn’t in and I needed a cut before a job interview. My substitute barber’s name was David and he was a short, middle aged guy. He did a great job, even though I know my wife, my friends and my former co-workers all wish it was shorter.

    Posted by graeme | (3) Comments | Permalink

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    Rob J  on  09/21  at  10:35 AM

    That ‘after picture’ makes you look very Arian, Graeme.  Of course, perhaps it’s the severe frown that is creating the effect.

    You know what you need?  A perm!

    wink

    Trish  on  10/05  at  08:59 AM

    Of all the things to rant about hair is one most women could probably trump you with. It does seem nothing affects either genre more than bad hair or acne. If you’re ever stuck again, let me introduce you to my hair magician in Ottawa. Todd is brilliant too.

    Kari  on  10/05  at  12:33 PM

    Been there.

    In my case, some hairstylists seem able to sense the haircut my Mother used to impose on me in childhood, and recreate it, regardless of what I tell them I actually want.  I’ve taken to bringing a photo with me, and even then I’ve learned that it’s best to cut out the picture of the exact haircut you want out of the magazine, as one time I was given the haircut from the picture that was beside the one I wanted.

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