I grew up a 5 dollar haircut kind of guy. For a long time, that’s all I would pay for haircuts. Then when I got a little older, I began to go to the more upscale boutiques. The kind that charge 17 bucks for a regular cut. Why? For the same reason that every other guy does. They always have those 20 something hot chicks. Some with big boobs. Young, hot, and big boobs. And if you are lucky, maybe they have to lean over on you a little to get that one piece of hair. And I don’t know of any other legal way, non-divorce causing way, to have a young, hot girl lay one of her boobs on your shoulder for a second while she plays with your hair. And it’s much, much cheaper than the strip clubs.
I know what you’re thinking. Dirty old man. And you’re absolutely correct. But there is something that transcends the 5 bucks and the shoulder boob. Every barber shop and boutique I’ve ever been in operates the same way. Time is money. Like the old time scribes, they get paid per job. And so like the old time scribes, they rush you through the process and end up with some misprints or lopsided bangs. If you’ve ever crawled out of a Wal-Mart shop looking like Scotty Don’t, then you understand the prolonged mental agony of having to watch your mangled hair slowly repair itself over a couple months. You have to say goodbye to first impressions and deal with people who try to not stare at the side of your head while they talk to you. You become another casualty of this manic, impersonal production-like process. Suddenly that 17 bucks doesn’t sound so wonderful. Of course, you can get your hair mangled for less, and I have. But it’s much less humiliating to get hair-raped for 5 bucks instead of 17. It’s barberism. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
So when you finally find someone who gets it right, you stick with that person. After I lost my job last year and had to move home, I drove all the way here to get my hair cut. People who have had their follicles violated understand. That’s why, even though I am happily married, I have established a relationship with another woman. Her name is Jang.
Jang has two degrees. Literature and Art. She has gone to school, but says she really learned how to cut hair by applying her artistic skills to the process. And she is a good artist. This makes her, in my mind, the Ms. Miyagi of barbering. It’s like something you would see in a Jackie Chan or Jet Li movie. Like when they read their adversary’s calligraphy to deduce what their fighting style will be. I’ve never really thought about it, but I like the philosophy here. Instead of someone blowing through beauty school and then working their production line process in the same stale pattern as everyone else, Jang has taken the foundational knowledge necessary and then applied her artistic philosophy. It works.
For starters, there’s no rushing you out of the seat. It takes as long as it takes. At some of her older jobs, when she was working for the Man, that presented a problem. The Man wanted to maximize profits. Jang wanted a happy customer. Those two don’t usually go together. But Jang has her own place now. No rushing. As a result, I am automatically calmer as soon as I walk in the door. There is classical music playing, but it’s not the pretentious kind or the kitschy elevator jingles. It’s just soothing. There are smiles and she asks how the kids are doing. But she actually wants to know. It’s not just banter. It’s sincerity. Then she begins.
It’s here where things get fuzzy. Time slows and folds in on itself and there is happiness all around me. It’s very Zen. I am calm like a glassy lake in the early morning. I can hear the ocean. I open my eyes and my wife is staring at me with a knowing smile. She recognizes my barbershop bliss. It’s funny, but wonderful.
When I leave the Lily Flagg Barber Shop, I know I have cheated on my wife. At least it feels like it. And I will do it again and again in the coming months. And it won’t cost me 17 bucks. And I can do without the boob on my shoulder.