My best friend has a hot, super short haircut. Instead of spending a fortune getting it cut at the hairdresser every month, she gets an expensive haircut every six months and supplements that with $14 “cleanups” at her local barber shop. She’s invited me to join her several times by telling me how “amazing” it is. I’ve always replied with, “Not my scene.” To which she’s said, “You’re missing out.”
She was right. I was missing out. I knew it the moment I met her barber Igor, a 20-something dude who has a number of tattoos, but most notably, a large one on his arm that says “violent by design.” Now, you’re probably picturing an aggressive meathead clad in Ed Hardy. Not even. He’s more like an overly excited chihuahua puppy. If puppies liked to overshare. By the way, Igor’s thinking about getting a tattoo on his other arm that says “focus.” He thinks it will help him curb his ADHD. How do I know? Oh, because he told me. He told me a lot of stuff while I sat on the bench, waiting for my best friend to get a trim. Below, what I learned from my first trip to the barber shop:
1. Being one of the only woman in a room full of men can be a good thing. I usually try to avoid being the only woman in a roomful of men, unless it’s a room full of gay men who want to dance to Britney Spears. I think it’s deeply ingrained in my psyche that being the only woman in the room “dangerous.” I don’t mean to imply that I regularly feel afraid of men, because I don’t. It’s just not a situation I seek out, the same way I don’t actively try to go to a sports bar. Sometimes it happens accidentally. Maybe I need contemplate why this is, because I realize this might be unfair of me. All the positive/non-creepy male attention I got while at the barber shop left me feeling like goddamn queen. It’s most definitely the place to go when a lady needs a compliment. The exchange went something like this:
“You look like a movie star,” said the older barber, Val. “The way you talk and dress and smile. Eh, like a young Susan Sarandon.”
“No, she looks like –,” Igor jumped in.
“Marisa Tomei?” my best friend offered.
“No, no that girl from the new ‘Batman’ movie,” said Igor.
“I don’t know. I didn’t see it,” I replied.
“What’s her name … the French one?”
“Marion Cotillard?” I asked.
“Yes, yes!” Igor screamed. “Her! You have a vintage type style like her.”
By this point, I was blushing. Did I think they were being a little bit too kind about my celeb look-a-likes? Yes. Did I walk out of there strutting? Also, yes.
2. Sometimes men are afraid to pick up women because they think they’re taken. Aside from being made to feel like the most beautiful movie star ever to set foot in Val’s Place, I also spent a good portion of my time there eavesdropping. The best conversation I listened in on was one about talking to women. It was really sweet, actually. This early 20-something dude was in the chair and he was telling his barber about how he saw a cute, red-headed girl but was too afraid to approach her in case she wasn’t single. Then the barber jumped in, a guy in his 30s, and was like, “Yeah, all the girls I know in this neighborhood are married. I can’t talk to any of them. I don’t know who to date anymore.”
When women receive so many unwanted advances regularly, it is comforting to know that there are lots of men who consider how their advances make us feel. Also, if a woman is taken it’s her responsibility to let you know. Go ahead and flirt away. Unless she has a ring on, in which case, the respectful thing is not to bother.
3. Skrillex is driving business to barber shops. Igor informed me that he now has 16 regular female clients. Thirteen of which have “the Skrillex.” He attributes this bump in female business to him.
4. You should always say hello to your barber. Once Igor got going, I couldn’t help but engage by asking him more questions. When I asked him what his biggest barber pet peeve was, he said, “When people come in and say hi and then follow that up with, ‘I’m coming in for a trim soon.’” Igor just wants his clients to come in to say hi because he likes to chat (obviously). It’s not necessary to make reference to when you’ll be getting your haircut.
5. It’s a good place to learn about how men communicate with each other. So, I’ve given you snippets of the best conversational moments during my hour at the barber shop. But for the most part, I observed that men communicate with each other in near silence. I was fascinating. It was like a competition to see who could say less (unless you’re a man like Igor who can’t seem to turn it off). Most man-to-barber convos went like this:
Barber: Hey man, how you doing today?
Man: Good. Good.
Barber: (gesturing to hair) The same?
Man. Yeah. Yeah.
Barber: Your family good?
Man: Yeah. Yeah.
That’s it. How do they do it?