The barbershop is a great place where men (young and old, white collar or blue collar) can be men. When I say barbershop, I mean a place that has actual barbers – not stylists or manicurists. You simply cannot blow off steam and revel in your manhood while getting your nails done.
I like the camaraderie at the barbershop. Every time someone walks in the door, there is a round of fist bumps and hand slaps. We talk about politics, sports, cars, and of course women. We keep the talk clean because the owner has a strict “No Profanity” policy. There is also a lot of chest thumping, good-natured ribbing and some burping.
The cool thing about my barbershop is that, in addition to getting a haircut, you can purchase various types of merchandise. Want the latest theatrical release? Got it. Need some new Nikes? Those too. What about some Giorgio Armani cologne? Yep. Of course, the entrepreneurs are selling cheap knock-offs and bootlegs, but no one complains. Except for one barber who did complain that the “Nikes” he bought hurt his feet and fell apart within a month.
Because of my hubris, I almost missed the opportunity to share these experiences with sons.
My son, N, was born with a ton of hair on his head. As the months progressed it blossomed into a massive, curly Afro. I was champing at the bit to cut his hair, but my wife, KayEm, insisted that I wait until he turned one. On his birthday, I sat the little tyke in his chair and proceeded to get my clippers. KayEm looked troubled as I walked past.
“Aren’t you taking him to the barbershop?” she asked.
“Of course not,” I replied. “I’m not paying $12 for a haircut when I can do it myself.” She didn’t like my answer, but she didn’t interfere with my plans. Things went downhill from there. As soon as I turned on the clippers and pointed them towards N’s head, he started screaming. I attempted to distract him with a toy, but he wasn’t taking the bait. He kept dodging his head and pushing my arm away. Every now and then, I was able to make a clean pass with the clippers. This went on for at least an hour. Finally, I gave up. Defeated by a one-year old.
When the smoke settled, N had a lot less hair on his head. It was not pretty, but it was cut and that was all that mattered to me. KayEm, on the other hand, was mortified when she saw her darling son’s curly locks scattered across the floor.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “It’ll grow back.”
The bad thing about this situation is that I didn’t learn my lesson immediately. When N’s hair finally did grow back, I was ready to cut it again. KayEm put her foot down this time.
“You’re not going have my baby looking crazy,” she said. “You’re taking him to the barbershop.” And I did.
I sat N in the barber’s chair and he shook his head as he looked at N’s hair. “You tried to cut it yourself didn’t you.” I sheepishly lowered my head and admitted that I did.
“It always happens like this,” he said with a chuckle. “You dads think you can cut your boys’ hair and when you realize that you’re in way over your heads, you bring them to me to clean up the mess. I don’t go to your office and try to do your job. Why does everyone think they can be a barber?”
I still haven’t learned my lesson because I recently gave my other son, X, his first haircut. By the time he turned one, his hair had grown into a freakish Mohawk style. Surprisingly, his mother asked me to cut his hair. I figured she had gotten over the trauma of my cutting N’s hair or maybe she just repressed the memory. I rushed X into my bedroom to get started before she changed her mind.
I sat him in his play pen and turned on the clippers. Amazingly, he just sat there quietly. I tentatively placed them on his head and started cutting. Still quiet. Eventually, the droning of the clippers lulled him to sleep. KayEm came in to evaluate my work after I was done and gave me a “thumbs up.”
Even though things turned out better than expected with X’s haircut, I’ve decided to retire my clippers. Besides, going to a real barbershop is a rite of passage that all boys must experience. The twelve bucks that I pay the barber is well worth it.