Barber shops are for men. I used to get my hair cut at those cheap ten-dollar hair-cutting places that kinda pose as salons. Then I hooked up with M, who, as a young woman worked at really fancy-ass hair stylist places, and wouldn’t allow me to go to the cheap places anymore. Even after she broke up with me, I was afraid to go to the cheap places anymore.
Six years of expensive hair cuts…That was a lot of money for hair that just grows back and does what it wants anyhow.
“Get a nice, short haircut. You will look and feel better” says a new sandwich board outside of the austere little shop.
I had gone to a barber shop before, a couple of times on visits to the homeland, I’ve had my hair cut at Alberta Barbers, where my brother goes. But i’ve only been in one barber shop in Vancouver. In fact, I think it was Tino’s, before he moved to this new place across the street. No music. no decor. just a couple of chairs, a rack of clippers and scissors and a pervasive aroma of aqua velva. One guy in the chair. No words spoken.
That time, I sat watching. The men cast sideways glances in my direction. Otherwise they ignored me. I think they did not approve of a woman in their space. The smell of after shave became almost over powering. The barber snipped at invisible hairs at the nape of the other man’s neck and above his ears. After a while, I left.
Yesterday, though, I stayed. I entered the shop with a cheerful, “Good afternoon”, and sat down. I read one of the books I brought with me. I took off my jacket.
Tino is a white-haired man in his fifties, i’d guess. He wore jeans and a navy blue windbreaker. I watched as he snipped at invisible hairs at the top of the customer’s head and above his ears. Neither of them spoke to me.The talked very little to each other, either. I don’t think they approved of me there, though.
Finally Tino was done. He bid his customer good bye and looked at me, i couldn’t tell if he was challenging or just expectant. I stood up.
“I saw your sign. Figured I needed a nice short haircut to feel better”
“Dat’s de idea,” he said and gestured to the chair. He smiled. I relaxed.
He took my glasses. He said, “you wan’ it short? Above your ears?”
“Pretty short, yes please. Above my ears, thanks.”
Right away with the clippers. three different ones. He was about half-way through. I said, “How was your Easter?” I figured he was Catholic.
“Was nice.” he said. I thought he was going to stop there. But he didn’t. “How about you?”
“Very nice, thank you. Peaceful.”
“Dat’s de idea,” he said.
That was the extent of our conversation. He sprayed Aqua Velva (or something) scented water on the top of my head, make my unruly hair lay down for the scissors. He brushed the nape of my neck to clear off the fine little hairs. No styling. No “product”. Just a hair cut.
“Beautiful,” I said, though I did not look in the mirror. I did, as the sign promised I would, feel better with my nice short haircut. “Waht do i owe you?”
I gave him a crumpled twenty. He looked at me a moment, before making a half-hearted gesture toward his pocket to dig out a fin for change. “That’s good,” I said, “thank you.”
“Thanks. You have a good day.”
Another man had come in while Tino was finishing with me. He had long curly brown hair. His pants were a riotous patchwork of colour. His jacket was rumpled.
As I gathered my coat and my pack, Tino waved goodbye before he turned to the man in the chair.
I went to the gym. I smelled like aftershave the whole time.