Pinpricks and Papercuts

I had a haircut the other day. Not that there was much to cut off. mind you, but with growth coming off from a prolonged period of having my head either shaved or cropped close, there is this annoying stage wherein I look at a mirror, and I seldom do, that something doesn’t look quite right.

Out of  proportion.

So before I went to work, managed to visit a  barbershop. It was at a mall, closest to my workplace, convenient, of course. But something I never quite gotten the knack for. I mean, I do like barbershops, those that have the old, huge chairs with the smelly imitation leather cushion and stale smell of  cigars and trousers worn several times over. But to have my hair cut at a mall shop, and one that also offers pedicure and manicure, air conditioned and smelling of sanitizer, is something I thought was above my means.It was this or be bothered by my disproportional hairgrowth, so I went.

I may have forgotten to mention that this is actually my third time since deciding to let my hair grow a bit. So The first time, my barber was a different guy. This time it was the same guy as the last time.

Sat in the chair, and was asked what style. No style I guess, just make the sides and lower back appear , uhm, proportional to my face, and leave the top alone. It will be ready the next time.

Choosing a barber is like picking your Chiropractor, or your Dentist. It’s a challenge, really. To have someone manhandle you and do as he or she pleases with hands or with tools, that takes courage. And a lot of getting used to. But I was used to barbers cutting my hair when I was a kid. Oh, I may have had mine done several times by an aunt, who is actually good at women’s hair, but those were few. When I moved here there were some considerations I made:

  • Close enough but not that close to the main road to avoid vehicular noise
  • A market or grocery store that is one jeepney trip or at least a 15-17-minute walk
  • All-night food shops
  • Barber

Good barbers and barber shops are aplenty but almost none to my liking.  There was one closest to my apartment, one I can walk up to and sit down to wait. But  the shop open late in the day. And the gowns there smell the same each time – unwashed and prickly to the touch. And When I do get a haircut, I have to go home and take a bath again, just to make sure all the excess hair are gone. Now sitting on this chair, brings back a lot of memories. Men are such rumor mongers inside barber shops. All those naked pin-up of girls on the walls. The jokes. The political discussions. The declarations of affinity and loyalty to some brand of soft drink. And the laughter. A good barbershop must have hearty laughter to go with the ambience.

But this barbershop is sober enough, the people here are polite. And it smells good too. Sitting on the chair while my man prepares his tools, scissors, combs, drapes the gown on me and I settle down. A couple with their kids arrive, and immediately the boys start running around the place, and playing with, for all the things that could be annoying in a barbershop, a ball.

The mother sat on the small receiving area, and hollered to “Stop that! I told you not to play in here! Stop. You stop that this instant.” while looking at a magazine. The words were for the benefit of those present. The lady clearly doesn’t want to be bothered. And a  couple of tosses, a girl who was manning the counter asked the boys politely to stop playing , they might break something. The mother looked up and gave a wry smile. All this I viewed from the big mirror in front of me, while my barber finished with the electric cutter and shifted to scissors.

I must admit, I felt a bit of alarm seeing a ball inside a barbershop. What could happen with scissors and razors can be messy. Now why would I think that? I used to lie flat on my back, while inebriated, in the middle of  West Avenue along with other drunken artists at one time . I have carried delicate wineglasses and brandy snifter up and down stairs with the confidence of a circus juggler during my days of being a waiter at a golf club. Surely, the mother could stop her kids from doing damage. But there I was, anxious but calm nonetheless. If anything, I was bothered by the mother utterly oblivious about the harm an innocent ball can cause within the confines of the shop. And her passive control over her children. Can you imagine how terrible it is to have someone hold a sharp object against your scalp while some kid tosses a ball around? Accidents happen. Because some people are too caught up with themselves to prevent one from happening.

The only accidents I can accept were those that I inflicted on myself, pinpricks and papercuts, bruises from carelessness, burns from arrogance. And I have a lot. Each marked a regret. Some celebrate triumphs. Most remind me of my mistakes.

But I came here to get a haircut. To fix something askew.  And to relieve myself of a worry. The kind that gets noticed when one is looking at a mirror.  Not vanity, but something that just doesn’t fit. I have never looked at myself vain. Though others might think my rugged good looks are the result of long hours of grooming  and meticulous preparation. I like the way I look, by the way. But not that much. Just enough to appear presentable. Forget about the ‘good looks’ part. That was a joke.

So I got my haircut. Felt good having to go through it and not run back to the apartment and take another shower. I could just muss my hair up and walk to work on the other side of the road. It was worth the time and trust given to my new favorite barber, with the light hands and the precise methods. A bit of talk would be welcome though. But that could wait, seeing that I plan to grow my hair longer than usual, and I need someone whom I could trust with sharp objects.

I’ve heard people talk. When a woman drastically changer her hairstyle, cut her hair short instead of the long locks , she’s going through something. When a man shaves his head, he is going through some heavy stuff. Or maybe  people just want to try something new. hair comes with stereotype written all over it, like a tag a person wears everyday – what people percieve you are just by looking at your crown.

Having a haircut belong to those rituals I barely notice. Small things that keep me sane. Acts that bring normalcy.  If I worry about something, I can’t draw, or work, or be creative.

This haircut just fixed me.

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