Headed out to get my hair cut today. Now I’m not really a salon guy. I’m pretty happy to get my hair cut by a barber who doesn’t ask too many questions and just gets the job done. Today I think I realized the reason behind that. I’ve never been too fond of making decisions. I grab my morning coffee from one of those coffee dispensers at work that has two buttons for coffee, ‘Black’ or ‘Coffee with Milk’. Whether any of these can legally be called coffee is another question altogether. I take set lunches as much as possible and have more or less the same routine for dinner.
So when I sat down at the chair of the salon I had the good fortune of visiting today, I started to wriggle a little with anxiety. I knew what was coming.
“How do you want your hair done today?” Those dreaded words. Probably right up there on my list of things I never want to hear beside “You’re fired” and “A beloved actor has died today”. It was at this moment that I realized there was no fuss with my regular barber. He just did my hair the way he’d always been doing all these years and I was fine with that. I don’t recall ever telling him how I wanted my hair done.
I stared back at the hairstylist through the mirror, my mouth searching for words I knew wouldn’t come.
“Err…the normal I guess.” I figured he had to have a normal haircut he gave his male patrons right? Wrong. Haircuts were apparently as unique and customizable as Pandora bracelets.
He looked stunned momentarily, probably figuring that this was only my first trip here (it was my third, and when all of them start out this way, I remember why I resolved after the last trip to just go to my barber for the rest of my life). Then I remembered how to talk.
“Slopes up the sides and back,” I said. He nodded in response. Hey I was good at this. I only remember the slopes thing because I distinctly recalled the last time I requested for no slopes I got a very sexy bowl cut. So yeah. Slopes this time.
“How about the comb direction? You want to comb it back? Or to the side like you have it now?” Oh God please let it end. How many ways are there to comb hair? Just fu**ing surprise me!
“Oh yeah, to the side is fine.”
“Alright no worries, I’ll have to improvise a little to work with your curls, but everything should work out.” Should? Haven’t you been like styling hair for years or something? I’m starting to think the sign that said “You’ll Love Your Haircut, or Everything Off!” meant something else.
After deciding the hairstylist had the right idea, I came to that dreaded moment all spectacles-wearing customers fear. The removal of spectacles. Everything was a blur to me now. My face in the mirror was nothing but a smudge of paint to me. The hairstylist could do anything to my hair short of shaving it all off and I wouldn’t know anything was amiss. Most people got contact lenses to avoid wearing glasses when playing some physically demanding sport or something, but I realized I may be the first person in the world who was going to walk up to an optician and request contacts so I could get better haircuts.
Now I know everyone says they know what suspense and horror is (shameless plug for our book Shadows and Teeth vol 2 hehe), but trust me they haven’t a clue. Stephen King, Anne Rice and Bram Stoker pale in comparison to the horror that is waiting for the moment to put your glasses on post haircut and finding out whether you’d have to wear a hat for the next 2 months.
And that’s what horror boils down to doesn’t it? A fear of the unknown. What’s under the bed? What’s in the closet? What haircut did I get today? And I think coupling that with a self of helplessness and vulnerability just serves to amplify the terror. In my case it was vulnerability at leaving my hair to the whims of a hair stylist. If you think about it there’s terror everywhere around us. Strangers prepare our food. We don’t know the person who’s driving us around in the cab we just hired. Heck, Sweeney Todd showed us that taking the time to pick a good barber might save your life.
So besides hair stylists, what scares you the most?