I reckon I have had my hair cut every 6-8 weeks since I was four, which makes last week’s my 500th. The trouble is that I have disliked each and every one, finding them at best unpleasant and at worst, plain horrible. I have nothing against barbers, I just don’t like keeping still and I’m not that good at idle chatter.
But there is a deep irony in all this, for most of my life I have been bald. I started ‘thinning’ in my late teens, and by twenty seven the hair had gone from my pate, leaving only a rim around the edges. Nevertheless, cutting was performed, albeit increasingly perfunctorily .
My aversion to having haircuts started when I was a child – I would faint. The barber’s shop was small and windowless, with seats for customers on the left and three barbers chairs in red leather on the right. The chairs seemed enormous, the atmosphere claustrophobic. If I had sat normally in those chairs my head would have been inaccessible to the barber so to permit access I would kneel. In this position it was not long before I became woozy and cutting would cease. I would get off the seat and lie down, and then, when my colour returned would kneel up again and the cycle continued. To make matters worse, my over-bearing mother would stand by the barber and tell him what to do. Objectified, patronised and embarrassed (mothers should not do that!) – not the best of starts.
In my late twenties I started a 35-year break from the barbers when first my hair was cut by my wife and later by an itinerant hairdresser. Peter came to the house and in 3-hour sessions would ‘do’ family (and often friends), with me slipped in along the way. Although still unpleasant it was somehow more bearable but all this came to an end when Peter left. Between clients he had re-trained as a primary school teacher. The saintly way he suffered my grumbling boded well for his new charges.
For me, it was back to the high street and it has taken three years and four barbers’ shops to find a replacement. At the first and second, my haircuts failed to get home approval. The third worked well but was costly and then ‘relocated’. The fourth, and present, is brand new and ‘retro’ and, with its 1940s feel, it is not unlike the one of my childhood. There are differences – a screen shows sport or pop in Turkish and my barber is silent (and good). I did get a bit of a shock at the start. When I asked the price after my first haircut, he said, “65”. I know that nowadays haircuts can be expensive but this was excessive. I repeated my question and this time his response was clearer – “Are you 65?’. I confessed I was, and smilingly he said that because of their Tuesday morning OAP offer it would cost a fiver.
I have been back at the same time every six weeks ever since. Somehow the price has made the sessions almost bearable!