Thursday, December 13, 2012

Haircuts are Weird

A lot of times I really don't want to do it. I'll go months, and sometimes years between professional haircuts. For most of the 90s I'd shave parts of my head and cut what was on top by shear guess work. It had a kind of D-I-Y mystique.

But now, most of the time, I feel a bit old for that. I save it up until that moment when I look in the mirror and realize I look like like 1978 and something really needs to be done about it. So, I flip the switch un my head that says "it's haircut time," and I take care of it. I also prepare myself for inevitable disappointment.

I'm probably not going to be happy with what I get.

And the experience itself is difficult. Not as difficult as for some. I don't throw tantrums. I like the sensory experience of the clippers but not so much the scissors. It's not too bad for me, but I can totally see how it could be a million times worse for someone with a stronger sensory reaction.

My first trouble is that, sitting in the chair, I just can't explain what I want. So the barber or stylist just does what seems natural and I usually end up with either a 'big boy haircut' or the Anderson Cooper. What I want is something different, but I lack the words to explain it.

And maybe there aren't words. Maybe there's just this internal sense of what it is I want my hair to be that just doesn't match the training and the expectations of the stylist. In some ways, what I want is a crazy manga haystack of hair. What would happen if I said that? But I never can quite say that, probably because of the second thing.

The second thing is the physical proximity to another person that I don't know so well. It sets off a lot of weird things inside me. When I go to the dentist, my gums swell from anxiety and are prone to bleeding. That's another story.

The barbershop is a very different environment than the dentist office. It's less clinical, better music, and the stylist always is ready to chat. The conversational aspect is the killer. It's easy to be taciturn with a chatty dental hygenist, because your speaking organ is compromised. There is no such built in defense against the small talk of the hair stylist.

And the stylist is so, so close. Touching my head and really getting closer to me than I'm used to lately. And it's confusing.

In a way, it feels very intimate. But I don't know what to do with that feeling. It's a misreading. The stylist is doing her job. Today it was a her, which simultaneously makes it easier to relax and easier to get confused about the misreadings caused by proximity.

With a male stylist, I know where I stand. I've long since figured out that I'm not attracted to men. Long ago I gave the question a proper amount of objective consideration. I can be okay with knowing who I am in that interaction.

With a female stylist, especially an attractive one who seems to fall in the same general age bracket as myself, signals start getting sent. Not of a creepy variety, so much, but just of the kind that, well, hell, it creeps me out. I don't know who I am in relation to this person who is putting her hands on my head. Especially since small talk is part of the exchange. Is there some underlying hint within her question about what I was planning on doing that evening?

Probably not. Now I can see it as probably not. Or was it? It doesn't matter now, but at the time I was confused. Was there some sort of perfect answer she was hoping for and if I'd said it we could have ended up hanging out after her shift watching reruns of Doctor Who? And is that the kind of thing I want out of a trip to get a haitcut?

I suppose this is it. When people get that close to me, I cease to be able to figure out what they want out of the interaction. There is too much information all at once for me to sort through, and I can't even figure enough of my way through it to be able to say 'no, not so short with the bangs.'

When I was married, it was easier. It was easier to know who I was in relation to other people. Certain levels of intimate connection were out of the equation as soon as I said the words 'my wife.' But now I don't know. I could be anybody.

That's the most terrifying thing about getting a haircut. Someone is so close to me, way inside my personal bubble, physically doing things to the outside of my head. If I don't know who I am, could they be doing things to the inside of it, too?

It takes a lot of work to get to know someone well enough that I can trust them to be so close to me. Getting a haircut forces me to shove all that reluctance aside. And maybe that's really why I'm always so disappointed with the results. They remind me that I don't know who I am when I get too close to a stranger. When I don't know how my story plays out with their story. When I don't know what they want from me and I can't figure out what I want from them.

But I have to get haircuts sometimes.

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