Why I do not like getting haircuts

Getting a haircut always makes me nervous.

Typical conversation between me and my barber/hairstylist/assorted-hair-management-professional (although for some, the word “professional” is used very loosely indeed):

Him/her: Hello! How do you want your hair cut?

Me: Ummm. High slope?

Note: The “high slope” is the only hairstyle I know of for men, since the places I go for haircuts never seem to provide helpful menus or informational brochures. And by the time I realize the need for this information, I am usually too far away from Google to gain access to it.

Him/her: Ok. How long do you want it?

Me: Ummm. Short.

Him/her: Ok. How short?

At this point I phase out, my mind trying its best to ascertain the meaning of the word “short”. With my friends, a short rant about the confusion engendered by relative words such as “short” would be in order, but so far I have never struck up a friendly relationship with the people who handle my hair (especially after viewing the results). The part of me that craves quantitative precision starts to make guesses as to the exact lengths of hair that would meaningfully be categorized as “short”. Perhaps 2-3 centimetres of fringe can be considered short? Perhaps 3-4? What about gender differences? Woman-short is obviously different from Man-short. And shouldn’t the shortness of hair also be relative to the size of head? 2-3 centimetres would seem like a lot more on a smurf than a teletubby.

By this time, my eyes are usually glazed over as I stare blankly into the mirror-of-shame-and-despair and the hair-management-professional will start waving their scissors/razors/implementations-of-hair-management in the air. There is silence for a moment, before the the hair-mangement-professional’s inevitable “So? How?”is met by my “Errrr.”

At this point, several things can happen – depending on how rapidly the hair-mangementprofessional’s is waving his/her implements.

  1. Very rapid implement-waving – I blurt out “very short”, because “very short” is on the extreme left in my mental spectrum of hair-length measurement categories and thus the first thing that comes to my mind.
  2. Somewhat more gentle implement-waving – I feel comfortable enough with the hair-management-professional to say something along the lines of “you know best”, or “you decide”, which wastes the minimum amount of time.
  3. Placid implement-waving – Because I don’t feel rushed, I take too much time to think about it, which results in the hair-management-professional taking the initiative to offer some hair length which I gratefully accept so that I won’t have to think anymore.

From experience, any of the three scenarios always ends up with the same length of hair for me, which leads me to suspect that hair-management-professionals just use the questions to start conversations, much in the way people in the IT line talk about computer hardware to break the ice. I guess it must be an occupational hazard that you actually think people are interested about hair. Haha.

Then my glasses come off and I am completely at their mercy. Because I am nearly blind without my glasses, having my hair cut is an experience I think must be similar to being in a washing-machine – being applied with strange products, gently tumbled about for about fifteen minutes and gradually shrinking.

During this stage of the operation, many of hair-management-professionals will ask me how I like my sideburns. The options seem to be: “shaved” or “natural”. It always seemed strange to me, putting it this way – when you order a coffee they never ask you how you would like your milk – missing or mixed-in? Why not just ask whether you want them on or off?

I always ask for “natural”. I imagine “shaved” will engender more questions about length.

And then the glasses come back on and the hair-management-professional holds up a mirror to my head, as if seeking my approval. I always nod my approval – what do I know of hair? And then I scuttle away, glad to be free of the terrible terrible burden of choice.

As you might have guessed, I got a haircut today.

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