It was peaceful and classy—I almost wondered that I was let in—and filled with curious, attractive art that someone with more money than myself would buy. Everything was neat, ordered, and clean. Such an environment is suited to the clientele, in this case women who can probably converse without much break for at least a two-hour haircut (and probably longer if really put to the test… much longer).
I am not those women. I struggle to keep up a conversation for that long (except on subjects relating to The Lord of the Rings). Instead, it was my locks and my ego that had put me in this position.
Like the dentist, I used to associate the hairdresser’s chair with evil. Ever since I was strapped into the Great Clips chair, screaming and punching, to receive haircuts for the foul spirit of education and school, I’ve never really been the same. After my locks were shorn by those malicious demons, I used to fly up to the upstairs bathroom and weep (and I probably still would).
I have a “thing” about hair, and it may to seem strange to you. But let’s be honest, you have your things too. Maybe you can’t bear to have your glasses cleaned but by a certain cloth or for the coffee to be anything other than zippy-de-do-da strong but whatever it is, should that thing vanish or say be viciously hacked off by someone with the brain of a toucan, you tend to freak out a little bit.
Perhaps it’s because most of us don’t like change—the familiar becoming like a nice warm blanket which, when torn off, leaves us shivering like a scared monkey. Or maybe we just like things a certain way, maybe even too much in the eyes of other people. But hey, they don’t know that if your favorite parking spot is taken it not only screws up your day, but it might just mess with the fabric of the universe.
This leads me to my inevitable conclusion about any sort of business dealing with my hair: I want for my hair to look better but also exactly the same. The best cut, then, is the one that leaves me looking the same as when I came in.
My hairdresser, I think, intuitively understands this whereas the morons over at Great Clips want to express their inner artist a little too much. It’s a relationship of trust you develop because any misplaced swoop can become an irredeemable mistake. But here I was at ease, and I wasn’t concerned at the deft movements and cuts of my hairdresser.
Today, however, my hair had grown a little beyond its bounds. After a year of no maintenance at all, my hair had grown so long and scraggly I was casually mistaken for an escaped bison. At this time then, my trim would be a bit more drastic, but still technically defined as a trim and not a “haircut.”
All of this prolonged fuss is really preliminary dread for the final day when I’ve been told that I will have to forgo my undying shame and put myself under the scissors. As we all know, after a while, something so simple as hair gains meaning much more than a bunch of dead cells conveniently arrayed on your head, and the cutting becomes a vicious process. My hair will fall to the ground with what’s left of the tatters of my youth, and I will slink out of the salon in shame.
Sure, a serious job is still just over the horizon; my locks have grown to suit my position as a wandering bum, and I’m fine with that. It is interesting, however, to reflect on when it becomes required to “shape up” in so many words. And one can even argue over terms—am I supposed to fit a certain “mold” in order to succeed? In current thought, it seems the grinding machine makes you the shape it wants.
But is the “shaping up” process outdated; has our new, trendy world of underground baristas grown to change the greater world around us? Can long hair be worn with such grace that even the top business executive can pull off a stylish Legolas hairdo?
It depends if you work for yourself. It depends who you want to impress. It depends if you work in a large corporation. It depends if you like to rebel against society a bit. It depends who you want to date. It depends who is watching you. It depends who your friends are and what they believe. It depends how much you care what others think.
In other words, it depends what life you want to live. But rarely do we think about something like a haircut in such an obsessive way or reflect why we do the simple things we do, when the simplest things mean everything about who you are and who you want to be.
And then if you do pay attention to the simple thing, it suddenly becomes very complex. Over the years, my hair has become an obsessive “thing” necessary to my wellbeing, a reaction against change, a complex signifier of the life I want to live, and something I think I just look good with. And that, in so many words, is why I fear the haircut.
Ben Rietema (’14) lives in Wanaka, New Zealand at the moment. Besides staring at and running in mountains, he makes a wicked hospital corner and can clean a bathroom like Gandhi (if he were a housekeeper) at his job at a local lodge. He also enjoys saying “HOUSEKEEPING” in the highest pitch voice he can muster before entering a room to service it. benrietema.wordpress.com/