My Hairdressing Diary
I thought I’d do something a little different for this month’s column. Instead of reviewing new products and dispensing haircare advice, I’d like to talk about some of my experiences in the world of hairdressing. There have been so many wonderful memories and there have been moments so touching that remembering them brings a lump to my throat and warmth to my heart. Some people drag themselves to work every morning completely devoid of enthusiasm, but I feel lucky to have a career that I am passionate about. I don’t watch the clock at work, counting down the hours until I get to come home; I sit at home watching the clock, counting down the hours until I get to go to work again.
How did it all start? You have to go back to when I was a little boy. When I was in third grade, my teachers discovered that I had a streak of creativity. I became interested in creating things. Painting and drawing fascinated me; so much so that at the end of high school I had decided to go to art school. Sadly, I became aware of the scarcity of jobs in the art world, and by the time graduation rolled around I had abandoned the thought of college.
Hair itself I never gave much thought to, it was never something that entered my mind until much later. I was, however, fascinated by the local barbershops. I felt like I was part of a fraternal order, when I, as a boy, sat in the barbershop among the old men. They would talk politics, and discuss things that I was too young to understand. I loved the smell of the lotions and potions that the barber dabbed on his customers, I loved the smell of the barbicide that was used to clean the combs, and I loved the Clubman talc that would be applied to the neck duster after the haircut.
There was one man in particular who lives in my mind as a hero. His name was Roy the Barber, and he had a small shop down in the basement of a building in downtown Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania. I remember sitting in his barber chair, that regal throne of my childhood, watching the feet of the passersby through the window that was at street level. Roy the Barber did more than cut hair; he was a fountain of knowledge. He was an Oracle, and all the men in town would congregate in the barbershop to hear his opinions on the world. He was also a very funny man, he always said things to you in the middle of the haircut that would make you smile and the rest of your day was always brighter after having met him. If there was a seven-year old boy in his chair, he would say after the haircut, “There you go, you look ten years younger!” Even to a fifteen year old high school student, he would say the same thing, just changing it to, “You look twenty years younger!”, or he’d say, “You’re wife won’t even recognize you when you go home.” I always loved that one, and despite hearing it every four weeks for several years, it never got old. And Roy himself never seemed to get old. I always thought the barber and his shop would be there forever. After high school I moved away and spent several years away from Mount Carmel. I had recently gone through the long-hair phase, and looking back I think the only reason I had let my hair grow was because I knew Roy the Barber couldn’t cut it. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I returned to Mount Carmel after seven years away. I couldn’t find Roy the Barber or his shop; perhaps I wasn’t even looking on the right street. But small-town life had changed, and the changes seemed to come overnight. I visited the old high school, and for the first time I had been stopped at the entrance by a security guard and was ordered to show identification. They told me there had been bomb threats, and they told me that the doors had been taken off the bathroom stalls because kids were taking drugs. The day I was there, the police were doing locker searches. They even had a drug-sniffing dog at work. Suddenly, my old school seemed as alien to me as a lunar moonscape.