The most avoided event for young boys and perhaps girls as well was the looming of the haircut. That’s why I cannot remember this ever happening when I was very young. I am sure it was done and most likely by my mother or perhaps even dad. There were vague references to a terracotta flower pot being used to snip around the perimeter after it was placed on the hapless victim. Money was scarce and seen as a waste spending it on kid’s hair.
Adults would go to a barber and a women’s hairdo were referred to in French as in coiffure or bouffant to give it a special and heightened sense of feminine importance. With men it would be a shave and a cut. A flick knife with a frighteningly long blade would be sharpened in front of the victim on a leather belt before the stubble or beard would be tackled. You would not want to have a violent disagreement with the barber and politically savvy positions would be taken at all times. The barber would politely ask ‘brush good and warm today, Sir?’ The reply was always a mumbled, ‘yes, very nice and warm.’ The brush would be soaped up in warm water and rubbed around the palm of the barber’s hand or a special dish to get a nice lather, not too sloppy nor too firm. There were skills involved that seem to have got lost.
However, my last haircut a few days ago, those lost skills were re-discovered. I had held off as long as possible but after Helvi’s remark I looked like a Hottentot, I felt I should really get a cut, especially as our fiftieth marital milestone had been reached. I decided to try a new barber shop. It looked rather snazzy and had a computerised system with special rewards for loyal customers. Now-a-days, any business has to have some gimmick and what more gimmicky than having some connection with the electronic world, especially a computer. I punched in my name and phone number. Out came a ticket with a number and I sat down waiting for my turn.
I was immediately struck by the performance of one of the cutters. He was hair cutting enthusiasm incorporated. He had a dark complexion and with a full head of pitch black hair, always a major plus in my opinion. I mean a bald hairdresser doesn’t quite cut the mustard in the world of hair. I don’t know why; perhaps an odd prejudice on my part?
He displayed a barber agility I had never seen before except perhaps in the world of gymnastics or even ballet. He danced and jigged around the man he was haircutting. The amazing part was that the customer did not have much hair to cut. He was an elderly gentleman of slim proportions with the only hair available at the back of his head creeping towards the lower part of his neck. Even so, the hairdresser was clicking his scissors as if approaching a fully fleeced Merino. The customer’s wife was sitting next to me, giving gentle instruction to this dancing and swiftly darting about hairdresser who, in full flight, was giving every strand of his remaining hair full and undivided attention.
I could not wait for him to do my hair. I was fully rewarded. He was overjoyed to work on my still fully bouffant head of hair and soon got in his stride. Fever pitch would be an understatement. It turned out his darkness was not Spanish but originated from a Philippine mother and Australian father. He learned his considerable skills on the job and did not go to a technical college. Towards the end he rubbed some fragrant pomade between his hands which he did by holding them above my head. I felt I was getting some kind of laying of hands, it was almost religious. He looked at my head and turned it a bit here and a bit there, almost like an architect contemplating a new opera house on the banks of the Danube at Bratislava. He finally rubbed it on my hair, gave a sigh of utter satisfaction and was finished. I must say it was the best haircut I ever enjoyed.
An improvement on the terracotta job of so many years ago.