There is no place in the entire world where “guy talk” becomes more mandatory than when getting your haircut. When work conversations turn heteronormative, misogynistic, or bro-ish, you can pretty easily duck away from the water cooler. But when you’re getting your hair cut, you’re physically unable to move. And you have to do it at least once a month for the rest of your life. Sure, it’s not a period, but what an awful thing to have in your life.
My biggest problem with barber shops is that they always want to talk about girls. I’m extremely out; the CEO of my company follows me on Tumblr and I’ll reblog naked dudes without even thinking about it. But I can’t come out to my barber, ever, because your relationship with your barber never gets deep enough for that to not be TMI.
There’s sort of an implicit cultural thing with barber shops. Black people go to black barbers, white people go to white barbers, and gay people go to gay… salons I think? But I go to straight barbers because I’m not about to pay $45 for a fucking haircut. Once when I lived in Crown Heights I went to a black barber (after being rejected by several other barber shops who said they “didn’t have the clipper” for white hair) and it was weird. Everyone stopped talking until I left.
I’ve pretty much settled on this one Greek-owned barber shop in Astoria. It used to be right next door to my apartment, and I’ve moved a few blocks away, but I’ll still make the trek to get my hair cut. It took several sessions with this one barber to get my hair right, and I don’t want to have to repeat that process with anyone else. I really had to twist his arm to get him to shave the sides of my head with a 3 and cut the top of my head with scissors. Which is a popular style among gay men right now but also a convenient style for me because I have a giant head but if I shave the whole thing I look like Gomer Pyle from Full Metal Jacket.
But the problem with going there is that the dude always wants to talk to me about girls. He’s always asking me if I have a girlfriend – once he asked me while I had a boyfriend, and I was like, “heh, nope, just stayin’ single, you know, focusing on my career…”
It’s not even that I think he’s homophobic. In fact he’s told me stories about a gay client of his that hooked him up with a female friend. But I could tell that that client was “noticeably” gay, whereas I’m not really that noticeably gay. My voice is pretty annoyingly straight sounding, unless I’m leaving an answering machine greeting. I’m not sure how that happens… But it’s not really about the knowing, it’s about the telling. I can’t come out to my barber. Just like you wouldn’t tell your bus boy you had cancer or how you wouldn’t tell a stewardess that you think you might be pregnant. It’s a weird too-personal thing for me to bring up, even though it permeates into most of what he wants to casually discuss with me.
But honestly, my sexuality isn’t even what makes it so bad. It’s just the fact that I don’t want to talk to him. Which seems kind of classist? But it’s not really that either. It’s the fact that I’m required to talk to him every month for 15 minutes at a time. That type of social construct is usually reserved for parents or therapists. When you talk for that amount of time and at that level of infrequency, you’re sort of required to only talk about big changes in your life. Which, again, begs being overly personal. Sometimes I wish I could listen to headphones while I get my haircut but that seems kind of rude.
One of my best barber shop experiences was when I was able to finally get an appointment at this fancy barbershop in Soho, at the tail-end of an allnighter. After showing up for my appointment, they told me I’d still have to wait an hour but not to go anywhere. My only option was the bar across the street. Which had a two for one special. I ended up falling asleep in the barber chair and waking up with a great haircut. I felt like an ass but it was a really nice experience.
I actually still go to that barber shop to get my beard trimmed. I used to cycle between clean shaven and unkept, and then I spent a year trying to trim it myself, but it looked like a halfassed bonsai tree. So now I pay someone $15 to trim it every 2 months.
If some barber shops are ethnocentrically themed, this barber shop was “douche themed”. Or more specifically, “nautically themed”. There are little anchors and sailboats everywhere and they sell $500 pea coats in the lobby. I still prefer my Greek barber for haircuts; I only come to these guys for beard trims. One upside to that place is that there are so many dudes cutting hair that they’d rather talk to each other than have a long, excruciating conversation with their clients. The downside to that is that I have to hear them talk to each other. It sounds like a bunch of bros. Or. What’s the collective term for bros? A frat of bros? It sounds like a frat of bros.
Anyway, I don’t know what it is about barber shops that make the conversations sound so much like beer commercials, but I hate it. Barber shop conversations are the worst. Maybe I should just get a Flowbee.