Concerning the crimes of barbers, I never know whether they’re committed for revenge or as a result of ineptitude. A Venn diagram would show two circles of these craftsmen, one containing the vengeful and one containing the inept, the circles overlapping slightly.
Counterintuitively, it is in this intersection that my best haircuts happen, because vengeful, inept barbers are too inept to pull off revenge, and often blunder their way to a good haircut. To the chagrin of the vengeful inept barber I leave the salon looking sharp, whistling Joni Mitchell.
But why would my barbers be seeking revenge? It’s a chicken-and-egg question. Are the vengeful drawn to a profession that gifts them access to an unsuspecting civilian’s head? Or does a daily immersion in scurf, encrustation, amateur phrenology, grease and mindless chitchat turn one sour? The two likelihoods are not mutually exclusive. I think it’s a mix of both. A barber’s innate rancour is intensified by a repulsive clientele.
I ditched my Vietnamese barber because he was a fatphobe who’d go bug-eyed and start mumbling bilingual insults as people from the high flats waddled past his salon. I could abide this prejudice, but if I were in the chair when the first mobility scooter of the day whizzed past he would begin to twitch and he’d soon be scribbling on my neck with a styptic pencil trying to staunch blood flow.
I found a new barber and we hit it off. We became familiar. So familiar she began to force-feed abandoned kittens while I was in the chair. A beer box would begin to meow and she’d say, “Oh, the poor darlings. You don’t mind, do you? I found them in a dumpster this morning.” She’d start syringing homemade cat milk down their gullets while I lied about how cute they were. The feeding could take up to half an hour, while I blinked at myself in the mirror hoping toxoplasmosis might offer the happy side-effect of shrinking one’s ears. I was desperate to escape, but trapped by having half a haircut.
Refusing to play second fiddle to abandoned Burmese was what led me to the Iranians. The Iranians don’t multitask by gavaging cats as they shave you.
I marched into their salon and demanded a fade. A fade is a haircut that’s long on top and shortens quickly to stubble in the lower reaches of a barber’s jurisdiction around the temples. Virat Kohli gets around in a fade, as do most young Indian guys in Melbourne, and they look as sharp as razors, freshly stepped from a dream of the ’50s. “I want a fade. I want to look like Kohli,” I told the Iranians.
Overtop the clipper noise the small talk began and when I discovered my barber was an Iranian I asked what percentage of my fee would make its way to the ayatollahs so they could manufacture drones to give to the Russians. I informed him there was no profit in brown-nosing a skunk such as Putin. Where did it get Trump? I mentioned the burning of the hijabs on the streets of Tehran, too.
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