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The Cut

Another story begins with a text message and after the response and a call, I decided it was too far and too much. Having grown up in a military family, it was hard to get to $35 in Seattle, much less $57 here in NY. I went for a walk in the chilly, afternoon air. I went looking for a better solution. Something in the middle.

A few blocks away I peered a slender, long-haired woman in the window diligently going about her work. She was alone except for her sole customer. I walked in and spoke something along the lines of “Do you do men too?” My voice pierced the quiet delicateness of the environment.
A hushed “yes” and nod in response and a finger pointed at the closest chair. Feeling a bit like the elephant in the china shop, I took a seat, making sure not to knock anything over. The universal symbol of 5 fingers headed in my direction to let me know it would be a few minutes.

Seconds later I was directed to the raised chair and without words, clothed in a black & white striped cape….paper collar brought between my neck and the nylon. And again she leaves.

After finishing with her other customer, she returned and quietly asked “How do you like it?”

If she hadn’t been right next to my ear, I wouldn’t have heard her.

“Short on the sides. Longer on the top. I guess… Something like that. It’s been over a month since I’ve had it cut” I’ve had the same haircut for years and I still don’t know how to explain it to anybody. It doesn’t seem that complicated, but I just don’t know the vocabulary. I throw in that last sentence in the hopes that it will give somebody a clue how short it should be, as if everyone’s grows at the same rate. Awaiting a few more questions for clarity, I’m a bit concerned when none come. She picks up a pair of scissors that look like they are straight from a child’s toy box (ya know, the scissors surrounded in plastic so a kid can’t seriously hurt themselves) and starts to cut maybe 1 cm off the top.

I wait to say anything, unsure if this is just like the setup for the bigger cutting to come. Unfamiliar with what exactly the process is for cutting I hold my tongue, but after a few minutes with no change, I speak up.

“You can take more off”

“OK” is the response, but the additional 1 mm that starts to come off is still far short of what I want, but now I’m embarrassed to say much more. She starts on the sides, again cutting maybe 1 mm off and I’m thinking that a good inch needs to come out. I finally speak up again. “Shorter please. Much shorter.”

The sole customer turns out to be a co-worker and she interjects something in Russian or some Eastern European language that grabs the cutter’s attention. She looks back at me, nods, and walks off.

I hear her digging around in some cabinets that I cannot see. She returns with a set of clippers. My face turns to happiness. Hers to concern. Now I’m concerned. Does she have that look because she thinks that I don’t know what’s best for me or is she concerned because she hasn’t used these clippers in like 10 years? I keep the smile on my face to mask my own growing concern inside.

She starts to trim the sides and despite at first starting to look like Adolf, the cut comes around and in the end, while a bit shorter than I’d like (I KNOW – never happy), it is OK. I’m happy. She seems relieved. And it cost only $30. I thought it was $45 going in but it turns out that was for a women’s cut, not a man’s. She spent like 45 minutes cutting my hair and in the end it came out just fine.

I felt like we accomplished something in that salon. Together. Without words. I feel like I know owe it to her to return…and myself. At least she’ll know next time what almost exactly I want.

We’ll see what i think in a month…

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