WASHINGTON – When it comes to hair, men are from Mars and women are from Venus.
Many men (myself included) don’t want to get a haircut. We dread the trip to the barber. Women, on the other hand, seem to enjoy it. However, women are often not satisfied with their haircuts, and the men in their lives may suffer if a comment or glance confirms it was a bad cut.
This may contribute to men’s fear of haircuts.
I asked a colleague at work, also a Mike, if he had a fear of the barber shop. He thought for a second and said, “Let me put it this way: I would rather cut my grass than have my hair cut. And I hate cutting the grass.”
He also pointed out that each time he visits the barber, there is less hair to cut — although the price remains the same. That is a depressing reality many of us can identify with. Shouldn’t there be a lost follicle discount or something?
I am not phobic about getting a haircut, and I am almost always glad when I actually do it because I feel and look better.
So why do I dread it?
I think many men of a certain age fear barbers because of a childhood experience. Mine was with a barber named ‘Red.’ Red’s shop was at the corner of 22nd and P streets. In those days, DuPont Circle was kind of dumpy. It didn’t have the trendy restaurants and upscale townhouses of today. It was definitely working class.
My mother would give me money for the haircut (and I think for a tip too). I am pretty sure about the tip because I decided early on that if Red thought he was going to get a tip, even from a kid, he had less incentive to cut my ear off. That potential always existed.
Even though I was only about 10, Red treated all customers the same, which was unsettling if you didn’t have a mustache, beard or neck hair. In addition to clippers and scissors, he always used a straight-edged razor on any and all customers.
He did it to “clean things up.” Yeah, like my right ear, I thought.
The problem was that Red had a horrible, door-rattling, body-racking cough. He could open and close the Venetian Blinds during one of his attacks.
Some of the kids thought he had been gassed in World War I (our sense of history and dates were not all that keen). Others simply thought he was gassed all the time. Come to think of it, there was a liquor store next door.
At any rate, Red would plop you in the chair and mumble some stuff (he did not have a way with children who cherished both ears). Each haircut was a trial by fire. Actually, trial by straight razor.
Red would lather you up (around the ears and neck, in the case of kids) and then strop his razor — like it wasn’t sharp enough. Sometimes he would hum. Then he would start on the neck. It seemed like he would start on the left side and work his way around the still-intact-ear, over the back of the neck, and then approach the other ear.
Then, almost always, he would start hacking and wheezing. To steady himself, he would take hold of my arm. This kept him from falling down and kept me from fleeing across the bridge to the safety of Georgetown.
I went to my regular (as in third visit) barber the other day. He’s great, but as I got to the door, he started coughing.
I’m checking out both CVS and Rite-Aide for a do-it-yourself home hair cutting kit. Preferably a really shoddy one made in China.
What could possibly go wrong.
Mike has spent the majority of his life inside the Beltway and has an interesting and humorous perspective that he will share every Wednesday. Mike has spent his career covering the federal government for the Washington Post and now for Federal News Radio.