Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Portrait of the Artist as a Hairdresser

Saint John - Cold War Kids (mp3)
Lives Like Mine - Mike Hale (mp3)

Last week I broke up from my previous hair stylist -- I didn't call, didn't even leave her a note -- and aimed to find one closer to my new home. I walked into a nearby franchise joint right after work, and the only woman there greeted me, and our blind hair date had begun.

She sat me down and started running her fingers through my hair. She said my hair was unusually thick. (My blind hair dates always say this.) But then it got weird.

"Your eyes are really close together on your face," she said. Admittedly, I flinched at that one. I've always known this -- when I remove my glasses, I look a little bit too much like a mole -- and it's definitely one of those observations you'd rather not someone say aloud as if they were reading a newspaper headline.

"Don't worry honey," she said. "You look fine." She was trying to soften the blow. But the "fine" in this quote was not, like, "fiiiiiine." It was more like How was work? Fine. That kind. Dismissive. As if she didn't have time to deal with my self-esteem issues.

Then she said I had a hidden cowlick on the back right side of my hair. Would you believe no one has ever told me that? I only knew about the two cowlicks at the top of my forehead. How many cowlicks are up there, lurking, about which I am still unaware??

Then she said that the right side of my head was my good side. The side without the back cowlick. She said that side of my hair "naturally wants to be the way it should." Those were her words. The cowlick side was fighting itself, she said. Some kind of war on hair terror is being waged on the left side of my skull.

And all of this was said to me before she even whipped out the scissors.

She dry cut my hair. Never used one ounce of water. She never snipped straight across the hair. She would take out little strands here and there in an intentionally jagged manner. She kept explaining that all those traditional methods of hairstyling -- straight cuts, wet hair, thinning shears -- were lazy ways of mechanizing what is supposed to be about finding a natural look. What I didn't say in response was that I kind of thought the natural look was to not get a haircut at all. But whatevs.

Point is, she provided me a haircut unlike any other I've ever received. I can't confidently say it was the best haircut ever; only the most unique and invigorating.

Haircut As Transcendent Yoda-like Experience.

The only word more misunderstood than "artist" is the word "non-conformist."

Our lemming culture has been so well-taught that at least every other person hears the word "non-conformist" and thinks of that God-forsaken Robert Frost poem, "The Road Not Taken." As if Robert Frost invented the very notion of non-conformity.

Nevermind that his poem has jack squat to do with non-conformity, because it doesn't. If you read the poem carefully, he says the paths are all but the same. One has been treaded upon slightly more. Damn poem is about choices, about the permanence and irreversibility of choices, not about non-conformity.

If he'd wanted to write a poem celebrating non-conformists, the narrator would have pissed on both paths and made off into the pathless woods to create a new path all his own. But that would be stupid. There's thorns and poison oak and snakes and all sorts of unknown crap awaiting you on the unmarked path. Which is why non-conformity is usually overrated.

Same thing seems true about Artists. We glorify them. We make Artists ("artistes" if you will) out to be blessed by the gods with vision, or talent, or whatever. But an amazing number of the greatest artistes -- writers, painters, musicians -- are insufferable human beings, fighting a variety of demons in their head, often drowning themselves in one vice or another, and frequently engaging in what can mildly be described as misogynistic or misanthropic behavior.

If you removed from the list of Great Artistes those who beat or abused lovers, intentionally killed themselves or drugged themselves into the grave, or generally held an openly hostile view of their fellow man and woman, you easily remove more than half of my favorite artists.

I spend my life walking paths that are slightly worse for wear, and I spend my days wondering what my life might have been like had I taken those other paths, the ones that were for all intents and purposes identical.  Artists walk the unmarked paths with the poison ivy, the thorns, the snakes, the mystery.

I look forward to my next encounter with this hair artist. Damn she's weird.


BeckEye said...

This reminds me of a funny Brian Regan bit. He went to the eye doctor and the doc told him he had one eye higher than the other one. Then he goes, "It doesn't affect your vision or anything, I just thought you'd like to be self-conscious for the rest of your life."

Randy said...

Was your car still in its parking space when you left the shop?

Also...Brian Regen is awesome. "Take Luck!"

troutking said...

Brian Regan IS awesome, but he kinda needs a new hairstylist too.

Also reminds me of his routine about going to the doctor who says, "That mole looks kinda weird, Brian, and you could stand to lose some weight." Brian says, "Thanks for the confidence boost, doc. Only your doctor has carte blanche on insults. Big fat moleman walking outta here. I'm a blimp, grab a rope!"

Daisy said...

I thought men went to barbers not "stylists."

Billy said...

@Beck - So painfully true. I'm not very obsessed with my physical imperfections, probably because I stopped counting at, like, 1,000. But having them clinically observed is unappetizing.

@Randy - Would you believe I didn't even think about that as a reason I might have decided to break up with my previous haircutter? I'm so shallow. It wasn't even her fault.

@Trout - I gotta watch some of this guy... I not surprisingly missed this boat somehow.

@Daisy - REAL men only go to barbers. I, on the other hand, am not a real man. If I were, I wouldn't be in such awe of the Old Spice Man.