| After a long and illustrious career of over sixty years, my long-term barber, Emilio, passed away suddenly. I already miss him. He had become a familiar sight on my monthly visits to his barbershop for a quick trim, and some very interesting conversation. Soon after his funeral, I began my long and futile search for a good Italian barber. It appears that the true masters of the art of haircuts are an endangered species, and may soon go the way of the dinosaurs.
As my search continued and my hair began to reach my shoulders, I realized that I needed to make a choice. Either I could find a reputable hair salon in my immediate area, or I could have my wife put on a fake mustache, talk with an Italian accent and do her best to clip my hair without doing too much damage. Knowing that my wife sometimes gets irritated with me, doesn't enjoy mustaches, and realizing that a clipper can be a very dangerous instrument in the hands of an angry woman, I decided to look for a hair salon.
A friend of mine told me about a place called Margo's Unisex Beauty Salon. It was close to my house, reasonably priced, and known for giving a decent haircut. As you all know, men are pretty simple, so as soon as I saw the word "sex", I started figuring that any place with the word sex in it couldn't be too bad. I later learned to my dismay that unisex means an establishment which serves both men and women.
Another word that threw me off was salon. At first, I thought the word had been misspelled, and that it should have been saloon. As thoughts of having my hair cut while drinking beer and watching the can-can performed on a stage by dance hall girls went through my head, I realized my mistake, came back to reality and called the Salon to find out the hours of operation, and to see if an appointment was necessary.
As I prepared for my very first visit to a hair salon, I looked up some information on the internet to ensure that I was ready for this new and exciting adventure. I found out a few interesting facts. The first and most important is that your hair is not cut, rather it's styled. As thoughts of leaving the salon with a bouffant hairdo piled six feet in the air crossed my mind I moved on to some other interesting facts. Rather than a barber, my hair would be cut by a stylist, or as they're often called, a cosmetologist. Now, I know what you're thinking. I made the same mistake. It's not a cosmonaut, which we all know is the Russian equivalent of our NASA astronauts. It's a cos-me-tol-o-gist, who I've heard have had extensive training and experience, and are experts in all phases of hair care. It's a good thing too, because I don't envision a Russian astronaut giving me my preferred straight cut in the back.
A third important difference between a barber and a stylist is that a barber uses a clipper, which is a gently vibrating, electrically powered hair-cutting device that produces a soothing humming noise, which almost lulls you to sleep. In contrast, a stylist uses razor-sharp scissors, which make a metal on metal sound like a giant threshing machine rolling through a field of wheat. One note of caution to all men should be offered. Before you go to a hair salon, make sure you trim all your nose and ear hair. Chances are it won't be done at the salon, and you'll probably scare your stylist half to death.
The big day arrived, and as I entered the hair salon I immediately noticed an obvious difference from my old barbershop. Instead of the scent of two hundred elderly men crammed into a box, while all wearing different out-dated and obviously over-used colognes, it smelled won-der-ful.
I, in my own limited vocabulary, can only describe the smell as being like an Alpine meadow in early summer as the multitudes of different and remarkable flowers are reaching their peak of beauty and olfactory perfection. As I stand among the brightly colored flowers, a gentle breeze is wafting the scent into my nose as my head spins with the remarkable intoxication, and.....and...... Uh, sorry, I got carried away there for a minute. Let's just say it smelled good.
As I tentatively approached the main desk I was soon to find out that there was more to having your hair cut, I mean styled, at a Salon. The first step was to have your hair washed. As I tried without success to explain that I had already thoroughly washed my hair that morning, I was informed that during the washing they would be adding specially formulated conditioners to make my hair fuller, and that my hair would be styled while it was wet. I want you to visualize a middle-aged man with thinning hair emerging from a swimming pool with what little is left of his hair plastered to the top of his head. I can tell you this; it’s not a pretty sight.
So, already traumatized, and with a towel covering my head I was led through a sea of mostly female customers toward a series of chairs at the far end of the salon. If I learned anything from this experience it was, how a bull feels when it is being gently, but inexorably led toward his fate at the slaughterhouse.
I finally reached my chair, and met my stylist. She was young and pretty, and had an elaborate hairstyle that reminded me of the lead singer of a band called "A Flock of Seagulls". As I sat there, and prepared for the worst, she struck up a light and easy conversation and proceeded to ask me some questions. The first was,
"How about some highlights?”
"Well," I said, "the shampoo was pretty good."
"No," she chided me. "Highlights are when I color strands of your hair to offset your natural hair color. It adds depth and dimension, and will also give you a more sophisticated look."
I passed on the highlights, figuring my brown hair was already offset by a few, new gray ones I had gotten today.
"Well", she said, "Then how about some moose?"
As she said this the only thing I could think of was the application of some strong and pungent hair product made from the urine of those huge, antlered, elk-like creatures I had seen on postcards sent from Maine, by my Uncle Phil. I was to find out once again how little I knew of modern hair care when she informed me that "mousse" was a toiletry added to hair for extra volume and shine.
As the stylist continued my lesson on the intricacies of hair, I felt that I was back in school being drilled by a teacher, while preparing for an upcoming exam. As I sat and listened, she recited a list of familiar and not so familiar terms. They included: razor-cuts, layering, protein treatments, accent colors, perms, emollients, clarifying shampoos, and hair straightening.
With my head spinning, and without the aid of a specially trained generational translator, I somehow managed to tell my stylist what I wanted done. A little off the top. I mean veeeeery little off the top. A little off the sides. Be sure to trim back my side-burns so that I can stop the invitations to Elvis Presley look-alike contests, and lastly a nice clean, straight cut at the back of my neck.
As her scissors were furiously clicking and the resulting bushels of hair were gently floating to the floor I had a few minutes to relax and contemplate the experience. It actually wasn't so bad if you could ignore the fear, the horror, and extreme embarrassment, plus the fact that it cost four times more than a barbershop cut. Add a substantial tip for the stylist and the shampoo person, and you're looking at a fairly high priced coiffure.
I still haven't decided yet whether I will continue my search for an old-time Italian barber, or move fearlessly into the 21st century at Margo's Unisex Beauty Salon. I do know that the idea of my wife with a big, black, bushy mustache is starting to look a little better. I have just a few questions. If I kiss her, will the mustache tickle? Will she trim my nose and ear hair? But most importantly, will I have to leave her a tip?