July 16, 2009

Mr. Seinfeld, I presume?

I went to get a haircut the other day, and out of the blue it suddenly became a genuine Seinfeld moment: "What's the deal with barbers these days?"

As any man of my age (47) or older can attest, it's almost impossible to find a genuine "barber shop" these days. Anyone much younger than myself, probably doesn't know or care; but as for the rest of you, you know what I mean: it was a place where men could go and be men, belch, scratch, curse, read the sports page, and complain about their wives. The barbers were old fat guys named Floyd or Tony or Louie. If we were lucky, the shop even had an old black-and-white TV mounted on the wall where we could all watch the big game.

Today we have something called "family hair salons." Salons? That was the place where my mother used to go on the weekend to get her bouffant redone. She sat under the dryer (the barrel-sized type that would make Marge Simpson proud) for hours on end, reading old movie magazines, chattering with the other hens about the latest flick with Rock Hudson and Doris Day.

But then again, as Jerry would say, "not that there's anything wrong with that."

The trouble is, every time I go to my local, um, family salon these days, they demand more and more information from me. Louie is gone; instead I get Tiffany or Buffy or Trixie. She wants me to tell the name of the style I want. Scissors or clippers? What setting on the clippers? They go on and on, before they even think about touching my head. The answer to all of the questions above? I don't know and I don't care!

It used to be so simple: I walked into Louie's Barber Shop on Santa Monica Boulevard. I sat down and said "short," and Louie knew exactly what to do. Even Supercuts was simple back then. Guys didn't have very many options those days; it was either that or an afro.

Louie opened the conversation with "How 'bout them Yankees, eh?"

Tiffany's banter is essentially limited to "Can you believe what Ashton said to Demi last night?"

Back then, cutting hair was a deliberate career choice; Louie was there because he wanted to be a barber. He owned the chairs, he rented the space, he had a business plan. But today, stylists are like waitresses; Tiffany is only there until she gets her big break as an actress or a lawyer or a nuclear physicist. So even if I like her work the first time, it's almost impossible to get her again. She has an audition on Monday, a physics class on Tuesday, the bar exam on Wednesday, and a movie with her kids (yikes, she has kids!) on Thursday.

So in just a few weeks I will be forced to roll the dice again, this time with Trixie. And she likewise forces me to recite the litany all over again. And even if she's good, I will probably never see her again. (The word on the street, is that she's up for a jet-setting job at the State Department.)

When I settle into the chair today, my (and I hate this title) stylist can clearly see that she's dealing with a man who's obviously pushing 50. I don't want a mohawk, or a fade, or a mullet. I don't want that cool green spikey gel that Corey Feldman made famous back in the 80's, and please don't try to sell me hairspray. Is it really so hard to understand that I want to leave with the same basic style that I came with?

I just want to have less of it.

Egads, now I feel like Andy Rooney.

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