Around New Mexico, "personal grooming" generally refers to taking care of one's own horse, so I am understandably confused when confronted by an aisle in the local supermarket with a big sign that says "personal grooming products." But I don't believe a horse groom would have any business in there at all. Search as I may, there are never any horse brushes, soap or tack—only a plethora of gelatinous products that seem to smell a lot like France. And while I am a big fan of looking my best, there is a lot of personal grooming that seems stupid to me. And my biggest complaint is hair.
What a wonderful substance hair is: We hate getting it cut when we're curtain climbers, don't know what to do with it when we're pimply-faced teenagers, try to keep it from turning gray as adults, and watch the damn stuff fall out when we get older. Which is the best part of the deal, in my humble opinion. After all, if I could have back all the time I've wasted on my hair, I could get HBO and ride the sofa for a few seasons. I don't consider myself high-maintenance when it comes to hair, but even if you adopt a hands-off approach (which seems to infuriate intemperate wives), it sucks up more time than an Amway salesman.
I went to go get my hair cut yesterday and, as evidenced by the topic matter, I renewed my hate affair with all things hirsute. Keep in mind, I will put off going to get my hair cut at all costs; I will change oil on a foreign car before I will willingly have some scalp artist feather my locks. But nonetheless, when my subtle sideburns adopt a Vegas-Elvis magnitude and my sides fly out like Bozo on their own accord, I must suck it up and take some personal responsibility. So when I walked into the haircut place, I was already perturbed.
And so the dance began. I selected the only kind of place a working man can get his hair cut during the week, one of these national chain-places that stay open until later. (Of course, you may opt for the weekend haircut, but the wait is longer, there are more fuzz-headed urchins running around, and you will wind up hating more people than the smaller weekday crowd.) These hair studios aren't so much about cutting hair as providing each "client" with an "experience." I just want to experience some ex-Marine slicing off my surplus hair while making sage observations about the Chicago Cubs. Instead, I have an "experience" that includes guys with two different colors in their hair prancing around as the roof speakers thump out the latest dance groove from Scoopie Dogg Dizizzle. (By the way, "50 Cent" is a hip-hop performer, not the price of a haircut. And Eminem isn't a small candy-coated chocolate that melts in your mouth, not in your hand. Go figure.)
Truly in disco heaven, I went to the unattended sign-in list, which is actually a list of names of people who are stupid enough to think that this "experience" has anything at all to do with getting a haircut. Sort of like a visitor sign-in book for the damned. I dutifully logged in the correct time, noted a few people on the list before me, and sat down to read all about Brad and Jennifer's heartbreaking separation. I was engrossed.
So here's the deal: These overly hip style shacks all seem to operate the same way—no appointments, there's always a wait, and the people cutting your hair, while very efficient and friendly, are generally the kind of people you might see on daytime television. There are never enough of them, and the management keeps the chairs full by understaffing the minimum-wage hair artists, who hate their jobs about as much as they hate having to cut your hair. As I sat there, my anger growing like an overfed sea monkey, I watched as over the course of an hour, the two Sisters of Snip finished one—ONE—haircut! One chair seemed to be permanently occupied by a lady who had been there so long, her mail was being forwarded and she had an IV tube in her arm for nourishment. She was apparently going through some sort of tonsorial procedure more involved and complicated than advanced brain surgery or cold fusion, but in my opinion, there wasn't much that good hair was going to improve for this lady. I mean, Medusa had a h
Idiot that I am, I waited a little over an hour before I finally got up to scratch my name off the list. One of the Snip Sisters apologized by saying they were working as fast as they could, which I didn't doubt, given that the two ladies in the chairs seemed to need more work than a Buick rear quarter panel after a horrific pile-up. I left mad, knowing that this is why so many of my friends (me included) have tried more than once to administer drunken self-haircuts in the bathroom mirror.
I need a barber like my father had. A guy named Tony or Jorge or Jimmy Walnuts who could zap a haircut on us any time, with no disco music or sensitive small talk. I had a girlfriend in college who took classes at the beauty college, and would cut hair in her home for beer. That was the sweetest deal ever, but she got all educated and realized that she could buy all the beer she needed with a degree. Since then, I have tried everything, even letting my wife cut my hair, which finally established the level of my vanity. I didn't think I cared how my hair looked; I was wrong.
Help is on the way, however, as time's inexorable hair-thinning process continues its redevelopment of my precious pate. Soon, I won't have to worry about haircuts, and the Sisters Snip will hold no charms for me. My wife is sure I will find something else to complain about, a prediction I have no doubt of, but at least I won't be forced to listen to any more hip-hop music. I think I will find a place to redirect my energies by analyzing why we need more than two brands of toothpaste to choose from and why deodorants don't come with ozone-destroying propellants any more. I used to like the way they made my armpits sting, like aerosol Aqua Velva. That was manly personal grooming, and you never had to wait an hour for it, either.
Henry Lightcap lets his hair (what's left of it) down in Las Cruces.