There are men who may not fear anything and some others who may fear everything under the sun. Irrespective of whom you fear and who you don’t it may be possible that the man I fear may perhaps be genuinely feared. As he may have a big contribution in how you present yourself. I say man, as I have never been to a woman who does that job.
I moved to London about a month ago after I finished my architecture degree in Newcastle upon Tyne. I was in London the whole of last summer and worked at the same architecture firm where I am set to start work tomorrow, hence I travelled with my weekly pass to almost every possible destination in central London and needless to say I am very familiar with main attractions, second hand bookshops, museums and libraries and the sort. What I am not familiar is the immediate vicinity of my neighbourhood where I now stay in London.
Last Friday was a particularly cold day, very windy, gloomy and cold and would have sat well with the late autumn days, and yet we are still to get to the end of summer. I guess the fact that I was fasting made me even more susceptible to the cold.
I used to walk for about half an hour or get a bus for about 10 minutes to go to the only salon I had ever been to in London apart from this other salon which is closer, and yet has a reputation in my mind for being a place that made a big mess of my hair. With time for Iftar (breaking fast) fast looming and the prospect of facing the very cold weather I really wanted to turn back – nevertheless I have a big day coming the following week so I thought I needed a bit of a trim.
I started walking towards that salon and then remembered there was another one closer to where I stayed and walked to that salon – on arrival I found that the salon wasn’t there anymore – asked a little boy probably Nigerian, if there used to be a salon here and he said “ya ma’an, it’s on de oder syd’ o da road innit” and pointed me towards a restaurant on the other side, when I went to the restaurant I found it to be just full of big black men ( with the odd smaller framed one) making big noises of laughter and talking in pidgin English around a good amalgam of tables decorated with African food – even if I wasn’t fasting I doubt if I would have been interested.
I looked back at the boy on the other side and he dangerously crossed the road with callous disregard to any traffic rules and took me through the restaurant, he probably was quite popular and several men kept pulling him close and squeezing his cheek, sandwiching his nose between their middle and index fingers and pulling it – I think one big burly man took him to his lap and tickled him saying kuchi kuchi koooo much to the annoyance of the little boy who wanted to show me that he was “da maan”, and I had to pause in my stride every time the boy was pulled to be part of some form of supposedly affectionate expression.
I must say that in my 5’ 8” frame I was feeling very small and insignificant, much like a foreign dignitary who may have felt very small when visiting Hitler in his larger than life scaled chancellery.
I was taken through the rear of the restaurant and down a flight of stairs – by this time I was certain this is NOT my kind of Salon! But defying the little boys’ effort and enthusiasm to show me the way and walking out and the thought of having to be the relatively smaller Asian boy walking across big black men who probably never see a non-black person walk into their domain was not very alluring, so I decided to follow the boy.
Anyway I was taken to the basement which smelt of fresh paint and spirits and there was the barber in his grandiose dexterity cutting another black man’s hair and I must say the salon chair was rather sophisticated for its environs – so were the other paraphernalia that were being used by the barber to do a very meticulous job or so I thought. And I thought, hmm I have come to the right place!
I waited patiently for that mans hair to be cut, well he had typical afro hair so it was not really “cut” but the electric clipper did the job.
It was my turn, I was called I sat on the chair and gave him instructions – the same instructions I have been giving in salons for the past 10 years or more. “Cut all round in number 1, and trim the top very short, and yet short enough that I can comb it to a side” – he got the point, well he has to – it was clear enough and he seemed to be a professional guy.
First thing he did was use the small trimmer, which is used to cut the side burns – he started cutting the ends of my fringe – this has never been done to me before and I asked him what he was doing and he said just cutting that part and assured me that I will have it “just the way you want”.
That done he cut all round in number one, and then he turned the chair and I couldn’t face the mirror anymore – and this guy as opposed to other barbers who keep the chair static and keep moving around to reach different positions of the head was staying static! and turning the chair all round for him to cut all sides of my hair! I had to wait for a couple of minutes to complete my 360° turn to see my hair!
Having done my sides he changed the size of the comb on the trimmer to trim the top of my head! And I coolly told him, “err no I want you to use the scissors” , and then he replied equally coolly “I don’t use scissors” but don’t worry I’ll have it cut “just the way you want”, a phrase which by now I was bombarded with every time I objected to something!
He doesn’t use scissors! Now why didn’t I observe that before!! And now he tells me!
Anyway he started trimming, and by now I was about 75° from the mirror so I couldn’t really see what he was doing! And when I made my next complete revolution – lo and behold a good chunk of my hair was taken off and I looked no different to the big fat black guy guy whose hair was cut before mine! Except I was smaller made and had a fairer complexion! I immediately made a bodily expression from which he knew I was very annoyed! I couldn’t do a follow up of my expressions of objection because there were a lot of other black men with whom he was constantly conversing in his pidgin English and my objection earlier came out rather loud and I was faced with objecting looks wondering who this pariah was! So I had to immediately change course and not carry on with the “aiya part” I may have put if I was at home.
Well what was cut can’t be taken back and I tried to console myself saying that it wasn’t bad after all when deep within I knew that I was now looking like a smaller made south Asian version of Dizzee Rascal!
I have always been apprehensive of barbers, I used to be aggressive when they made a mistake, but then that has only made the barber play around with my hair in a way I really don’t like. And then I have been really nice, like fake smiles and exchanging very artificial cosmetic pleasantries to give the guy an impression that I am a nice guy and so please do a good job! Somehow I have been very unlucky with barbers and I do a big mistake of having a hair cut just before a big day and end up being better off had I not cut my hair. I start work on Tuesday and I must confess I really despise the fact that I will be going in there with a hair cut very unlike the one I would usually have!
Yes I do fear barbers for the amount of social embarassment the tend to put me through, and historically I have never been that very well treated in salons – hair wise of course!