Hair: The Post

I got my hair cut a couple days ago.

See?

See, it's shorter now

I’m not a “hair guy,” which is an expression I’ve made up just now to describe a “guy” who pays close attention to his “hair.” I rarely pay my hair much attention. A few years ago I noticed my hairline receding a little and some Male Pattern Baldness settling in, and I freaked out a bit, probably bit my nails extra a lot, and braced myself for the inevitable.

But when I finally realized that it’s actually progressing VERY slowly and also that the ceiling light in the bathroom of my former workplace shone down unflatteringly upon my thinning hair, I relaxed, and now have mostly stopped caring. Plus, Jessica’s already agreed to marry me, so ha!

Just kidding. Not about the marrying part. About the “ha” part.

It’s an occasionally sad thought that pops into my head: I have never done anything with my hair. No new cuts, styles, lengths, colors. Just the same old thing year in and year out. If we venture into facial hair, I did experiment once: I grew a beard a few years ago when I lived with my three good pals Drew, Andrew, and Julien, and Drew even made pins for us for a party that said “ask me about my beard.” People did, and I told them all about it. The pin worked! My beard was dark and full and I never truly embraced it, though I was told it looked pretty good. I liked the way it looked, sometimes, and then other times it just seemed like I had this dark cloud on my face that had no reason to be there. One day, for no particular reason, I grabbed a razor and took it off, and that was that.

But as for my hair – the hair on the top of my head – well, the most daring thing I’ve ever done with it was to go several weeks after optimal cutting day, which is totally dangerous and I’m a bad-ass for doing it. Mohawks? Leopard-spot dying? Feather extensions? Please. Try letting your hair grow out 1/2 an inch longer than usual.

But really, in the end it doesn’t bother me. If I don’t care, then, I don’t care. I’m not going to force myself to get all excited about hair. It’s a little bit like jewelry – I’m astoundingly unknowledgeable about jewelry. I have a hard time even with a binary view of it; that is, deciding whether an earring or a bracelet or a ring is pretty or not. Sometimes I’ll be thinking “huh, that necklace seems kinda pretty” just as Jessica is talking about how garish it is. Or vice versa.

Anyway, I got my hair cut the other day. It was getting a little on the scruffy side, and so I made an appointment with a woman I’ll call “Sarah” at a place I’ve been going to for over a year now. Her haircuts are $15, take about 30 minutes, and she’s fantastic – she even throws in a rinse and a quick head rub for good measure. She spends the haircut asking me questions about life, work, love, and cooking – especially cooking. She’s from Vietnam and tells me stories of her life there when she was younger, of her family, and of how different her life is now.

“I get married when I was 20,” she told me the other day, “and it was too soon. Too young. Not mature. We make mistakes. But I still love my husband, and he still love me.”

I knew from chatting with her over the past year or so that she has an uncomfortable relationship with her in-laws, because, as she tells me, they are very traditionally Vietnamese – highly demanding and overtly critical of their daughter-in-law. She used to be extremely intimidated, always nervous around them.

“But my husband,” she said, “he stand up for me. He say to them, she my wife, you respect her. I love her and you need to try to love her too.”

She beamed with pride.

It was touching not only because she clearly still loves her husband very much after being married so long, and not only because he has stood up for her in fairly rare fashion, but also because she rags on him so much. She complains about him during the haircuts, says he can’t cook, can’t clean, and can’t do anything around the house. Says he was stupid to open a pho restaurant in Vietnam without knowing the first thing about making it. But she says it all with a smile and a laugh.

Now, she says she gets along fine with her in-laws. They’re old, she sees them only rarely, and she’s a lot older too. She stands up for herself now. She no longer feels the pressure of always needing to impress them.

I find that as I approach the world of married life, it’s even nicer to see living, happy examples of couples who have made it. Couples who dealt with adversity as it came along and worked through it. Couples who have found new things to love about each other as they age together. We hear and read so much about divorce rates being high, about how gay marriage is threatening the very foundation of love and happiness*, that it can be easy to forget that a lot of marriages succeed, too. And when they do succeed, well, it’s a beautiful thing.

*At least, that’s what Republican men keep trying to tell me so it has to be true.

Sarah knows that my wedding is approaching, and there are a few things she tells me several times during every haircut: “You so handsome!” and “stop losing weight!” (even though I haven’t lost any for a long time), and recently, “Don’t forget, you come see me, day before wedding. I make you handsome.”

I tell her that there’s no one else I’d have cut my hair, and that I’ll be there for my very important haircut.

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9 responses to “Hair: The Post

  1. A very beautiful post. Your maman is smiling through her tears. No sarcasm, no wit, just happy little tears.

  2. Well this was unexpected. A little post about a hairline turns into a sentimental mush fest for me in my cubicle. What you said about not being a “hair guy” is Josh to a tee. It was like your post about glasses vs. contact for the wedding a while back. Josh went with glasses and thank goodness. We agreed we just wanted to look like ourselves because, well, that’s who we are. Plus, he hates contacts. So duh.

    Sarah sounds awesome. It reminds me of the things my grandma says about my grandpa. “He doesn’t even know how to make rice!” Then she’ll throw her hands in the air and shake her head. They use a rice cooker and all you do is add rice, water and push a button. Then she’ll say something like, “but he gave me everything I needed when your mom and I came to the US.” Then you see the look on her face – it’s grateful, happy and lovey again. Love grows, but I think a lot of people don’t realize that.

  3. Nicely done, Bret and Sarah.

    BUT!
    DON’T GET THE HAIRCUT THE DAY BEFORE!

    You need at least a 4-day buffer on that business. Freshly cut hair on a guy wearing fancy clothes looks like freshly cut hair, you gotta look a little loose and carefree 🙂

    So says me.

  4. I totally agree with Kerry….go a few days before….just in case and also so you don’t look like you just joined the army 🙂
    very sweet post….glad to not be the one making those cuts anymore!

  5. this is awesome. THIS IS AWESOME.
    i love experiences like this…i love the way you write and your haircut is so fresh-and-so-clean-clean.
    yay for “sarah!”

  6. Oops. I forgot about your brief barrette phase. When you and Katy were about 3-4 years old, Katy got a whole load of barrettes as a present and wore them all over her head (see her photo on Facebook). You looked so sad and envious that I gave a some to you. There was Bret, proudly strutting around with at least 5 pink and lavender clips on his head. You were, once upon a time, a “hair guy” for a day.

  7. See, this is what I like about your writing: it can be so unexpected. And obviously I’m not the only one who started out reading this thinking it was going to be a witty little commentary on hair styles and ended up wiping away tears!

  8. This was not at all what I was expecting. Fabulous story, Bret, but I do agree with Kerry. Haircuts need a few days to settle down.

  9. great post. there is something so awesome about going to the same barber/hairdresser. my husband goes to a guy named Rocco within walking distance from our home. he tells Ryan the same stories everytime he visits him: the time he fell out of a tree, the time he was valedictorian of night school and stories about Ryan’s dad and grandfather (they ALL went to Rocco).

    I have no doubt Sarah will do a great job before the wedding!

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