#2. The Whole Head 

#2. The Whole Head

I went this morning for a haircut. I find something cathartic about cutting my hair. And how often and how short it gets cut is generally inversely proportional to my overall sense of peace with the world. So the fact that I’d gone almost six months without some drastic shave was impressive in its own right. But, sure enough, eventually I got so angry and frustrated and enough with the world, the way we treat one another, the endless petty and gross cruelties and inhumanities and not knowing what to do about it all, I decided to shave my head.

It’s a quick, rough job that doesn’t require much skill. With an electric razor and a guard, I’ve done the job myself. I went to Lido Hair Salon, a no-frills barber on 2nd Street and Chinamano Ave. I walked in as someone was leaving, so there was no wait. I’ve done this for years now, and I’ve got the language down. “I’d like a barber,” I said to the woman behind the counter, her hair gently folded into waves, her white sunday blouse starched.

She looked at one of the two men standing in the corner talking. “Tawa,” she said to him in Shona, “This woman wants a barber.”

His lazy eyes dragged over to me, back to the woman, and then back to his friend. He shifted his weight, turned his back slightly, and carried on talking. She waited a moment before asking him again in Shona. “Tawa. This woman is a customer. Why are you refusing?”

He slumped his shoulders and walked towards me. Without a smile or a word of greeting he motioned to me to sit a chair facing the mirror. A low warped chair with curving metal arms and plastic upholstery. He draped a grubby brown plastic sheet over my lap and tied it around my neck. He stood beside me, looking at me in the mirror.

“Number two please. The whole head.” [Universal barber speak for a close, but not quite bald, shave.]

As he plugged the razor in and got to work, three men came in. They greeted one another, nodding and clasping hands. One sat on the green plastic sofa pushed against the wall. He turned towards the television, a Sunday morning children’s programme. A den full of primary school children quizzing one another on bible figures. Tiny voices squeaked in poshly accented English: “I say a letter. And you tell me which bible person I’m thinking of.”

The other two men stayed standing, lurking about the barber and the counter where the woman sat. The one came and stood over me, hand on the mirror, leaning his weight against the wall. He spoke to the barber in Shona, asked about me in the third person, assuming from my white skin that I wouldn’t understand.

“What is she doing?”
My barber shrugged.
“Why is she doing this?”

He called to his friends, fishing for an explanation. Clearly a woman couldn’t just walk in and decide on a short haircut like him and his male friends. There had to be Something Wrong. So they started making guesses.

--Lost her child
--Lost her parents
--Jilted lover

I kept my eyes down and my face blank, not showing that I understood. The predatory air about them was not something I wanted to engage with.

Eventually they lost interest and moved out, flirting with the woman behind the counter, who flirted back. She and the two men wandered in and out of the room. The one man was teased. “What are you doing running around with women the way you do,” his friends asked him. “It’s a sure way to kill yourself.”

The woman flopped between the two men like a rag doll, draping herself on whichever man pulled her harder.

The barber stopped and unplugged his razor. He’d roughly shorn my head, leaving an uneven punk fringe at least an inch long across the top. I ran my fingers through my hair and looked at him through the mirror in horror.

“Too short?” He asked me in English.
“Too long.” I said firmly. “I said Number 2 the whole head.”

Sighing he turned back, bent heavily, and plugged the clippers back in. He fished the guard back out of the bin, and set to work again.

“She’s taking more off!” One of the men asked in amazement. The barber shrugged. I looked at the floor.

The men had tired of the woman, or she’d gotten bored of them, and she’d gone outside, maybe to the room next door to speak with the women hairdressers.

The topic shifted back to me. I kept my eyes turned down, seething at the proprietary way so many men see women.

“Would you do her?”
“Never. She’s crazy.”
“How much would you pay me to do her?”
“Id do her for free. One’s like her are like the devil in bed.”
“You couldn’t pay me enough. I’d never fuck a white woman.”
“It’s just this one I wouldn’t fuck. Look at her. She’s disgusting.”

I kept my eyes on a small pale cream patch of chipped paint on the pink wall, next to the electrical socket. The barber couldn’t finish fast enough. The TV programme had moved on to gospel music. The woman was back behind her counter. The barber finished shaving and brushed my neck off. I stood and walked to the counter to pay. $70,000. Hardly more than a loaf of bread.

I leaned across the counter and put my face close to the woman’s. “Please do me a favour,” I said to her in Shona. “Please tell your friends that they were extremely rude and that they disgust me. Please also tell them that they shouldn’t be so full of themselves. A lot of white people do speak Shona these days. They should watch their mouths.”

As I was speaking, the men fell quiet and I knew they’d heard, and understood. I didn’t turn to look at them. I put my money on the counter and walked out, feeling the heat of their stares and embarrassment on my bare head. I swallowed the bitter sweet satisfaction of having stood up for myself. But it did little to temper the sharp metallic taste of anger with this world, these men, these insults and inequalities.

Return to Main Page


Comment when you say it like that it makes a lot of sense

Wed Apr 5, 2006 2:18 pm MST by bob stevens

Comment when you say it like that it makes a lot of sense

Wed Apr 5, 2006 1:53 pm MST by bob stevens

Comment I know I'm off topic but today is the best day as she has said

Mon Apr 3, 2006 3:45 pm MST by tim smith

Comment Wow. Glad you stood up to them in a way that left them speechless. It's possible the barber was shocked you were cutting your hair not just because you were a woman, but because you were a white woman. The image of white women we get here is with long flowy hair.

Sat Mar 18, 2006 8:50 am MST by Everchange

Add Comment

Search This Site

Syndicate this blog site

Powered by BlogEasy

Free Blog Hosting