The Unpleasant Visit to the Barber

I hate going to the barber to have a haircut. It is a complete waste of time and I am dismayed at the cumulative number of hours I have wasted of my life visiting the barber.

Of course, these days, nobody refers to a “barber shop”. It is a hairdresser, or saloon, a parlor, or a beautician. A saloon is a bar in the whole world, except in South Asia, where it is a barber shop. Whatever fancy names they come up with, for what they do with our hair, they are barbers.

Growing up in a middle-class family in urban Mumbai, I have become used to visiting these middle-income barber shops and don’t visit the fancier saloons or parlors. Also, I have found that the fancier the place, the more impersonally they treat you.

A visit to the barber, just like with a doctor, or dentist, starts with waiting. In this waiting period of time, I have a choice of glancing at sexy photo shopped Bollywood heroines in Filmfare or Stardust, today’s newspaper in English and the local language, or simply be busy on my mobile. All these shops must have these Bollywood glamour magazines, else they apparently don’t get any business.

Meanwhile I occasionally glance at the customers being served and wonder when they’re going to finish. Then I am amazed at how long men like looking at themselves in the mirror. Historically, this has been assumed to be a feminine trait, but visit any typical men’s barber shop in India and you will discover the truth.

They just don’t finish. There is a little strand here that should be trimmed or an angle there that is just not quite right. And there’s a bit of trimming required here and one hair that needs to be cut there. Then the barber holds up a mirror behind them so they can see their rear and then other requirements come up. This is when I seriously think that the customers have studied a Bollywood hero in those glamour magazines while they were waiting.

Barbers apparently don’t earn much so they have evolved to be masseuses. After the haircut, a head and shoulder massage seems as essential as dessert after a meal.

My approach when I finally get into the chair is “just do it, and get it done quickly”.

I do not like being tied with a noose around the neck with an overflowing towel. I do not like how the barber casually leans against me and I am left wondering if my elbow is inadvertently touching his groin instead of the stomach. I have to keep my mouth closed and be careful of my eyes to avoid the hair. I ponder over the existential question of how I am to instruct him verbally when I can’t open my eyes or mouth. I have to periodically request the barber to brush my face. On top of all this, I have to endure some pathetic music or movie on the TV that the barber uses to entertain himself.

By the time the exercise ends, the experience is not too different from a visit to the dentist. No wonder these guys once also performed surgery and dentistry.

Hair once served a useful function during the evolution process from apes to us. Why do we still have eyebrows and eyelashes and moustaches and beards but are not entirely covered in hair like apes or other animals? Because each has served an evolutionary function.

Those apes or cavemen wandered through the jungle in rain and inclement weather. Those whose eyes were protected by eyebrows and eyelashes survived. Others who did not have moustaches probably had some poison dripping into their mouth. Ones with beards had fewer scratches left on their face after fighting with wild animals, and whom the females then chose to mate with.

But what function does scalp hair play today other than providing a profession to barbers and hairdressers? It is just a useless evolutionary vestige, like the appendix. Which is why when I think of the barber, the barbarian comes to mind.

Also, when an advanced alien species is featured in mainstream culture, they are always bald.

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  • That was an entertaining read. Thanks.

    • Thank you for reading and glad you were entertained! 🙂