I've had the same barber for about the same amount of time that Bush has been president, and like many Republicans, I am loyal despite numerous embarrassing moments and outright failures. I can't pinpoint why I've been so loyal. There's something about the person who's in charge of your hair that engenders a sense of trust, loyalty and guilt at the notion of going to someone else.
I followed him when he left one shop to start his own. I've waited hours for his chair while other barbers were available. Once when my barber was out of town I did let another barber cut my hair, but I knew it couldn't last. I felt dirty. My guy has done a decent job, but not incredible. Mostly, he's just there. Like most cab drivers, he's always on his cell phone while operating his delicate machinery, leading me to question whether or not he even hears what I want done. I could say, "I want pink bunny rabbits carved into my temples" and he'd be like, "Uh huh" and leave me with a fade. Years ago, I asked him to trim my afro and even it up, and he took the damn thing off. I was so furious when I left, he later told me he was afraid I would come back and shoot him. Had I done so, I wouldn't be in the situation I'm in right now.
I've been growing my hair out for the past year at least with just moderate trimming every few months. Yesterday, I realized i desperately needed to get my hair cut. It had grown beyond the cool-fro stage and was insisting on joining the Rastafarian Movement. I destroyed several picks in an attempt to tame it, but it chewed threw them like a bunker buster through an Iraqi pre-school. I told the barber, "I WANT TO KEEP THE AFRO, just take it down a bit, and make it even." I had worried that half off might even be too much.
Thirty minutes later, I barely had any hair. He took off five-sixths of my fro! I left dissatisfied but committed to maintaining my cool. "This could be good," I told myself. "The scalp needs fresh air every few years." Just when I had convinced myself that it was going to be ok, it happened. I went to my office job, and the corporate people started complimenting me.
"Hey Baratunde, that's a nice clean haircut."
"Wow, it's like we got the old Baratunde back."
"What's up, Tobey?"
What a horrible setback! Getting stylistic approval from cubicle dwellers is unquestionably a sign of fashion failure. If Dick Cheney says you have a good heart, you are among the living dead.
Then there are the people who realize that something tragic has happened and remind me of the incident, "Woah, man, what happened?" I don't want to talk about it. It gets me angry all over again, and I wonder why I went back to the barber in the first place.
This must be what it's like to be a Republican. To remain unquestionably loyal in the face of miserable failure. Like the president, my barber pretended to listen, but went ahead and did whatever he had planned to do in the first place. It didn't matter that I told him to "KEEP THE AFRO." It didn't matter that we had been through this before. The difference between me and Republicans, however, is that I'm not going back for more. I'm looking for a new barber and, in the meantime, I'll be wearing a hat.