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Saturday, January 4, 2014


Matthew’s Barber Beauty and Nails cut my hair today. Specifically, James of Matthew’s cut my hair. I walked into the shop. Some lady with mounds of curly black hair underwent a trim by James’ deft hands. He looked up. “Can I help you?”
            By sign language I indicated a cut. He nodded and said something about a few minutes wait. I sat down and picked up a magazine with countless celebs plastered on the front, flipped a few pages, and slapped it back down on the coffee table.
The shop was long and narrow. On one side, two barber chairs lined with a wall of photos and mirrors. A rather large mirror, opposite James and his client, poised at an angle separated two areas—the barber on the left and to the right, two Asian women sat in the service area of a nail shop. It appeared that past the nail stations were one or two foot spas. Not interested in the shop, I looked back at the Barber brushing hair off of the lady’s shoulders. She thanked him then stepped around the giant mirror to a seat in front of a manicurist.
James smiled and motioned me over to his chair. I started talking before I got up in my usual nervous rapid fire manner and pulled the wig off my head. “I’m a cancer patient. My hair grew back some then since October seems to be retreating again. The wig wiggles when the hair is long.” I pointed to the back and sides. “It drives me nuts and the wig clips dig holes in the side of my head. Hairdressers don’t get it that is why I am here in a barber shop. I need a boy cut. You are a barber? Your name is Matthew? You own this place?” I plopped my fanny into the chair removed my glasses, stuffed the wig and the glasses into my open purse.
“Here let me take those for you. Can I set them here?” He pointed at the counter. I nodded. “I’m sorry the hairdressers don’t get it. I have shaved a few cancer patients.”  He flipped a polyester wrap around my neck and body. “I’m James. Matthew retired six years ago. He opened the place in ’78 so I kept the name. Sometimes people call me Matthew, I don’t mind.”
“Well, James. I need the back shaved close. Longer towards the top. Ears cleared but sideburns for the wig clips. The front layered if possible. I wear wigs all the time now…but at home. Well, I like to relax. A little boy’s cut was what I had in mind.”
James ran a comb through my hair. He was in his late forties early fifties I would guess—although, I am terrible at guessing the ages of men over thirty.  Heavy set about five-ten and bald—male-patterned bald—hair on the sides and a smooth race track on top with just a few hairs. He parted my hair in the center then look front toward the mirror.
 I caught a glimpse of his view of me then I saw the large mirror in back. It was angled in such a way that as I look forward I could also see the back of my head and the top—a site I had not seen in decades. Though I had tons of hair on the sides and back, almost all was gone from top of my skull. I sported a similar race track as the barber.
He must have seen my shocked expression because he moved in front of me to block the mirror and started clipping the sides then pulled out the trimmer for the back.  “Your hair is really curly back here. Is that natural?”
“Yes.” Not really. I had some curl to my hair all my life. When the re-growth started after chemo it was straight then one morning a few months later, I got up and it was curly. I thought it looked good enough to go to Ireland without wigs. A decision I regretted after I viewed my photos.
James slipped a handheld mirror into my hand. “Is this okay?”
The cut was smart, exactly as requested. A boy cut with some wispy sides to look feminine. The baldness not so pronounced with the sides and back cut short. My hairs matched.
After giving back the mirror, I grabbed the wig, shook it, and stuck it back on my head.  Artificial hair stuck out in all directions. I used the wig brush to beat the cap into submission.
James chuckled.  “I didn’t think you could get a style out of that.”
I smiled into the mirror back at him.
“That is a lot more hair.”
“There are people in my life who have never seen me without this wig. What do I owe you?”

“Thank you. I will be back.”