Thursday, May 31, 2007

Chick thing

I can pretty well judge my mood – along a bipolar disorder scale of deeply depressed on one end and manic-and-will-soon-be-conquerer-of-the-world-or-at-least-president-by-acclamation on the other end – by how much I look forward to going to the barber.

It’s not that when I’m depressed I don’t want to get my hair cut or when I am manic that I’m likely to come back with my head shaved…though in October 1994 I did exactly that, for I felt I was about to go out and get drunk after being sober for a month and I didn’t want to blow my clean living. It wasn’t totally shaved, but within an eighth of an inch. That’s the only time I’ve had my hair like that; made my morning oblations a cinch. It cost $8, and I figured it was a dramatic result for very little money.

So it’s not about the hair.

It’s how much I anticipate enjoying or dreading forced conversation for 15 minutes – 16 minutes if you count payment and tip. It’s sitting in a chair next to someone I barely know – because I go to a place where I pretty much get a different person each time from among four barbers, so there’s little relationship building – and trying to make conversation. Writing in this blog, I can often go on a riff and have a ball, going this way and that way and taking it on a tangent and heading down the rosy path. But I can always come back and edit, and I do. I can always pause on a word for a minute or so. To do that in conversation is to do violence to Firmly-Held Barbershop Social Folkways.

I recall early in knowing the Lovely K, overhearing her calling a girlfriend and starting the conversation, “Hey, [Insert Name], what’s going on?”

Afterwards, I asked her, “Why do you start your conversations like that?”

“Cuz you just never know.” Stupid question, simple answer.

A week later, I decide to test whether this is peculiar to K or whether it’s a broader chick thing. I ask her close friend Tonya the same question.

She says, “Because you just never know.”

Must be a chick thing. Conversations take on a life of their own.

My father never really liked the phone that much, neither did my grandfather. I knew when my dad was finished talking when he’d say, “You’re good to call.” That was a kind way of saying, Done talking, friend.

My mom must have talked on the phone quite a bit because – tethered to the wall in pre-cordless days – she had a marble-top and gilt leg telephone table in the hall with a eight-inch diameter Chinese ceramic bowl that she used as an ashtray. It never got filled, but just the concept of a receptacle that could hold about eleven packs worth of Virginia Slim butts must have put her mind at ease for those…longer conversations with the friend one building over whom she hadn’t seen since going to the 96th Street playground in Central Park that morning.

“You just never know.”



photo: andrewmill

2 comments:

endangered coffee said...

I go to the barbershop and get the number 3, all over (plus the occasional buzz brow. Five minutes tops, little conversation anxiety.

Two barbershop comments in a row for me on surfcountry, must be a trend.

Lillie Ammann said...

Howard,
I've given you The Thinking Blogger Award. You can read what I said about you at http://lillieammann.com/blog/?p=192