“I’d like a man to cut my hair. A straight man,” I said to the salon receptionist. I was surprised by her shocked look at my un-PC request because the Astor Place Barbershop was an old fashioned institution, which did not display rainbow stickers during Pride—or any other time—to signal LGBTQ business was welcome.
What triggered my special request was my long time coming to terms with the fact that women’s haircuts followed an unbending gender rule: Female hair must be styled into our faces, thus “framing” the face. Apparently showing full face is a masculine trait.
Not only did every stylist follow this rule, they all had a covert design plan for my hair—whether it looked good on me or not. At the end of each haircut, they would glow, having captured the exact framing look they wanted to achieve. No matter how many different haircuts I had, by dozens of folks over several decades, none of them ever suited me.
Then one day, I ran into a friend who had a fantastic haircut—short on the bottom, longish on top, but definitely “wisped” out of her face.
“Where did you get your haircut?!” I asked.
“At a barbershop downtown.”
“Some guy. I just waited in line.”
“Really?” I had my hair cut at a barbershop once, but encountered the same “framing” mandate and told my friend so. “Way he gay?” She asked.
“I’m pretty sure he was.”
“Listen, you’ve gotta get a straight man to cut your hair. They’re not invested in your hair design the way gay guys are.”
She had a good point. My hair had been exclusively cut by straight women, gay men and one dyke. Even the dyke gave me a “girly” look.
So I went searching for a straight man to cut my hair, whom I would presumably find at a barbershop. This quest landed me in front of the receptionist at the Astor Place Barbershop.
“What?” she said, aghast.
“I straight man,” I said.
“You should go downstairs…” she stammered. Downstairs turned out to be the barbershop proper. There were no bangs being trimmed just above the eyebrows here. Dozens of barbers were buzzing heads. And the more masculine customers were having the New York Yankees insignia shaved into their scalps.
As I approached the man at this receptionist desk, he immediately said, “I think you should go upstairs.”
“They just sent me down here,” I said. “I want a man to cut my hair. A straight man.” Looking more shocked than the woman upstairs, he glanced around in a panic and then pointed his finger, “Over there—you can see Joe.”
Joe looked surprised when I arrived at his station. Wanting to put him at ease I said, “I’ve been looking for a barber to cut my hair!”
While sizing me up, he motioned for me to sit down in his chair. “I want my hair cut short, but left longer on the top—kind of like a man’s cut—like that,” I said, pointing to a picture.
Joe methodically draped me with the cutting cape then said, “You’re busy.”
Aren’t we all?
“Yeah, I guess I’m busy…” I said, not really knowing to what he was referring.
Joe squinted his eyes at me and said again, “You’re busy. You don’t have time in the morning for all the blow drying and brushing and make-up. You need to wash and go.”
It took me a moment to realize Joe had to justify why he would give me a “boy” haircut. He was talking to me in code. “In other words,” wink, “You’re busy.” Wink, wink.
What ever it takes, I thought and replied, “YES! I’m VERY busy!
That was the green light Joe needed to give me the most excellent haircut ever. I was thrilled and thanked him for understanding how busy I was. I’d be back!
Running into my friend Mike later that day, he complimented me on my hair. I told him my life-long saga leading up to this break through haircut, including deciphering the code word “busy.”
“The guy thought you were a lesbian,” laughed Mike. He’s old school—he must think lesbians want to look like men and he was trying to find out in a round about way.
“I get it…” I said giggling at this absurd, but accurate observation.
Yes, I’m busy. I have some friends who are busy off and on and some who aren’t busy at all. Mike was a single straight guy always on the lookout for dates and after that, every time I introduced him to one of my female friends, he’d always ask me if they were busy. Or not.
<originally published in Curvemag.com >