Rendered Fat Content


“You have much gold upon your head,”
They answer’d all together:
“Buy from us with a golden curl.”
She clipp’d a precious golden lock,
She dropp’d a tear more rare than pearl,
Then suck’d their fruit globes fair or red:

Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti
Illustration by
Arthur Rackham for 1933 edition
"Now they want to sell me product."

I feel fortunate to have been raised in the fifties. Yes, I remain painfully aware of how down right backward we were then, but we still had barber shops. Now, we might be waking up, but we seem surrounded by salons and stylists rather than barbers. For many, this evolutionary shift seems welcome. I, myself, have preferred the more artistic hand of a competent stylist over the clipper-wielding barbaric barber, but things have gotten out of hand. Finding a competent stylist remains a daunting challenge and once found, definite loyalties take over. As with many trades, the best have full schedules and only reluctantly accept new clients, though wannabes appear in legions. One cannot tell upon first encounter whether he's lucked into a skilled one or a pretender, though certain tells suggest. SettlingInto demands that I find a competent stylist, but nobody can push the sort of happy accident this entails. It's at best a random walk at first.

I should explain that I do not like getting haircuts.
I distrust anyone fiddling with my hair and find uncomfortable being touched by strangers. I seek long term relationship with those who competently cut my hair. I think of them as family. The barber chair has long been known as a sort of psychiatrist's couch, and conversations conducted while sitting there often turn therapeutic, though modern salons often feature music which effectively prevents such deep exchanges. Barbershops of old tended to be located off lobbies of hotels or in small shops just off a main street, and featured hunting magazines and sports talk, and smelled like talcum powder. A man would reliably receive a back-of-the-neck shave along with his haircut and would leave filled with the latest gossip. Today, the stylists push "product."

When The Muse and I began what would become our long exile, I left a competent stylist behind. I found myself visiting a shop near The Pentagon more accustomed to producing white sidewalls using clippers, no scissors involved. I'd long grown accustomed to more skillful stylists and found these services wanting. The only saving grace was that I knew nobody there and nobody knew me, so they couldn't see how silly I seemed with so damned much scalp shining through. I took to wearing hats. I later stumbled upon an old world Italian barber who for the duration of that part of our exile, kept my haircuts honest. Moving to Colorado, I found an adequate replacement until she got pregnant and moved away to be closer to family. The woman in the adjacent chair adopted my case, but she was a speedster with right-wing views, able to complete her work in less than ten minutes, so there went the therapy.

I knew the moment I entered this latest candidate salon that I'd made a mistake. I steeled my nerves and waited. I received perhaps the worst haircut so far on record in my experience. Clippers, for cripes sake. Still? Ears repeatedly jabbed with the comb. Certain liberties needing a slightly begrudging correction after I'd pointed them out. The stylist said that she'd entered "the industry" because she'd always loved fiddling with hair. Too bad that love doesn't always translate into competence. I left humiliated, guilty because my friend Thomas had referred me to his daughter-in-law, but I'd already made this appointment. I suppose that I really should have started with family.

When I entered business school, I knew I would have to cut my hair. It had been seven years. I happened upon an intern working in a top salon. She did her Delilah with calm competence, soothing this reluctant Samson in the process. She cut my hair for the next twenty-some years. I'm hoping for such a connection here. It probably matters to me more than it should. Every life requires a retinue of trusty suppliers, utterly dependable, capable of attending to those needs no-one can competently satisfy themselves. A baker. A butcher. A produce purveyor. A barber. Absent this constellation, no place feels like home, SettlingInto rendered impossible. I'll apologize to Thomas and his daughter-in-law if I ever meet her. Her salon specializes in color, so visiting her feels like seeking a haircut at Macy's Clinique counter. Hardly male domain. I remain somewhat stuck in my past, fondly remembering the horse sculpture one barber featured in his shop. When I was very small, I'd sit up there in the saddle while he cut my hair. He even gave me candy when we were finished. Now they want to sell me "product."

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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