Last weekend, I drove with my parents and a family friend to Captiva Island for my sister’s wedding. It was both her and her husband’s second one, so it was pretty casual, even by Florida standards. I wore my father’s clothes. His shirt, trousers, tie, shoes, socks, boxer shorts – yes, even the boxer shorts that I wore belonged to him. It was just easier that way. I always traveled light. I had come to Florida from Berlin six weeks before with just a backpack and left my wedding suit at Erica’s parents’ house in England. There was no need to buy another one. Nor was there reason to invest in socks or underwear or anything else that could easily be borrowed. True, not all his clothes fit perfectly; true, no one ever called my dad a fashion maven. But I was willing to put up with that for the sake of convenience.
I got a haircut three days before the wedding. I went to a place my dad suggested. That was my first mistake. Never go to a barber shop your dad suggests, especially when he’s devoid of vanity and 3/8ths bald.
The place was called Sport Clips. That alone should’ve sounded an alarm. As if sports were ever synonymous with good haircuts.
My hairdresser, it turned out, was a plump, squat, Sancho Panzaesque Jewish woman of about 60. She sat me down in the chair, threw the cloth over me and asked me how I wanted it. I explained, but she didn’t seem to absorb. I asked her if she knew who David Lynch was. No, she didn’t. I told her to just trim the top; the sides and back I wanted very short.
“You mean a high fade?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “But blend it in. No lines.”
She gave me a confused look, but started in anyway, putting the top of my hair in barrettes and hacking away at the sides as I told her my life story. She’d never been to Germany, she said, but her parents spoke Yiddish, and there were many German words that had Yiddish roots and vice versa. One such word was פֿאַרקאַקטע, from the German verkacken, which in English means to fuck something up.
About five minutes into the haircut, a customer arrived, and the other hairdresser strode out the back. She was unusually tall, and blond, and very pretty, in a tight black miniskirt and high heels. Why didn’t I get her? I wondered. I watched her in the mirror. I’d always been attracted to tall, statuesque women, but the more I looked at this one, the more something rang false. She seemed way too gussied up for a place like Sport Clips, and her hands were the size of trash can lids. Still, better her, or him, or anyone, than the one presently at work on me. She was having trouble getting one side to align with the other, so to compensate, or out of frustration, she ploughed the clippers up the side and half over the top, turning what was supposed to be a high fade into a top of the head fade, though restricted to just one side.
She knew it.
She tried to fix the blunder with a pair of scissors. Then she tried a few sleight of hand techniques, combing my hair in several different directions over it, but it was no good. The combover was a failure. She’d kicked the ball into her own goal, and knew it, but there was nothing she could do. Nevertheless, when she was finishing up with me she asked me what I thought of the haircut.
“I’ll know,” I said. “When I get home. I have to look at it at home.”
She yanked the sheet off me and we walked together to the cash register.
“That’ll be $14,” she said.
I couldn’t bring myself to stiffing her.
I gave her a $20 and asked for $4 back. She stuck the $20 in the register, gave me a $5 and a $1 back and shut the register.
“But your tip…” I said.
She turned it down with a wave of the hand.
You know you got a bad haircut when your hairdresser turns down the tip.
I stood there feeling the errant spikes on the top of my head.
I thought about the wedding. I thought about how I’d be wearing my dad’s shirt, tie, shoes, trousers, socks, boxers, and now this: פֿאַרקאַקטע.
“Thanks for coming to Sport Clips,” said the tall blond in a friendly baritone.
“Uh huh,” I said. I felt the top of my head.
I pocketed the change and got out of there, never to return.