Barber

Barber: (n) a person who cuts hairDictionary B

They called it a “regular.”

When I was eleven years old, my mother made me repeat the word “regular” back to her, so I would know what kind of haircut to ask for when I went to our barber, Mr. Smythe.

I hated to go.

Mr. Smythe was a nice man–small, soft-spoken and now, as I look back on it, probably gay. In our town, it was illegal to be gay, to think about being gay, or even to mention the word “homosexual.” So Mr. Smythe was more than likely hiding out behind his scissors and clippers.

And I now realize that he was probably just as terrified when I arrived at his barbershop as I was to climb up in his big chair and have him snip at my locks.

We struggled through fifteen minutes of conversation, which deteriorated with each of his questions, which I finalized with a “yes” or “no.”

I was always glad when we got to the end of the experience and he began to brush my hair to dispel all the dislodged members.

But then he would ask the most embarrassing question of all: “Would you like me to put some smell-good on you, for the ladies?”

I was only eleven years old, and the only ladies I knew were still forcing their way into my life to wipe my nose with Kleenex.

I don’t remember what I ever mumbled back, but sometimes he smeared me with aftershave, and on other occasions we would forego the ordeal.

I had my dollar and a quarter all ready for him, and as I left, he pretended we had made an amazing connection, and told me to “stop in any time.”

I didn’t. I only went when my mother decided I needed to display more ears.

I think about him from time to time.

  • What was his story?
  • Where did he end up?
  • Was he ever able to come out of the barber’s closet?

Perhaps he just a real sweet guy who liked women and was kind to little boys like me … who had not yet learned how to correctly answer questions.

 

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