I recently moved to a new neighborhood and after a bit of searching found a new barber shop in my new neighborhood. The place is small and dirty, but not filthy. It has a wide array of reading material (most features attractive women wearing little or nothing), a hot lather machine and a big screen TV. A man space.
So here is the problem: My new barber feels the need to engage in small talk, but he is not very good at it. The first time I went in, I managed to get a nice cut with very little conversation. The barber is Russian or Serbian or some sort of Eastern European and his English isn’t the best so we just stuck to basic communication about the haircut itself. It was very pleasant: a few exchanges about how short on the sides (there isn’t much on top) and I say back, relaxed and watched golf on the flat-screen.
Today I went in for a trim, thinking I would flip through a Maxim until it was my turn in the chair and then watch some football highlights or something. There was no-one in the shop, so I didn’t have to wait and we got past the basic plan communication quickly. Then the trouble began. I looked up to the TV and there was a Christina Aguilara video on. The sound was low and she’s an attractive woman who wasn’t wearing much, so I figured it would be fine. Then the barber said something. I didn’t really catch it and kind of ignored it. But it didn’t stop: all of a sudden I realized I was being engaged in a conversation about the relative merits of Ms. Aguilara’s ass vis-a-vis her dancer’s asses. Not in a normal matter of fact “that’s a nice ass” sort of way. In a “I’ve-been-led-to-believe-my-job-involves-friendly-banter-and-I’m-not-very-skilled-when-it-comes-to-friendly-banter” sort of way. I don’t know if it is normal in the Serbian (or Russian) community to have sexually suggestive conversations while in physical contact with another man, but that is how you make people less comfortable, not more. I changed the topic to the weather and finally the conversation tapered off. Until a Madonna video came on. I just don’t want to hear the man who is holding a straight razor to my neck explain how much he would enjoy intercourse with Madonna despite her age.
What do I do? I don’t want to find a new barbershop: the place is convenient, reasonably priced and the guy does good work. I also do not want to have creepy conversations with the man cutting my hair.
Is there a solution?
Dear Mysterious Writer Who Chose Not to Sign His Letter With A Clever Moniker,
Let me start by saying that I do feel for you. There is no more horrible feeling than having settled into the perfect hair cutting routine only to find that something about that situation is seemingly untenable. Unless you have a recommendation from someone finding a barber from scratch can be very stressful. You’re gambling with your appearance and have no idea how it might turn out. If you find an acceptable establishment where you’re comfortable sitting in a chair while someone with sharp objects makes endless small talk while seeming to pay little, if any, attention to your hair you need to stick it out despite whatever their idiosyncrasies might be. So that said, not going back isn’t an option. If you find everything else about the hair cutting experience acceptable then you have to stick with it.
Now you could just time your visits so you’re there when other customers are around. That would probably minimize the creepy conversations and you could go about your day. I ask you though, is that really what we’re about in this day and age? Is avoiding creepy conversations with a barber really going to get you anywhere in life? The answer is no. We live in the internet age. Now is not the time to be avoiding creepy conversations. Eccentric characters are at a premium. We need to embrace them. You’re going to have to put up with the creepy conversations but it’s easier than ever to exploit and monetize those you find creepy. Everyone loves hearing about someone else’s encounter with an individual who is off beat as long as they don’t have to interact with them. That opens up a huge market for those willing to take one for the team and converse with the creepy.
Here’s what you need to do my friend: Take that creepiness and make it into a part of your hair cutting routine. Make a mental note of everything that he says. Every off color joke, ever lascivious comment, every crass gesture. Encourage his creepiness. Feed his stories. When he talks about how he talks about great Christina’s ass is respond with, ‘Yeah she’s got a great ass, but you know who else has a great ass? Shakira’. The next time he starts telling you about wanting to have intercourse with Madonna ask him if he’d rather have intercourse with Madonna or Debbie Harry. As long as he doesn’t get too excited and start giving you a shoulder rub or swinging around that scissor you’ll be fine.
Once you’ve collected enough material from your perverted barber you’re ready to start cashing in on you hours of sitting in the barber’s chair listening to dirty jokes. Follow the ‘Shit My Dad Says’ model. Start a twitter account, or a blog, or a Facebook Fan page. Parlay his creepiness into a large online following. From there it turns into books, movies, TV shows, etc. The world will be your oyster thanks to your perverted Russian and/or Serbian barber who seems to lack a conversational filter or awareness of personal boundaries.
If you’re willing to embrace the creepiness rather than avoid it I think it will pay off for you in the long run. Even if you’re not able to cash in, you’ll have endless hilarious stories for cocktail parties and family gatherings. Thanksgiving is coming up fast. Would you rather tell your Grandma another boring story about how things are at the office or would you like to spice things up by telling her how your barber thinks Katy Perry breasts are superior to Scarlett Johansson breasts? It seems like no choice at all.
Hope that helps.