By the time I reached Durango, I was starting to look like Shaggy on Scooby Doo. (Without the scraggly beard.) In Eugene, one hairdresser has kept my impertinent cowlicks tamed for more than 20 years, and this trip is a good opportunity for me to branch out and let go of my fear of bad cuts. Before we left home, I decided I would get my hair cut only at old-time barber shops with barber poles.
Barber shops are the last holdouts of gender exclusion. There are no signs that say “Men Only,” but women know better than to cross that threshold into the dimly lit, aftershave-infused interior.
When I was a kid, I envied the Saturday morning excursions my older brother and Dad would take to our small town’s only barber shop. I had short hair, too. An androgynous style made more acceptable by its name (“pixie cut”) and perfected by my mother at our kitchen table. I wanted to get my hair trimmed at the barber shop, too, where the hypnotically spinning pole looked like a constantly regenerating candy cane. There were comic books, my brother told me, and a radio that played old fashioned music. But that was one of my earliest lessons in male privilege. Barbers were only for boys.
So 50 years later, why not break through those glass doors? Old-fashioned barber shops across the country… here I come.
Durango was a perfect place to start. The tiny shop on the main downtown strip had probably been there for 100 years. It had the required spinning candy cane pole and a barber with a white shop coat and tidy gray hair. I’m sure I’m not the first middle-aged woman to enter their shop, but he looked rather disbelieving when I asked for a cut. He was with someone, so he directed me to the other chair, and after a few minutes, Izzy appeared from behind a curtain and fastened a black cape around my neck.
When Izzy asked me what I wanted, I wasn’t sure what to say other than, “Just shorter by an inch or so.” (Now I know better and will insist on bangs that don’t look like a shrunken shirt on a pregnant belly.) Izzy clicked his razor to a steady buzz and started on the back of my head. He was done so quickly, I had no time to assess or direct. But I’d put my self-esteem in his hands, and I just had to trust that he wouldn’t impose his own shaved-sides hairstyle on me.
In the end, I had something similar to the pixie cut I wore throughout my childhood, which doesn’t look quite so impish on a 60-year-old. I’m not crazy about the tiny bangs and am jolted when I glance in a mirror. But it’s out of my eyes and is cool in the early summer heat, and it looks fine enough, I guess. This year, my haircuts will be an exercise in quashing vanity, and so far, it’s working well.