Throughout this pandemic, there’s one person I’ve missed the most. Sorry, family. Sorry, friends. Sorry, potential lovers. It’s not you. It’s my barber.
But to say I have just one barber would be a lie. I have my favorites, but when I’m desperate for a shave, I can go for anyone. I just walk into the nearest Bruno’s and plop myself down in the next available chair.
Yes, I’m a girl who gets her hair done by barbers. I’ve been maintaining an undershave for five years now—the hair at the sides and at the back of my head are completely shaved while my hair on top stays long. It’s the best thing I’ve done for my crazy thick hair. Having half of it gone has made it a lot easier to manage. This meant trips to the barber every few weeks to get my head shaved down to a 1, leaving only an eighth of an inch of hair on my scalp.
I enjoy my trips to the barbershop even though sometimes it feels like the barbers don’t know what to do with me. They seem unsure if they should massage me like they do their male customers; they are hesitant about putting the hot towel on my face. But I want it all.
I like going to the barber a lot more than going to salons. For one, barbers aren’t constantly shilling other services or products. I find the persistent upselling at salons stressful. (No, I don’t want that expensive shampoo. No, I don’t want a Brazilian blowout. No, I’m not buying that hair treatment.) I like that barbers usually don’t expect me to chitchat and that my appointments go fast—I’m in and out in half an hour.
But COVID-19 meant the end of my regular trips to the barber. Weeks into the pandemic, when I started to look like Sonic the Hedgehog, I realized that I was going to need to learn how to shave my own head, never mind that I don’t trust myself enough to go near my eyebrows with tweezers. I bought a cheap hair clipper from Shopee and, after watching a couple of YouTube videos, got to work.
“You can do this,” I told myself, pretending I was Demi Moore in “G.I. Jane.” It soon became clear that the clipper I bought was terrible. It got hot in my hand, the guard comb kept sliding and the blades kept pulling on my hair. I powered through and shaved the back of my head blindly and the result was far from perfect, but I got it done. I vowed never to use that clipper again.
My second clipper arrived in June, just in time for what I thought would be my last DIY shave. (My naive optimism makes me shake my head now.) It was a Xiaomi Enchen, I ordered it from Lazada and it was way better. It was light, wireless, quiet, had ceramic blades, and offered a smooth shaving experience. Any kinks cannot be blamed on the clipper, only on me. I forgot that I had removed the comb guard and ended up giving myself a bald spot. I ended up having to shave my hair down to a 0 and calling my mother so she could help me shave the back.I’ve shaved my head multiple times since then and each time, I kept accidentally shaving off chunks of my long hair. The shaved part of my head has gotten higher and higher. A friend said that if I keep shaving my own head, I will inevitably end up with a mohawk.
And so this week, I finally decided to go back to my barber. I had to—while I still had hair left.
Because I’m still nervous about going outside, I found courage by going on Facebook and watching a video about Bruno’s new safety protocols. I made an appointment over the phone and the receptionist greeted me warmly, exclaiming that they hadn’t seen me in forever.
A few hours later, I walked into Bruno’s wearing a face mask and a face shield. I filled out a detailed contact tracing form and then I was led to a chair.
I showed Randy, my favorite barber, what I had done to my head and I was grateful that his face mask and face shield muffled his reaction.
I took off my shield for the shave and just kept the mask on while Randy wore a mask, a shield and gloves the entire time. Instead of the usual cape, plastic was wrapped around me—to be discarded after my appointment, I assumed.
Randy expertly shaved my head while I focused on my laptop screen, enjoying our comfortable silence. By the time I looked up, he was done. For the first time in months, my head was shaved the way it’s supposed to be. I marveled at the clean lines. Then I enjoyed every minute of my back massage.
When I walked out of the barbershop, I felt so refreshed.
One of the first realizations I had during lockdown was how much we rely on other people, no matter how independent we like to think we are. There are so many things we ask others to do for us, things we took for granted that they’ll always be able to do for us, like cutting our hair.
Those hours I spent struggling with my cheap hair clippers, those clumps of hair lost, the bald spots I’ve given myself, taught me to appreciate the barbers of the world even more. I wanted to tell Randy all this, but I didn’t want to make things weird so I just gave him a hefty tip.
I was finally reunited with my barber, and it felt so good.