It has been many, many years since I have been to a barber shop. The last time was probably at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto where in addition to hair cutting I believe they provide traditional facial shaving services accompanied by the brush, mug and lather. Barber shops are now largely a thing of the past. Today’s fashion is a hair salon which normally caters to both men and women; and the stylists (no longer called barbers) are both men and women as well. Although it is quite probably statistically unfair to say so, a male stylist has a reputation which is in line with that of a male ballet dancer.  Even if there is evidence that the male stylist is heterosexual, he nonetheless frequently cultivates theatrical qualities of appearance, speech or personality and there is usually nothing fanciful about imagining he may have “tendencies”.

There were two things I knew I would have to arrange when we decided to spend three months on Hilton Head Island.  One was a car dealership; the other was a hair salon.  We took care of the car dealership on our way across the Island on the day we arrived.  As for the hair salon I got a referral from our estate agent.  Subsequently I scoped the location of the salon and peeked in to confirm they did men as well as women and to get a business card.  Days afterwards on a Monday I visited the salon and made an appointment with Emerson, who would not be there until Tuesday.  The receptionist told me he did men and that he was good.

Today I met Emerson.  He sat at the reception desk when I arrived at 2:20 p.m. I asked if he were Emerson, which he confirmed; and I introduced myself as his two-thirty appointment.  Immediately he ushered me to his station and, after a discussion of “what we were doing today” he got down to business.  For some weeks I had been contemplating a new look which was actually one I had imagined years ago but had never been able to pull off with my stylist. Emerson thought the idea was a good one (not that I considered his approbation entirely believable in view of the obvious commercial context).

Emerson, who is 45 years of age, may once have been thin and blonde but he has since gathered some beef and his hairdo echoes what one might expect to see in a subterranean bar.  He is not effeminate though his gentle personality doesn’t instil an aspect approaching that of a labourer.  When I asked him if he were a local or an import he informed me he came from South Carolina (he didn’t say where) but had moved to Hilton Head Island some time ago and loved it.  We concurred that Hilton Head Island was a hard act to follow. He had once lived in Denver, Colorado but had returned to look after his grandmother who has since passed and he added in the same breath that he now lives simply but comfortably.  I may have made an incorrect inference but I doubt it.  Later he told me he has a young nephew of 22 years of age who is living with him “until he gets his feet on the ground”.  I have no doubt the alliance is economically driven.

Emerson is currently doing what he can with the help of his physician to quit smoking, something about a drug.  We agreed smoking is bad, that it costs a lot, that its benefits are predictable, that it is not pretty and it makes you smell bad. I told him I had quit smoking at fifty years of age when I couldn’t breath properly on a flight from the Caribbean. As a corollary to his efforts he added that he quit drinking two years ago.  Upon hearing this we instantly shared some stories about martinis which betrayed our mutual enthusiasm for the stuff.  It didn’t bother me that we had so much in common.  The only thing that mildly perturbed me was that the haircut I wanted (long on the top and short on the sides) oddly resembled Emerson’s haircut.  No wonder he thought there was nothing objectionable about my proposal nor that it was incompatible with someone my age!  After it was all over I made an appointment to re-attend on December 30th.