In praise of goth beauticians and the $20 hair

By Andrei Codrescu

You walk into a hair salon that just opened in the ’hood. A few modified pesudo-goth girls sit on barber chairs having a discussion. I say “modified” because all beauticians look like former goths these days. One day around 28 years of age they stared in the mirror and their tattoos scared them. Here comes beauty school! After beauty school they put on long-sleeved blouses and got pregnant. Most ex-goth beauticians have a baby and maybe a goth husband who works on motorcycles. The oldest goths around are now getting to be the age the hippies were before they became yuppies, but the hippies had it easier because they hadn’t carved their beliefs into their bodies.

“Can I get a haircut?”

The keeper at the appointment desk, perched on a high chair framed by hair products and skin creams, opens the appointments book and scans it as if my haircut was a matter of grave doubt, maybe possible a month from now. One of the busy beauticians swats a fly. No one is getting a haircut, though from a far-off room come the suspiciously sexual sighs of someone getting shampooed.

“JoJo,” the A.D. lady calls out, “are you busy right now?”

JoJo lifts her black-rimmed eyes from inches away and sighs. “I can take him,” she offers.

In the chair, she spends dreamy time running very light fingers through my sparse, almost nonexistent hair. She’s thinking. We discuss the future shape of my head, a very simple matter to me but not to JoJo, who cuts men only rarely. She must first have a vision. She smells good with her eyes closed and her hand in my hair. But I’m kinda busy.

“How about a buzz cut with a number two?” I offer.

She agrees, but not before she questions the number.

“Number two?”

I reiterate, and we are off. And then I hear her through the buzz: “What is it you do?”

What? Eat people? Test drive cars for G.M.? Smoke opium for a poet with weak lungs? Get paid for sleeping? Poster boy for a new disease? Plumber? Body double for Mel Gibson? There is nothing like an innocent question from a beautician to get one going on the path to exoticism. I never tell anyone that I’m a writer because I’ve had that conversation 10,000 times. What do you write? Books. Are you published? And so on. Tedium. But this is an opportunity to reinvent myself.

“I teach the Middle Ages,” I say, “when goths roamed the earth.”

The number two clippers start buzzing for a second at the top of my skull. The dragon that begins somewhere on her back and snakes down her sleeves ending in short black dots in my hair pulses suddenly with black light. It’s a goth dragon from the Middle Ages when she was young.

She does a masterful job and I get a great shampoo after, as she presses down on my skull with her great sad goth body hoping to absorb all the Middle Ages knowledge in my head.

We are one in a great magical kingdom and it’s only 20 bucks.