My barber and I broke up, but it's OK

'Choosing a barber is a long, arduous journey full of trial and error'

I don’t get haircuts often. It may be due to sheer laziness or the fact that I’m broke, but honestly, most of the time I just forget. Two or three months will pass before my hair starts to cover my eyes. It is then that I think, “I should probably cut my hair.”

Choosing a barber is a long, arduous journey full of trial and error. In the past, those errors have usually ended with me looking like an idiot while people look and whisper to their friends, “Is that really a bowl cut?” 

The bowl cut was one of the many bad hair styles I’ve had growing up; also among them were spiky hair, flattops, and buzz cuts. I’ve had them all and embarrassingly, wore them like a badge of honor. I blame my mom for deceiving me by telling me how handsome I looked. She knew what she was doing.

However, 2016 was a year of self improvement. After a dark period in my life, I decided to make better lifestyle choices. This included enrolling back in school, losing 70 pounds, and changing up my wardrobe, but something was still missing. Or rather, something was still there — my hair. 

It was the longest it had ever been. Like in “Mean Girls,” my hair was full of secrets, full of memories of the past I wanted to leave behind. The long, unkempt hair was a constant reminder of my darkest period, and if I was going to start anew, the hair would have to go. 

At that point, it had been years since I got a haircut. After an extensive search, I finally found a place to get one done nearby. 

Now, there are some people who thrive and adapt to new situations. I was not one of those people in 2016. Whenever I went to a fast food place, I would always rehearse what I was going to say in my head, but yet I was still a stuttering mess when it was my turn to approach the counter. Therefore, you can imagine how nervous I was as I stepped through the door of this new barber shop. 

I was greeted by a man who didn’t look much older than I was. He put away his broom and greeted me. 

“Hi," he said. "The name’s Daniel. How can I help you?”

“Just looking to get a cut,” I replied. “It’s been awhile.”

Daniel took one look at my hair and laughed. “I can see that. Go ahead and take a seat.” 

I settled in the barber chair and he draped the apron over me. 

“Did you have any idea of what you wanted?” he asked.

I was stumped. Even after all the research and preparation I did, I never thought about what style to get.

Daniel stepped out in front of me, towering over me as I sat in the chair. He studied my head with game seven-like intensity. 

“I got an idea.” 

He sounded so sure and confident that I simply nodded my head. Daniel grabbed his tools and went to work. 

Getting a new haircut can be a strange experience depending on your relationship with your barber. Daniel asked me questions and tried to make small talk, but I meekly replied, giving short responses. 

However, as I watched my hair fall to the floor and felt the weight of my head getting lighter, I started opening up more. Finally, he was done. Daniel turned my chair around and let me face myself in the mirror. I could hardly recognize myself. I had finally finished my self-improvement plan I set in place for the year.

I paid Daniel the standard price for a haircut, but gave him a $10 tip — I respect good work. 

Daniel held out his hand. 

“Come by again,” he said eagerly.

I took his handshake and went about my day. Now, getting a haircut is like getting a brand new pair of shoes. You just want to walk around and constantly show them off; it invigorates you.

After that that day, I tried to get my hair cut by Daniel at least every other month. I've come to learn more about him since then — he's a veteran, he's currently going to school for sports medicine, and he even recently had a son. We had a strange friendship, given that I only saw him a couple times a year. 

The last time I saw him was in January, and he was telling me about taking his kid to the Phoenix Suns game. Daniel was a huge Arizona sports fan, and wanted to start taking his kids to sporting events because he never had the opportunity to go when he was young. 

Last month, I went in for my haircut and saw the other barbers there. I didn’t know them too well, but they always greeted me warmly whenever I walked in the shop. One of them recognized me and told me that Daniel wasn’t there. 

“Oh. I could come back another day,” I said.

“Nah, man," he said. "Daniel left the shop. He got another job with the sports medicine thing he was doing.”

I didn’t know what to say. What could I even say? It may seem strange, but at that moment I felt like I had just lost a friend, a confidant. 

The barber said he would cut my hair free of charge to make up for the sudden change. I took a seat in his chair, and he went to work. He saw Daniel do the same enough times that I trusted him. While I sat in the chair, I thought about my first time walking into the shop back in 2016. 

I thought about the dark period of my life, and the year I had literally transformed myself for the better. Among my close friends and family, I had to thank Daniel for helping me finish that transformation. After the cut was done, I gave the barber a $10 tip and went on with my day. 

Later that evening, I had dinner with my friends. The restaurant we went to was playing the Suns game on TV. The Suns lost that night, much to the disappointment of my friends, who were all huge fans. 

However, as they were yelling at each other about the game, I quietly thought to myself, “I wonder if Daniel was there with his son?” 

I guess I'll never know. 

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