Behind every man

I WANTED to write about something profound today, but I'm afraid I have nothing else to say except this: I had my haircut today. "It's still too short," friends told me when I mentioned my plans for the afternoon. I couldn't disagree with them more. My hair, already about 2 cm in length, felt unbearable.


I don't randomly barge into any barbershop in Manila; I go to an unassuming place along Maria Orosa Street, in front of the Court of Appeals. I don't even know its name, but I can point you to where it is. I am a Filipino, after all; I give directions by pouting my lips.

Getting a haircut is an almost-monthly ritual. As soon as my hair grows long enough to be noticed I had just been to bed, I'd walk to the small barbershop that's painted red and white. It smells clean, like a hospital on a good day, and it feels like home on a lazy weekday afternoon, the television showing Koreans mumbling Tagalog phrases in pitchy voices.

I've always asked for Vio. I'm his suki. I'm loyal to him, and he to me—a social contract established after months after months of me visiting the shop and telling him, "Semi-kal, dos." I told the lady behind the counter to find him. If he wasn't around I would come back, maybe tomorrow. Thankfully he was just napping behind the door near the TV. "Long time, no see," he told me, his eyes bloodshot, his white polo crumpled. He looked like a student cramming for a life-and-death exam.

I don't just let any man touch my head. Finding the right barber takes time and a lot of thinking, the way an excited, nervous primigravid decides who her obstetrician is going to be. It's a major, life-altering decision. My haircut, after all, is important to my well-being. And a good barber translates to a good haircut, every single time.

I like Vio. He knows the contour of my head. He works fast. He's efficient. When he uses a razor to trim the borders of my head, especially in the infraauricular area where it gets especially painful, he can be impersonal. He doesn't like talking too much. I like that about him, too.

People always make a big deal out of teachers and call them heroes—and they are. No question about that. But I've never heard anyone call his barber that—a hero—and it's sad when I think about it. Barbers are as under-appreciated as dentists. What many people don't realize is that behind every clean-looking guy in the world is a skillful barber who knows how to do his thing.

2 thoughts on “Behind every man”

  1. You might want to rewrite "I don't let any man touch my head." to "I don't let just any man touch my head." unless Vio is a woman. :-)

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