Sunday, February 26, 2006

Al's

My sons’ hair is too long and scraggly and this makes me ecstatic, because it means I get to take them to Al’s—their barber. I love Al’s. It’s quiet there.

I don’t know whether the silence is a result of my presence, or whether it’s just a man thing. I don’t care. I revel in it.

My boys, twins, were two when I brought them in for the first time and it’s as though, even at that age, they somehow psychically intuited that men don’t talk at Al’s. Silence for an entire hour. I was in heaven.

They were born with full heads of hair. And it never did fall out, as I was warned by well-meaning relatives, but it did turn red, then blond, as it grew and grew. And grew. They needed haircuts at six months. I couldn’t bring myself to do it until ten months, when it became clear there was no avoiding it. While crawling around, they’d begun to continually bonk their heads on our dining room table due to limited forward visibility.

I cut their hair myself for a while and thought I was doing a decent job, until my babysitter asked, and I quote, “Where do they get those haircuts?”

Perhaps it was time to enlist professional help.

But they were only one and a half. Would they sit still? Would they cry? Would they bite? I chose a Supercuts because it was nearby, but mostly because no one there knew us.

I told them they needed to sit still or they might accidentally get poked with the scissors, or worse—I grew solemn, their eyes grew wide—they might end up with bad haircuts.

They sat like they’d been hypnotized while Rosa cut their hair, a process made difficult by the fact that their mother was taking flash photographs to preserve the memory. I distinctly remember Rosa blinking at me with irritation after one particularly blinding shot. Despite the adversity, everyone survived. They even got great cuts.

We continued to see Rosa for about six month and all was well, until the whole idea began to grate on my husband. (Read: No sons of mine should get their hair cut in a salon.)

“But it’s not like it’s a girlie salon,” I told him. “Men get their hair cut there too.”

He looked unconvinced.

“I’m pretty sure the woman who owns the place is really a man—what with the Adam’s apple and all.”

This did not help my case.

Which is how we came to Al’s, my husband’s barber. Al’s probably been cutting hair at his place on Grace Street longer than I’ve been alive. He’s often nodded at a man walking into his storefront shop, telling me, “I’ve been cutting his hair since he was their age,” while pointing at my boys.

The walls at Al’s are covered with wood grain paneling that’s covered with taxidermied fish, fishing trophies and other such fishing paraphernalia. There are stacks upon stacks of sporting magazines and the Trib is always on the coffee table, but I never read when I’m there; I just stare at the fishing trophies or the stuffed larged-mouth bass on the wall, a goofy expression on my face, secure in the knowledge that neither it nor my sons will burst into a rendition of “Take me to the River.”

It amazes me the lengths a mother of young children will go to in order to find some quiet time. I suffer the irritated looks of other patrons, “A woman? Here?” and the uneasy body language they exhibit as they wait their turns next to me, but they are always polite, and offer up their chairs for me when we walk in. At Al’s, chivalry may be annoyed, but it’s not dead.

When the boys and I leave, I often wonder if they burst into conversation about the game or hot babes or whatever it is men talk about when women aren’t around. I suspect the truth is, they don’t.

After our first visit, Al gave the boys lollipops, then said, as if he’d somehow psychically intuited it, “Now guys, no more going to the girlie salon. You’re men now. You come to the barber to get your haircut.”

Gladly, Al. Gladly.

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