I Watched a Man Get His Beard Trimmed, And My Whole Life Flashed Before My Eyes
I started going to hair salons after I graduated from college (a.k.a. high school) and I was finally allowed to fry my hair with the most potent solution that would end up burning my scalp into submission.
Beauty was pain and I bore my fair share. I was also a very self-involved seventeen-year-old who seamlessly accommodated dramatic comments from admirers — massaging my ego with yet more proof that my thicker than thick tresses were durable for a lifetime.
Even without a cell phone or any tablet of welcomed distraction — I was more than able to mentally escape the boring chatter around me, by inhabiting a world that dissolved whenever my name was called.
Today was another visit to the salon, except this time, my once jet black crown of beauty has been replaced with impossibly dry strands that are now naturally gray and artificially coppery-brown. I’m forced to keep my appointments because if I don’t — the occasional “ma’am” slips in and I end up navigating a shitty week.
The upcoming itinerary will be bearably robust with imagined possibilities because I’m sitting under the dryer in the men’s quarters of the upper room. And the sensation of the heat is activating my allergies — but I can weirdly breathe into the stunning vision before me.
I’m watching a stately gent — sit back and relish the treatment of reshaping his already immaculate beard.
Suddenly I’m transported back to 1997 — in the heat of the moment — as I walk around Astoria, Queens — grabbing fresh fruit and avocados that don’t wilt under the aggression of a sun that can’t hide the fact that Princess Diana basically died — the night before.
This guy was good. His tattoos plastered all over his arms and chest reinforced why my settings needed to rest on this performance.
I was sweaty again — and I knew my hormones were kicking about — but the lingering breeze of cannabis helped to assuage my mood as I watched the electric razor devour this man’s head with delicious fervor. The sense of urgency — to eradicate unwanted strands — set up another vision
The summer of 2003 — was shaping up to be a scorcher of well-placed dreams and aspirations. I never doubted my talent — I just wondered whether or not the path to my destiny had enough signals to bring me along.
It was July 4th weekend and I had been positioned to speak to the Queen Bee at Honey Magazine — who undoubtedly would be swayed enough to give me the opportunity I so desperately needed at a time when turning thirty meant exactly what it means now.
On the day of my highly-anticipated appointment — I was treated to the unexpected announcement of Vanguard Media’s bankruptcy. This meant the demise of Honey Magazine and the renewal of the haunting nightmare of being a forty-something (so-and-so ) — who still believes that dreams come true when you work hard enough for them.
He’s moved over to the star of the show. As the salt and pepper (mostly salt) beard is being landscaped with acute precision — I’m thrown into warring expectations of a mind that is now comfortably numb, but also porous enough to remember how being a young Black girl in an age when the #Magic wasn’t quite approved — forced me to assume the legacy of invisibility.
It’s not like I didn’t get the chance to impress those who had managed to overcome the dutiful hurdles and end up in offices that now have hashtags as validation badges. It’s more about the climate back then — that didn’t permit successful Black women the pride to shoutout their own in a public way.
I didn’t benefit from the prominent sticker of “diversity” and I certainly wasn’t able to stage a coup with links to my explosive body of work.
The beard looks so much better — and yet the curator is adamant with those scissors — as he slices away stubborn debris. He turns the fella under his command towards the left and he begins another round of shaping — he flashes a slight smile my way.
I feel something, which is a great sign.
Turns out that I’m the cliché case of what it means to enter unfamiliar territory before you’re ready for the consequences of daring to live past your prime. There have been foreign bodies — familiarizing with gusto — and causing me to hit every temperature almost at the same time. Other symptoms linger with the threat of absorbing another gorgeous day — while wondering how many more of these moments remain.
The more dignified outcome makes the man with the beard, seem a lot younger than he was minutes ago. I pine for my version of youthfulness — as I stand before the mirror in the restroom and recall when visits to the hair salon — were innocent excursions that resulted in boosted self-esteem and the lightness of strands — obeying the wind.
I’m not that person anymore. I can deal with that — but what sucks even more — is not really grasping what I’ve become.
I’m back under the dryer and the man with the golden scissors — is still toiling with pleasure. I see why it’s taking longer than anticipated. Wiry strands can be a seasoned manipulator — demanding the discipline of a dresser — who comprehends how to make the whole damn thing — better.
My life flashes before me in staged sequences that don’t allow for much reprieve.
I’m treated to all the jobs under my belt that barely paid me what I was worth. I recall the advice from loved ones — warning me against fueling my passion at the expense of a lifetime filled with mustered frustration. I needed to become someone else — in order to garner the basics with sprinkles of indulgence.
He’s back with the electric razor — for the final show down.
The beard is trimmed — and I actually feel lighter in spirit as I fondle my belly and wonder what the magician will find between my legs when I release the neglect of amassed years — full of bloating and gloating at the audacity of my maturity.
The show is over and the man is now using the mirror as a portable selfie. We are pleased with the results. The shabbiness of not so long ago has been replaced with equally distributed hairs — housed on dark skin with open eyes.
His soul is filled with satisfaction. The last time my heart skipped to a beat that I executed — was when I got the offer letter from a college in Nevada, Missouri that was ahead of it’s time in the need to police the “minority quota.”
Nevertheless, I was a naive young thing — with too much hair — and the confidence that my best years would be spent in a large farmhouse — with a toddler and a newborn — providing validity to my given name — as my second book takes shape under the clippers of my wildly imaginative tendencies.
My husband loves me but not in the way that manifests on the wrong pages of my coerced narrative. It’s just life being lived with the rawness of examples that depict how time can be kind or kindly cruel.
I’m on my feet and headed to the lower level — to wash out the expensive paint that will keep the gray hue at bay — long enough to not make me forget that the days I thought would never arrive — are now giving me the taste of how immortals never have to retrieve the past for an uncertain future.
The rinse is cold at first and then warm and punishing. I could pretend that my perfectly unruly hair still had the strength of solid cells with the compass to dodge the stereotypical fare that makes my vagina an organ of perplexity.
I want to wait for the guy who just had his beard shaved — but I’m needed elsewhere because something may happen — and I want to believe in the casualness of magic tricks — unfolding without mocked scorn.
I watch him make his exit, and he waved with the assurance that he would be back again to endure the much-needed grooming episode that starts all over again after you return to the title page.
The flashbacks are serviced memoirs of the body and soul that begins to give — under the weight of unprocessed shit. You are never done. The lessons are continuous and the amount of wisdom that you soak in aren’t lined up in shot glasses for staging.
You will be back to accept or deny your assigned lot of responsibility. No matter how hard you scrape your Instagram page — the fragility of existing with filters always summons the fear of misdiagnosed enlightenment.
A beard trim — reduced the length of unrelenting chaos to a pebble of owning why better days are yet to come. And when they suddenly run out without plans for a substitute — I promise that I will be back.
And this time — I need the sides to be longer. The extra support — always comes in handy…