I took the bait.
“$10 off men’s haircuts,” the coupon said. My wife had grabbed two: one for me and one for my five year-old son.
“It’ll be fun,” my wife said. “I’ve heard good things about this place, like it’s a step or three up from that place you usually go. Besides, it’ll be some father-son bonding time.”
Father-son bonding time, eh? We usually experience that when we go to that step-or-three-down barber. But they know us there. And they know how to cut our hair. It’s functional–and as stylish as we want to go with our timeless, product-free “boy cuts.”
Plus, with the money I save, my five year-old son and I usually walk a few doors down to Baskin-Robbins afterwards, for continued father-son bonding time over single scoops of Peanut Butter Chocolate and Mint Chocolate Chip. Bet the new place isn’t next to a Baskin-Robbins, eh?
But ten bucks off each haircut, and a step or three up?
Like I said, I took the bait.
I wish I hadn’t.
We walked into this new place, this place that boasted to give “sports cuts,” this place whose only clientele were men, this place that promised us ten bucks off, and the reek of gimmick penetrated deep into our olfactories.
Firm but relaxed chairs beckoned in the waiting room, each one strategically facing a large, flat-screen television displaying a live football game; each one covered with a deep-red faux leather, a manly textile. We indifferently chose two facing Tennessee vs. Georgia.
And now I noticed that the lights were dimmed just so and angled for minimal glare–another manly touch.
Then the cutters of hair began to appear, girls all, wearing black stretch pants–or was it mere body paint?–and shirts to look like referees, black-and-white striped. And were those actual whistles around their necks?
They offered us soda, PowerAde, water; sweet and bubbly–the girls, that is, not the water.
And, except for the coupons in my hand, I thought we could have been at Hooters.
My son didn’t seem to mind so much, or maybe he didn’t really notice. He’s only five, and the hormones aren’t boiling in him yet–at least they aren’t to the extent that they obviously were in a middle schooler next to us. I wanted to shout, “Put your tongue back in your mouth, boy,” but opted instead not to draw any more attention to this already skewed vision of reality. Maybe my son wouldn’t take much notice, I thought.
The haircuts came and went, and were nice enough in their own right. A step or three up indeed, as my wife had said. But after our haircuts–my son too!–the bubbly, scantily clad cutters of our hair led us each back to a dark room behind a curtain, where they shampooed our hair and massaged our scalps, quietly giving us permission to fall asleep in their capable hands if we so desired. Which was followed by a backrub.
On our way home my son said, “Well that was weird!” He had noticed.
As for me, I found the whole experience maddening. We live in a culture that prides itself on becoming increasingly gender-equal. Women were allowed to vote quite early in the bigger picture of world democracies. Average women’s salaries are closer than ever to average men’s salaries for equivalent jobs. The Episcopal Church is the first church in the global Anglican communion to elect a female presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori. And yet we have this haircutting chain that objectifies women?
It’s hip, it’s trendy, it gives men an experience with which they are comfortable. And it’s successful.
But the haircutters, all female, wear skimpy clothes. They look like referees: a quasi appearance of authority. But the truth is that these women are paid to do the bidding of men, the real dominators in this scenario, who lounge around watching sports and refreshing (and scratching) themselves. It’s twisted, even perverted.
Definitely not the message I want to teach to my five year-old son!
So, coupon or no coupon, we’ll not return. Instead, we’ll go back to our step-or-three down barber and ice-cream conversation, thank you very much.