I was quite close to the lady that cut my hair in Kansas City. I went to her for almost 12 years so she was more a friend than someone I visited for 30 minutes every four weeks. She cut my mom’s hair, still cuts my step-dad’s hair, as well as the hair of the oldest son of the Raytown Nesbitts. Other than when she went on maternity leave, I refused to let anyone else touch my hair. No one else could understand how the hair on the sides needs to be cut just so or how the curls on the front were temperamental. So I was faced with a huge dilemma when we moved to Indianapolis: finding a permanent replacement for her.

I was stubborn and refused to find anyone at first. I let it grow an extra two weeks so when I returned to KC in August, I could sneak out to Lee’s Summit for a quick visit to my old friend. When we returned to Indy, I rebelled by letting my hair get as long as it’s ever been. I went almost nine weeks without a haircut! My hair tends to grow more up than down, so in the mornings, it was scraping the ceiling. I looked like a deranged Kramer. When I finally gave in, I held my nose and went into a Super Cuts, or some other local strip mall chain. I half expected lightning to strike me when I walked in. Trust my hair to someone who doesn’t know me, may never see me again, and for all I know could be on a work release program?!? This couldn’t work. I escaped with minimal trauma and a decent haircut and have returned four times since.

Alone, that isn’t necessarily interesting (yet I spent two paragraphs getting this far). What’s fascinating is each time I go, whatever ethnic stylist in the store immediately jumps up and accepts my business. I’ve tried to figure this out, because there have always been white women there who just sit in their chairs when I walk in. (There seems to be a 2:1 ratio of white hairstylists to African-American/Latin hairstylists in Carmel, IN.) Is my hair really that unique that I am automatically apportioned into the “ethnic” slot? One look and they think, “Oh Lord! Let Ramon/Rene/Beyonce cut that boy’s hair!” If so, that’s pretty damn cool; the ethnic identity I’ve always craved! Or is it some socio-political thing? When I walk in, they assume I’m a guilt-laden, white liberal who lives the good life in the suburbs, and thus I want to help any minority I can find to ease my burden. I doubt that’s the case, although I’m sure they discuss the issues of the day in great depth.

I share all this because I got my hair cut yesterday. I walk into an empty store with two white women and one large, middle aged, African-American man sitting at their stations chatting. Yep, “Bill” jumped up and offered to help me. Bill wasn’t exactly flaming, but definitely fit the stereotype for male hairstylists. He had at least one, large silver ring on each finger. Both wrists had several layers of silver bracelets. His ears were tugged towards the floor by heavy, silver piercings. And, of course, he wore all black, with his shirt unbuttoned just a little too far. Why can’t I get some 19-year-old girl who works nights at PT’s to cut my hair dressed like this?

I had to stifle a laugh the entire time because really, what are the odds this is going to happen five straight trips? I kept thinking about getting home and telling S, “It happened again!” and would almost lose it each time. In between discussing barbecue (When I told him I was from Kansas City and had just found a decent barbecue place, he half smiled and said, “But you have to go “into the city” to get real barbecue,” raising his eyebrows on “in the city”. I whole heartedly agreed, and observed that people in Indy don’t seem as eager to cross the racial lines of the city for food as Kansas Citians are.) he softly hummed along with the lite rock playing in the store. I got a little nervous when some Phil Collins song came on and he seemed to really get into it, actually singing in a deep, resonant baritone. I was reminded of the Seinfeld when George sends the film with a revealing photo on it to his favorite photo shop clerk but gets a similar pose from a large Black man in return. This guy looked and sounded a little like that actor.

Fortunately, Bill stopped singing to me and I made it out without incident. I may have to finally break down and call a “real” stylist that a friend goes to. Surely my hot streak at Great Clips can’t last and I’ll just be saddened when some white girl named Judy cuts my hair.