After more than forty years of going to a variety of barbers and hairstylists who never learned my name, I started “going steady” with a hairstylist ten years ago. It was my wife’s idea. She’s not Asian, but was convinced that hardly anyone at those ten dollar haircut places had any idea how to cut Asian hair. Most of the people who cut my hair has this knack for doing it in such a way that I looked like Ed Grimley within a couple weeks. One day, my wife and I were shopping when she said I needed a haircut. It happened that the lady cutting my hair was Cambodian and Mrs. Chancelucky declared that from now on this would be the person who cut my hair.
I’ve now gotten used to knowing the name of the person cutting my hair and her knowing mine. For a few years, we mostly talked about places to go to dinner. I had learned a number of random but interesting items about her, the most significant being that my hair cutter and her husband had managed to buy seven houses. We stopped talking about places to go to dinner because during the banking crisis, they lost six of the houses. She also bought her own shop and sold it, something that I found out today when I came for my appointment and the whole salon had been remodeled. To be accurate, it was mostly remodeled. The ceiling still hadn’t been recovered and only half of the new lighting system was in place. Without all the wattage, the place seemed more like a bar than a hair salon.
Anyway, my hair cutting lady asked me about father’s day then told me about how she had gone to a party with her husband over the weekend at which he began dirty dancing with other women including an old girlfriend of his. I suspect that they have a number of Asian friends in the area, but my hair stylist doesn’t know many middle-aged Asian men who aren’t friends or relatives. She was puzzling over why she got as mad at her husband as she did.
I’d heard other stories from her in the past. Once she told me that she’d never learned to swim because she’d almost drowned while crossing a river when her family was leaving Cambodia. This was different, though. Her husband had ultimately apologized and insisted that he wasn’t doing the dirty dancing as much as it was Hennessey. I don’t know them, but that might have been true. I then asked her if she’d been rubbing up on her husband while they were dancing earlier in the evening and she said “Yes.” I figured that eliminated the possibility of his dancing that way with others but not with her.
I then accidentally told her what appeared to be the perfect thing, “Maybe you got him too excited when he was dancing with you.”
This made her smile and we agreed that she needed to go have a normal night of dancing with her husband some time soon so they could get past all this. I felt like Chris Harrison, the host of the Bachelor who always says just the right thing in the Bachelor’s moment of stress.
I’m not sure why I suddenly crossed this line into the inner life of my hair cut lady. I now understand why some people develop such complex relationships with the people who cut their hair and do their nails. It seems like a very American thing, though I did see an Audrey Tatou movie about a French beauty parlor that amounted to the same thing with beauticians as combination confessors, groomers, and friends. Did I need to have an Asian hair stylist before I could form such a relationship?
After that I picked up lunch at Port of Subs where all the people behind the counter were East Indian. Other than Jared? Do people form friendships with the people who make their sandwiches?
In the meantime, it came out during my hairstyling thing that the only females I’ve danced with in the last fifteen years were my wife and my daughter. With my wife we never go out on the dance floor and make like were in a Patrick Swayze-Jennifer Grey movie or even one with Julia Styles. It’s generally more like Shall We Dansu, only we don’t do ballroom. Maybe once every two years, we wind up at a wedding that happens to have a live band.
Anyway, it seems like every couple develops its own customs about when , how, and who they dance with in public. Some dance with everyone. In fact Bill Clinton’s mom supposedly told him it was bad manners not to dance with every single girl at a party, something that has fascinating psychological ramifications given the rest of Bill Clinton’s life. Some couples dance with others, but only slow dance together. I have no idea what the rules are on dirty dancing, we’re too old for that sort of thing though we did go to a wedding a few months ago where a bunch of the women were making like pole dancers. I didn’t comment on it to Mrs. Chancelucky. At the same time, it’s not like any couple ever sits down and says “These are the rules for when we go out dancing.”
None that has anything to do with being Asian, having a regular hair stylist, or whatever else started this story, yet somehow in some way I can’t explain that has everything to do with how all this came about.