Something from a recent blog entry came back to haunt me when I went to get my latest haircut. About the only thing nuttier than braving the aisles of Toys’r’Us or Target this weekend is to try and get a haircut during this holiday weekend – but my hair was starting to look like it belonged to an especially scraggly “Survivor” contestant, so I had to do it. Kathy suggested that I try a new place that had just opened in Racine and might be a little less over-run than more established places – and it turned out to be a place called SportClips – whose mission is (and I quote): to create a championship haircut experience for men and boys in an exciting sports-themed environment. One of the things hawked on their website is Watch sports while getting your haircut! (Big whoop.) And one of their mottos, plastered all over the place, is At SportClips, Guys Win! It was enough to make me half-believe that I would walk out of there with Popeye- sized arms, a hairy chest, and a new-found ability to throw a football. But alas, no such transformation took place- at least not after a single visit, although I must confess to having not bought into the whole All Guys Love Sports mentality of the place. I just wanted a hair cut – and I walked into the place as I always do when I get my hair cut – with a book under my arm. It may seem like the height of rudeness, but for $16 I figure I should be able to get both a decent haircut and the right to read a book rather than listen to the prattling of the stylist. (Except for those rare occasions when I go to Kathy’s stylist, Dawn. I know her and love talking with her- and I know how to get her laughing, although I’m always a little fearful that she’ll let out an especially hearty guffaw at the wrong moment and slice off one of my ears. Hasn’t happened yet.) Anyway, I am cordially anti-social when I get the typical haircut, and this was no exception- although for the first time that I can recall, the stylist good-naturedly asked me “so, are you going to be talking to me?” And as cheerfully as I could, I replied “Nope- but I tip really well.” And we got along just fine.
It was only much later that I realized how ironic this particular situation was. The book I was reading was not the biography of Johnny Unitas or Learn to be a better Fly- Fisherman. I was reading Khaled Hosseini’s magnificent and poignant novel “A Thousand Splendid Suns.” The story is about two Afghani women trapped in a loveless marriage to the same man – and about all the brutality which they and their fellow Afghani women experience on a regular basis- as well as the amazing courage which they demonstrate in the face of that brutality. It will be my privilege to interview Mr. Hosseini next week for the Morning Show, and during this haircut all I could think about was finishing this amazing book. Only after I got home did I start to see the absurdity of reading that particular book in such a testosterone-drenched setting. True, all of the stylists were women – but otherwise, this was a modern-day temple to manliness, from the black and red color scheme to the sports-related banners and memorabilia which filled every corner of the place. What an odd place to read about the plight of women living in a land where they are thought of as scarcely more than livestock – and in some cases, thought of as less.
Just what the one thing has to do with the other, I cannot say. Maybe the only parallel worth drawing is that in both of these worlds- in that small house in Afghanistan where Laira and Mariam lived / and in SportClips in Racine, WI- there are sweeping assumptions at play about what it means to be male and female. And the more I think about it, the more I want this to be a country and a world where Henry can aspire to be a baseball player or a ballet dancer – or better yet, both – where Kaj and Anna and Aidan would equally enjoy baking cookies or building something in the garage, or both – and where Lorelai can choose pink princesses for her bedroom walls or blue and gray rocket ships, or both (although I’m not sure how that last one would work, at least simultaneously.) Anything less than that, anything that squeezes little boys and little girls through pre-shaped patterns like one of those Play-Doh fun factories, bears a little too much resemblance to Afghanistan for my taste.
And to think that all of this profundity springs out of one simple haircut.