Yesterday I went to get a haircut at one of the barber shops staffed by Russian emigres. As I sat down in the chair, the hair cutter, Gregory, asked me how I was doing, and I said I was doing fine. Then he asked me what I wanted, so I told him to keep it short around the sides and back with the clippers, and then let it go a little longer on top and use the scissors. He said that sounded good, and started fussing around with the clippers or something. Then he said to me:
"You're hair's thinning on top, huh?"
What. Oh, hell no. Inside it felt like someone had stuffed an ice sculpture into my chest cavity. "Huh," I said. "Hmm mmmm. Huh." Gregory pressed on and started doing his work. In my head, people were screaming. I was determined to produce no bodily reaction to what he had said, even though I desperately wanted to grab the mirror out of his hands and check out what the hell was happening on the top of my head, holding him at bay, if necessary, with his own scissors.
As the haircut progressed I thought I was doing really well at staying calm until I noticed the beads of sweat on my forehead. "Excuse me," I said and I brought my arm up from under my smock and wiped off my brow. "It's pretty warm out," I said, although it clearly wasn't. After he finished, I got the hell out of there as quickly as I could, gingerly patting different areas of my skull to gauge any possible differences in hair density and/or volume.
So basically, this was the most emotionally taxing haircut of my life. It was like a kick in the shins all day, and it ushered in a really lame pity party where I felt bad for myself and mourned the loss my youth and whatever good looks I think I'm hanging on to. I was mad at the guy for saying such a dumb and callous thing (what was I supposed to reply? "Oh, you're right, Gregory, guess I don't need a haircut after all, sorry to waste your time, and by the way, nice English skills"?) and I was mad at myself for nursing such a gaping Achilles' heel of vanity.
I called L, I called my sister, I called my parents. They reassured me I was fine and that they had never noticed a problem. Doing some contortions in the bathroom making use of the double mirror, I checked out the scene on my scalp and I guess things are acceptable, I don't know. I've had 26 years of decent hair and I already have picked my spouse. I can't let myself dwell on something I have no control over. But I told L that it is up to her to make sure my haircut/style is appropriate to whatever amount of hair I actually have. I don't want to wake up in ten years and realize I've been combing over the dry, pristine, milky white hairlessness of my scalp for all that time. I also told James to keep an eye on this as well, because frankly I would not sleep well if I did not have an emergency backup vanity patrol.
So that was my Sunday. An offhanded remark and some serious emotional scarring. And you know what the damnedest part is? I still gave the guy a totally decent tip.