Black barbershops suck balls. But I have not always felt this way. Like most men of color born and raised in a major metropolitan city in the U.S., I was brought up to view the black barbershop as a cornerstone of the community. A place where local brethren can voice opinions, get advice, give advice, and debate politics, sports and women. A place where men can be men, let their hair down figuratively, speak freely, decompress and walk out feeling & looking a little better than when they walked in.
But as I'm getting a little long in the tooth, I see the black barbershop as a frustrating, uncomfortable, niggardry filled place that's a microcosm of everything wrong with unprofessional black business. Let me count the ways in which the black barbershop sucks:
1. The looong waits. If you're planning on getting a haircut at a black barbershop and you don't have an appointment (which are increasingly hard to book for some reason) prepare to kill a huge chunk of time. In fact, you might want to just clear your schedule that day because you're gonna be waiting for a good 3 or 4 hours, especially if you're in there on a Friday or Saturday. Apparently barbershops are closed on Sundays and Mondays as well (must be in their barber union rules), so if you work during the week like most people, Friday or Saturday is usually the day your sorry self will be sitting in there. This sucks because I'm extremely busy in my personal and secular life and time if the one thing I just don't have a lot of. When I was a teenager, a 3 to 4 hour wait was nothing to me. I'd gladly pass the time by running up to the greasy spoon food joint on the same block, grabbing something to grub on while I played Madden on the barbershop Playstation and commented on any young ladies walking past the shop in their tight jeans. That was all good when I was 17, I had no job to be at, no lawn to mow, no gutters to clean, no car to fix, and no kids to spend time with and tuck in. But now as a grown- ain't nobody got time for that!
2. A prime cause for the long waits in the black barbershop is lazy barbers. I thought the more heads they cut, the more money they made. But a childhood friend of mine told me that with a lot of these newer shops, the barbers are paid an hourly salary. So really, they're not inclined to cut you for whatever reason no matter how long you've been waiting. This is very frustrating. Out of 6 barbers, one will claim that he has an appointment "walking in any minute" so he can't cut me. Another barber will be trying his best to avoid making eye contact with me between giving himself a lining in the mirror and inexplicably dipping into that back room that's in every barbershop (what's back there anyway? Cocktail girls serving Martinis, I imagine). Another barber will be spending no less than 90 minutes meticulously touching up some bald brother who literally has no hair on his head outside his eyebrows and goatee. Really, why is that guy in the chair so long??! Another barber will be wrist deep in a 6 piece Harold's lunch special and clearly not about to cut anyone. Then you'll have the master barber, the king of the barbers, doing his thing. His technique is mastered, his cuts are crispy with a capital 'C', but, he's literally got two dozen heads in front of you waiting to be cut. In fact, about 85% of the clients that walk through the door are there for him. You can wait the wait, or you can take your chance with the old as dust tenured barber in the corner that you've never seen cut a soul, and his own hair looks like he just escaped from a slave plantation 24 hours ago. No thanks.
3. Barbers avoid cutting toddlers at all costs. This is frustrating because I have a 4 year old son who needs to be cut as regularly as I do. My barber friend told me that they avoid little kids because they squirm too much. So I guess thats a good enough reason to passively deny them service, right?! Except instead of just saying "Yo brotha, I really don't cut kids, but if you want me to, that'll be extra." I can live with that. Alot easier than avoiding eye contact, escaping into that barber back room, or pretending like the dude who walked in after me was ahead of me in line.
4. I'm already forking over $20+ on an average haircut after an above average wait, so I really don;t feel like dealing with the many local businessmen and hustlers who come in the shop asking for more of my money in exchange for bootleg movies, bootleg porn, African oils, jewelry, socks, Frooties, cologne, or anything else they were able to boost. And even if I was interested in that copy of Big Black Wet Booties Vol. 17, I really don't want to advertise my proclivities to the middle aged sister next to me who's a school teacher and only in there to get her natural shaped up.
5. You'll also be subjected to many pointless arguments and debates that have been rehashed over and over again. Who's better, Lebron or Jordan? Pac or Big? Harold's or JJ's? Is the NBA fixed? What rappers are in the Illuminati? What rappers are gay? Should we give mumble rap a chance? Where can you find a good woman? What makes a good woman? How and can black people finally overcome? Usually the last word in these discussions is given to the dude who can argue his point the loudest and the longest. No critical thinking is applied to these debates and little or no research is done or encouraged, just a bunch of cats in love with the sound of their own voices.
6. Why do barbershops play the crappiest movies on the barbershop television?! Every Kevin Hart movie that I swore I would not spend money on to watch, I've seen courtesy of the barbershop. The same goes for every Transformer movie, every Pirates of the Caribbean movie, every Fast and Furious movie, and every Code Black film that went straight to the $3 DVD bin at Walmart. (sidenote: the Kung Fu flicks are fire, tho!)
I've accepted that going to get a haircut at the black barbershop is a necessary evil in my life. Like going to the dentist. Or going to the DMV. Or getting flu shots. Or killing those massive centipedes in my basement. I don't have the kind of job where I can go unkempt, nor would I want to. So I guess in another 2 weeks I'm going to have to do it all again.