Stupid Things I Say To My Barber

This post was inspired by my recent visit to the Tivoli Barbers in Belfast city centre, for my quarterly shearing. Thankfully my genetic make up has blessed me with a full head of hair at this age in life but, that aside, these places fill me with fear and foreboding. The reason for that? Having to indulge in small talk with the barber, an almost mandatory obligation at such encounters. You see, I don’t do small talk.

I made a real effort this time, though. The Tivoli is bedecked with boxing promotional posters, one of the few sports I know nothing about. I was determined, however, to engage my barber in whatever topic he opened up with. Barbers love to talk. It’s all part of the hairdressing experience. And this time, I was going to venture beyond the normal monosyllabic responses and awkward silences.

If the weather came up, I was well versed in the cold snap presently gripping our fair island. If football, I knew I was on solid ground and could converse fluently in the current demise of Manchester United. And if it were boxing, then I was going with the non negotiable opening line of ‘What do think about Carl Frampton’s next opponent?’ I only know the names of around five boxers and he’s one of them.

I was shocked, therefore, when the conversation veered towards uncharted waters. My ever talkative barber began to bemoan the dwindling economy in the city centre and how several nearby businesses had either closed or relocated. Seeking to allay any concerns he had, I confidently reassured him that I would always frequent the Tivoli as they were reliable, quick and offered the cheapest hair cut in town. £6 no less.

‘I know,’ sighed my barber sadly, not the response I had been expecting at all. ‘We’ve been charging the same price for five years now. Which reminds me, I need to put our prices up.’ I instantly froze, my blood turning to ice as I felt the glares of the waiting customers behind me boring into the back of my head. Unwittingly, I fear I had just made their lunchtime visit to the Tivoli a slightly more expensive one.

When my locks were shorn, I sheepishly slipped my coat on and asked him how much I owed, while resolutely avoiding eye contact with all and sundry. ‘That will be £6 to you, mate,’ he replied, with a knowing wink. I handed him £7 and told him to keep the change, before beating a hasty retreat from the establishment. Once outside, I extracted my foot from my mouth, vowing never again to speak to a barber. Or anyone, for that matter.

My route to and from work, takes me past the Tivoli every day. I dread my next walk past it, to be greeted by a sign in the window announcing a price hike due to the prevailing economic climate. Forever carrying the secret shame, that I was personally responsible for the long haired gentlemen of Belfast having to dig a little deeper into their pockets for the ‘cheapest haircut in town.’

What do you talk to your barber/hairdresser about?

Have you ever said something inappropriate and immediately wished the ground would swallow you up?

Published by Fractured Faith Blog

We are Stephen and Fionnuala and this is our story. We live in Northern Ireland, have been married for 17 years and have three kids - Adam, Hannah and Rebecca. We hope that our story will inspire and encourage others. We have walked a rocky road yet here we are today, together and stronger than ever. We are far from perfect and our faith has been battered and bruised. But an untested faith is a pointless faith. Just as a fractured faith is better than none at all. We hope you enjoy the blog.

42 thoughts on “Stupid Things I Say To My Barber

  1. Oy. Getting my hair cut many many years ago I was sadly talking to my stylist about the unfortunate death of a high schooler who was in the band with my son. When another customer came up to me and berated me for sulking his name, which I in no way did. It was scary and sad.


  2. Great insight to small talk. I fade into the woodwork when engaging in small talk. After about 2 minutes of exchanging trivia, my mind quickly searches for reasons to escape the conversation. “I have a Dr. appointment” or “my phone is vibrating, excuse me”, or ” I think I hear someone in the house screaming for help.” And you nailed it. I hate small talk with neighbors, cashiers, bankers. Fortunately, I don’t need a barber anymore.


  3. You can imagine that as a woman in a barbershop of men, I would be uncomfortable. But, I know more about sports than some men. I keep up with the news. As I wait for my turn to get my Afro trimmed and shaped up, including the dreaded alcohol rub after, I comment with the guys, keeping them laughing. They think me cool. I tell stories from my travels, and I have a great time. I have loved sports since I could remember and being well read on most subjects in the news, I love going to the barbershop, and with so many black women wearing natural hair, I am seldom the only lady there. I just like the craziness and laughter and sense of oneness in black barbershops. Douglas sometimes goes with me, and he just reads his book, mainly because he is not into sports at all, except watching football.


  4. I’m going today, but I’m most guaranteed a woman I don’t know. I go on the offense and ask if she lives nearby, then I ask about kids and if she’s started holiday shopping. Then I only need to nod and listen.


  5. OMG you nailed a situation that I, too, deplore. I find it soooo uncomfortable to sit in the chair wildly trying to think of something to say to fill the roughly 30 minutes it takes for my hairdresser to trim my hair. Ugh!


  6. Well, until a year ago, my hairdresser was my daughter – so family gossip etc was generally safe. She moved, now it’s just me and some less than stellar coloring agents and dull shears.

    Oh, put my foot in my mouth? As in, having a patient who was ill, and a very difficult blood draw (normally this guy was a breeze) and muttering that “If he didn’t give me some blood, I was going to have to smack a hair lip on him” on to look up and remember…. Yes, a repaired hair lip. I reported myself to my manager, and not surprisingly, we never saw that poor man again. My face is burning – and it was over 20 years ago.


  7. Ha! That’ll teach you! But my goodness £6 ….! Our local barber who I send both boys and husband to is called The Man Cave and costs £15 even if there’s not much hair on top to cut. I wonder those follicly-challenged should be eligible for a discount? As for women’s hair-cuts … it’s outrageously expensive and I really don’t like small talk either so usually I say something along the lines of how thrilled I am to be here because it’s the only time in my life that I get to read all the decent magazines. I then devour each and every one of them (the magazines not the hairdressers). I’m thinking that I’m rather rude 😬😬. I shall endeavour to make small talk in the future.


      1. Ha! Oh I can play the social butterfly to a tee, however I think as I get older and decidedly more belligerent and selfish, I no longer have the patience to talk to people whom I don’t want to. And if ‘grumpy old woman’ springs to your mind, I fear you might be right!


  8. In graduate school, I studied “emotional labor” and read a fascinating article on how barber’s/hairstylists/cosmetologists actually take on a lot of emotional labor because of conversations with their clients. I try to think about this when I talk with my hairstylist, so I settle for talking about our animals and my next adventures.


  9. My “hairdresser” is a good friend with experience in all things exotic coloration and dye. Our beauty sessions usually conclude by me walking out of her tiny student apartment into the middle of a conservative North African immigrant neighborhood with a full head of bright lilac, electric blue, or platinum white hair and getting stares in the bus on the way home. I put my foot in my mouth talking to her a few times because she is a passionate feminist and belongs to several global minorities… however, good times are always to be had when she’s transforming my head.


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