I doubt this is true of men — hey, male people, tell me if I’m wrong — but hair is a big deal for women. Indeed, hair could qualify as a sideline obsession.
Conversations about our hair, haircuts and haircutters can edge into cult-oidish territory (but I will never admit I wrote that while fully sentient, so do not ever confront me with it). It’s not that we secretly worship some hair god; it’s…something else.
Anyway, we talk about our hair and the people who cut it.
Less than a year ago, my friend “Miriam” was in the throes of a too-common, painful quandary: her long-time haircutter decided to enter partial retirement and move far out of New York.
Sure, he said he’d be coming back for a few work days every six weeks or so and would thus be happy to continue cutting Miriam’s hair. But the six-week thing did not fit into Miriam’s hair’s schedule, which is immutable. Her hair needs cutting every eight weeks. Six weeks would be too soon — and her guy was expensive — while twelve weeks would be a potential minor catastrophe, since Miriam’s hair abdicated its style after eight weeks and would just hang there. It’s the grow-out problem.
So when Miriam started investigating a new haircutter, she asked me about my haircutter and the likelihood her cuts would meet Miriam’s grow-out standards. My haircutter is terrific and my hair grows out beautifully, for several months, but my hair is not like Miriam’s hair.
Miriam’s investigative work was detailed. She learned that Fringe, the place where I get my hair cut, was considered one of the best in the city. (Who knew? I didn’t.) So she called Fringe directly and put it to them: who was best at cutting short straight hair?
Joe. It was Joe.
Miriam made an appointment. Joe cut Miriam’s hair. I was probably more anxious than she was — Miriam is exacting in her requirements — but Miriam reported her experience with Joe was terrific. I heaved a sigh of relief. But now we had to wait out the grow-out.
I called Miriam after three days and was delighted to hear her hair still looked great. She sent me pictures. Her hair was in a great grow-out, looked great. So now both of us were happy.
The other day, Miriam called me. She was riding home with her husband after a visit to the Morgan to see the Hockney exhibit and had to tell me what had happened:
The Morgan’s excellent restaurant and café were still closed because of the pandemic so Miriam and her husband took a walk up Madison Avenue to find a pub sort of place for lunch.
“Everything was closed!” she told me. Closed. The whole area seemed to be shut down. They wandered into one Irish pub, only to learn the kitchen was still closed because of the pandemic. The woman there gave them two recommendations for nearby places but said she thought they looked like people who’d prefer The Rag Trader on 36th Street.
And they did appreciate The Rag Trader. As they enjoyed their meal, Miriam was admiring their definitively New York waitress…and her haircut. It was a great haircut. So, as the meal ended, Miriam told the waitress how much she liked her haircut and wondered who she went to.
“Oh, I get it done at a Lower East Side place,” the waitress said. “It’s called Fringe.”
“Fringe?” Miriam said. “Joe?!”
Of all the Irish pub joints in all the boroughs in all New York City, the waitress walks in with a great haircut by the same great haircutter as Miriam’s.