One of my favorite memories was visiting the barbershop with my Dad. Mom made Dad take me with him as often as she could. Not because he didn’t want me, but because I was a girl and it wasn’t always appropriate or convenient for him to take a girl. He knew that the barbershop was one of the few places where men could express themselves using “manly” language. But when he took me, they had to adjust their vocabulary to accommodate a little girl.
I loved listening to the men talk about nothing and everything. It felt good being in their presence and I felt special because they all acknowledged me and my Dad. They didn’t have appointments back then, so men just showed up and waited their turn, and no one minded because this was time to critique all matters of sports; solve the problems of the world; and exchange neighborhood gossip. When a hot topic was under discussion, men would sit back down after their haircut just to continue the conversation.
Then I moved to San Diego which like most towns has its own unique culture. There are few neighborhood barber shops. Men make appointments so the “talk time” is limited or non-existent as they arrive on time, get their hair cut and then depart. I happened to have an appointment the day after the Charleston church shooting. As I sat waiting my turn, I came to a sudden realization that no one was talking about THE major news event.
In my old neighborhood, the barbershop would be vibrating with discussion of Charleston. The debate would get so intense that men would stay for hours jumping in and out of the discussion with the shop owner sometimes intervening as referee. Then I realized why Charleston was not discussed in the San Diego Barbershop. The shop is interracial with both white and black barbers and their white and black customers.
They say there are two issues that one should never discuss in mixed groups… religion and politics. Now we can add a third… race.