The House of Beauty 

Yeah, I'm into the habit

Yeah, I'm into the habit

Ever since my college days, until just recently, I had a policy of getting my hair cut quarterly, right about the same time I’d change the oil in my car. Back in high school, I let my hair grow for four solid years, just to piss off Gloria Rush, my Commie-hating, thick-ankled South Carolina history teacher. She told me she’d flunk me if I didn’t go to the boy’s room right then and there, and comb the hair out of my face. I complied—and showed my state pride besides—by stealing some Vaseline from the coach’s office, and fashioning my hair into a sculpture of the Palmetto, which is the official South Carolina state tree.

But in recent years, since I’ve become a professional man, I’ve had to pay a little more attention to my personal appearance. So now, when it’s time for one of my six to eight yearly haircuts, I go to the beauty shop.

I got into the beauty shop habit because I knew no South Carolina barber could pass on the opportunity to give a long-haired boy a forced Parris Island-jar head cut. Then—and, hell, probably even now—you could figure on the barbers and shop regulars ganging up on any long-haired types and toying with them for a while, until the whole ugly episode ends with the headline, “Hippie boy steals more chains than he can swim with, drowns in swamp.”

Most of the time, I’m the only man in my beauty shop, a real roach among the cupcakes. There I am, jockeying for time and position with women who sincerely need to get their hair fixed on a certain day and time, so they can get pouted up for a certain event. Not that full-gussy-drag affairs are on my calendar, but in the years when I know the dates of the Steeplechase and Swan Ball, I make sure I don’t schedule a haircut the whole week before ’em.

You see, I’m not much good at waiting, especially when Yanni’s on the CD player, and there’s nothing good to read. There are no men’s magazines at my beauty shop, with the exception of GQ, which completely ignores the home inspector/freelance writer look. (Pretty much straight Eddie Bauer, for those of you who care.)

Another longtime habit of mine: If I don’t have something to occupy my mind, I get into mischief. I can’t help it. I have a letter from a physician stating that it’s a legally-protected disability, so nobody better get smart about it, or I’ll get one of those 1-800 TV lawyers after them. Anyhow, a while back, when I was sitting and waiting for my shampoo, one of the little hairdo timers went off, and it played this familiar little two-note riff, which set off something in my head. Third time it chimed, I jumped up out of my chair and let loose: “Dude looks like a lady....” I could still hit the high notes, just like in the old days, and I was mighty proud.

For 10 solid minutes after my little performance, there was no sound in the beauty shop except for Yanni’s arpeggios.

“Aerosmith, if you must know,” I said. “Rent Mrs. Doubtfire.”

Next time I went, some women seriously delayed my haircut by capturing my haircutting woman and holding her at the product counter for a good 20 minutes. It was like getting behind some of those people who don’t want to make a flavor mistake, so they taste-test every bucket in Baskin-Robbins. (Solution: Buy a banana split. All meaningful flavors and textures are already in there.)

I wondered what could be so interesting over at the counter, so I started looking at the beauty products myself. One thing in particular caught my eye: Cuticle Remover: Removes Rough, Dry Cuticles.

As a small-business owner, I have to keep my marketing instincts sharp. So I looked around and found some white tape and a pen, and made some supplemental labels for those AHA boxes. Just little patches, carefully crafted and applied, and barely visible to the naked eye.

When I was done re-labeling all the boxes, the AHA product was New and Improved, and promised to remove rough, dry testicles. Next time I got a haircut, the stuff was all gone, so I guess it sold right out. Gotta sell the sizzle.

Walter Jowers can be reached at


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