Life is funny.
About 36 hours ago, I wrote "Steel on the Inside, Silk on the Outside."
I think most guys are afraid to do this – to wear light colors, to go to a spa, to being silly and lighthearted, these traditionally feminine things. I think most guys go out of their way to appear tough, rugged, macho. And you know why? I think it’s because most of ‘em are soft on the inside, scared, powerless, aimless.
My philosophy is be as strong as steel on the inside, and light and gentle like silk on the outside.
That’s what I aim for. Be strong, don’t act strong. Be carved out of steel, stand for something, be something. Then – it’s okay to relax to gentle music, to speak softly, to wear silk or light colors, to go to a spa. Be gentle and soft externally, but forge your character out of steel, mold yourself in strife and suffering, become strong. Then – externally, be gentle. Soft. Slightly whimsical. Steel on the inside, silk on the outside.
My hair was getting slightly longer than I like, I figured it was time for a haircut. Here's a recent picture - there's nice silk bathrobes where I was staying, and I snapped this one two days ago to try to use as a photo for yesterday's post. It didn't come out the way I wanted it, so I was just going to scrap it, but it's relevant now -
I keep my hair mid-longish. I figure, if you're carved out of the steel, and then you put on spiked armor - it's too much. Too intimidating. Too overwhelming. If you're carved out of steel, wear silk on the outside. Thus, I aim to be internally strong, but then I keep my hair slightly long and fashionable, I wear light colors, I mostly speak softly and smile.
That said, my hair was getting a little long. So I went to get it cut.
Sebastian's Rules of Getting a Good Haircut While Traveling -
1. Find someone who you like their hair. This can't be stated enough. If the person has pictures on their desk of their kids, make sure you like the kids' hair.
2. When in doubt, go somewhere slightly more expensive. (Especially if you have longer hair you don't cut so often)
3. If you want to chat, pick a female stylist. If you don't, pick a male barber. Men tend to be less talkative while cutting hair.
Today I had quite a bit on my mind - I've got a few projects going, and three of them have deliverables coming up shortly. This is good, it's exciting, but I'm trying to mentally work out which order to go in through things and prioritize. I also had a couple really good ideas this morning that I wrote down that could be pretty cool, and I'm trying to mentally sort out what order to do things in. I figured I needed a haircut anyways and it would give me time to think.
Sometimes I like chatting and getting along with whoever's cutting my hair, but today I didn't want that. I wanted to just zone out and think. So I walked around and looked at three different places, asked prices, and found a place slightly more expensive than normal with a guy with a cool haircut. Perfect.
I come in, and an older woman who owns the place asks me to sit down. I do, and she starts asking me what I want. She's not dressed like a stylist, so I figure she's just translating. Her English is perfect.
I say, "Like this, exactly like this, but shorter." She asks, "How long?" I hold my finger and thumb up to show length. She grabs some of my hair and holds it a distance slightly shorter than that. I say, "No, longer than that." She remeasures, holding that much hair up. I say, "Yes, like that. Exactly."
She picks up scissors and starts cutting. Now, I'd wanted the guy for the barber and that's why I came in, but I wasn't really overthinking this. I'm in the chair, I gave instructions, she picks up scissors and starts cutting, and I don't think about it or evaluate her. If I had, I wouldn't have gone there - her hair was kind of messy and unkept, pulled back in a ponytail, and didn't look so good.
And, unsurprisingly, she's chatty so I can't think. Where am I from, what am I doing in Vietnam, how long have I been here. I'm polite, I speak a little Vietnamese to her, but I try not to keep the conversation going. I want to think while getting my haircut. She's snip-snipping, and keeps chatting about Los Angeles, and Vietnam, and... and it's really just smalltalk that I'm not up for, I want the thinking time. I close my eyes so hopefully she gets the message. (You might now see where this is going...)
I open my eyes after a few minutes and - what the hell????
"Hey, hey, hey! Wait! Wh-why, why are you cutting so short?" Along the right side of my hair she cut almost razor short. She says, "I do bangs short, on the top this long" she says, holding up a length of hair on top of my head.
"No, no... no, I said... no. No. Not like that, no." I look at it. There's no fixing this. I wanted a mid-length, fashionable, semi-conservative haircut. She's giving me a short, unfashionable, unconservative haircut. I think I know what she's doing now - in Vietnam, the hairstyle from the early 1990's where the top is longer and it's unblended is sort of fashionable, but that's not very good for the rest of the world. I wanted my hair cut evenly - I'd said, "Like this, exactly like this, but shorter."
She butchered my hair. Damn. She goes tentatively to bring the scissors back down. I say, "STOP." I start to take off the covering. "This... this is wrong." I think for a second - what's my best outcome here? What do I want...? I don't want anything. There's nothing they can do for me. This isn't fixable.
I get up and leave, I walk a few blocks in a ticked off mood, and then I sit down. Damn it. I have enough on my mind, I don't need my hair getting screwed up now. I wanted the normal mid-length, fashionable, semi-conservative haircut I get.
Now, in the grand scheme of things this is pretty trivial, but at the time I'm sitting there kind of ticked off. I sit and steam for about five minutes, and then I remember that one of my general life goals is to be decisive - make a decision once, move quickly, done. Well, okay, I'd wondered for a while what I'd look like without hair at all. I generally like the way I keep my hair, so I hadn't cut it very short in a long time. Time to see.
I walk in a different hair salon, and evaluate myself in the mirror.
Unfixable. Ah well, now it's time to make the best of it.
"Take it all off."
The guy asks, "What setting? 1, 2, 3?" I say, "Zero. Take it all off. Nothing left."
We're having a fun time and joking around now. Halfway through, I say, hey, we should be documenting this. Note the girl laughing in the background -
As you can see, I'm still not thrilled with this development here. I think this is a very honest facial expression -
I ask them to give me a shave with a straight razor, which was a nice experience. I get all cleaned up, and I look around for my barber who was really cool to take a picture with him. He's across the street having a tea, so I wave to ask if he'll come back for a picture. Here's him coming back -
I'm starting to laugh. This whole episode is absurd. And, once done, things are done. No use regretting it or feeling bad, it's done. Adjust, learn what can be learned, observe how the new way works, and wait a few months if I decide I want long hair again.
The nice thing about having a strong, internal identity is you get less phased about nonsense like this. I don't define myself by a job title, by any organization I belong to, by my dress, by my hair, by possessions, nothing like that, nothing external. I define myself by what I see as meaningful.
I still get mildly aggravated at stuff like this - presentation affects everything, and I had a presentation style I liked that worked for me. Now I've got a new style, and it looks a bit too strong for where I'm at. Steel on the inside, steel on the outside? Well, we'll see how it goes. And the nice thing about hair is that it grows back. But I think a lot of people would flip out over something like. I was aggravated for about 10 minutes after it happened, then I evaluated my options, and made a decision. I was still feeling a little bad for another 20 to 30 minutes. And then I was laughing.
Ah well, life's a circus, and this doesn't particularly matter all that much. It's nice to define oneself internally and be focused on big things - thus, little things fade in importance quickly. Thirty minutes of annoyance, it'll probably be strange to look in the mirror for the next couple weeks or so, then I'll have mid-length hair again if that's what I want, or maybe the new style will suit me. Steel on the inside... and also steel on the outside for the forseeable future.