One of the longest relationships I’ve had in Vancouver ended a few weeks ago when my barber decided to move to Ontario with his partner. Like getting dumped by your boyfriend, evicted from your apartment, or fired from your job, it was something I didn’t see coming and wasn’t prepared to deal with.
I had been seeing Jimmy for eight years. It was a rocky relationship; there were times when he would disappear for months on end, leaving me to fend for myself, but I always took him back in the end.
Jimmy was still working out of his tiny studio apartment on Mole Hill when he started cutting my hair. His place was decorated with Colt models and statues of Batman and Superman. You had to text him to get into the building, and if someone was in his chair, you would wait in his living room with his dog Lucy, reading the titles of his DVD collection.
Jimmy would always tell me stories about the crows in the backyard or some hot guy whose hair he had cut; we talked about the latest blockbuster and whether it sucked or not. One of the costume designers for Man of Steel was a client of his who filled Jimmy in on the size of Henry Cavill’s codpiece. After shooting was over, the designer sent him a Man of Steel care package from Los Angeles and Jimmy texted me a video of him opening the box, revealing it’s treasures to me while I ate my heart out.
Jimmy charged me $13 for a cut, which was reasonable considering how little hair I have and how long it takes to cut it. There were a couple of times when Jimmy tried going legit, renting a chair at Nick’s on Burrard, but he preferred being his own boss and would end up cutting hair in his kitchen. His clients preferred it that way. It wasn’t just the deal he gave you, or the conversation, but the secrecy of it all, like you were participating in something illicit. There are so few unbeaten paths left in Vancouver; you have to take them where you can find them.
A year ago Jimmy opened up a shop in a converted foyer on Beatty Street. At the time it seemed so far away compared to his place around the corner, but I would make a morning of it, getting there before it got busy, and then window shopping on Robson on my way home. His chair offered an excellent view of the hot DILFs on their way to a game at BC Place and the sun filled the space like a solarium. It was just a haircut, but it was magical just the same.
Even with his new shop and the rent he paid, Jimmy still “grandfathered” me in at the old price, despite my protests. There was an old-timey sense of familiarity to his shop you rarely see these days, like getting a haircut from Floyd Lawson on The Andy Griffith Show, despite the house music pumping from his iPhone.
Jimmy was more than just my barber, he was a friend whom I could confide in, and shared a drink with at the pub. We knew the same people and we were interested in the same movies. When I was unemployed, he offered to cut my hair for free in case I needed a touch up for a job interview. But best of all, he knew exactly how to cut my hair and shape my sideburns, but he refused to do my nostrils. It was like he was putting me back together after a month in the trenches.
I’m nearly due for another cut and I’m at a complete loss for who to go to. I’ve been asking some of the hair dressers around the neighbourhood how much they charge for a cut, and I get sticker shock every time I hear the price. I realize how good I’ve had it these last eight years, but I still can’t justify $40 for what amounts to a trim.
There’s a woman in my building who cuts hair, but she’s a stylist, not a barber. I’m old fashioned that way. I’m also afraid I’ll hate the way she cuts my hair and I’ll have to avoid her in the hall like a trick I regret. I could go back to Nick’s but I always have to wait so freaking long, no matter what time of the day I go there. Plus I get really self-conscious waiting for a barber that I like while another one is standing at an empty chair checking his phone. The pressure is just too much for someone as neurotic as me.
I consider myself a forward thinker, but as I get older, I keep gravitating towards things that stay the same. In the grand scheme of things searching for a new barber is not nearly as important as say, affordable housing or climate change, but it weighs on my mind because it will never be the same as it was with Jimmy.
Whoever cuts my hair next, I’ll always be comparing them to Jimmy, and wondering what was and what could have been. And while I wish Jimmy all the best in his new life, I can’t help but feel that he didn’t take a little piece of me with him.