#65: The Barber Shop
A story about what a barber shop in Raleigh, North Carolina, can teach us about our shared humanity
Newsletter readers tell me that they particularly like my vulnerable posts. Ones where I share personal stories.
I get it.
Writing is powerful. Writing can be therapeutic.
We uncover our common humanity through stories. Stories help us see ourselves in someone else. If that someone else is similar to us, we quickly become invested in them —and curious— seeing ourselves in them. If that someone else is different from us, we may initially judge and dismiss them —”othering” the character— but as the story progresses, we may realize they are more similar to us than we thought. So we loosen up and aren’t as quick to judge next time.
This, my friends, is the power of storytelling.
Let me share a story with you from this weekend that demonstrates this in real-time.
Walking into a barber shop in Raleigh, North Carolina, my husband, Harry, was very excited to get his hair cut in preparation for his cousin’s wedding later that day. It was a summer day, in May, in the South. Not painfully hot, yet, but hot enough to be thirsty and in dire need of air conditioning.
Light fell on is blue cloth face mask, as he opened the door to the barber shop. Everyone turned their gaze towards him. What was, just moments before, a buzzing room full of manly banter, now was completely quiet—like a library, or a funeral.
No —the barber shop didn’t transform into a library. No—no one died. Yes—all eyes were on Harry.
“What can I do for you,” one of the barbers begrudgingly asked, under his breath.
“Uhh..I’m here for a haircut.”
“Okay. Have a seat and wait,” the barber said, raising his arm and pointing his fingers in a swift, abrupt motion, as if signaling to a dog.
“Umm..okay..I will wait.”
Harry paused and caught himself. He would usually try to make small talk in an attempt to diffuse the situation and try to build camaraderie, but he could tell this was not appropriate right now.
The barber shop is still silent.
Harry awkwardly makes his way to the keg of beer, grabs a cup, and starts to pour some delicious cold liquid from the tap.
Finally — the room starts buzzing again.
Barbers and patrons talk about all sorts of manly topics —from politics to their wives to sports.
Harry removes his face mask, takes a sip of his beer, opens his laptop —the device that he carries around often, just in case, for security and comfort—and sparks up a conversation with a patron sitting next to him.
One hour later…
“You—red head—I’m ready for you,” the barber says to Harry.
Harry pours himself another beer and sits in the barber chair. The barber swiftly puts the hair cut cape over Harry.
The two start chatting and laughing and having a grand ol’ time.
On the way out, the barber turns to Harry and says, “You know, I didn’t like you when you first walked in, but then I realized we have more in common than I thought. You’re pretty cool, man.”