I know I have depression. I know I am introverted. I know I have generalized anxiety with a good dose of SAD. I know these well at certain times. One of those times is when I get my hair cut. Here is an account of my latest visit to “Aldos”.
As I walk into the shopping mall and approach the Barber Shop, I check the queue to see who has arrived before me. I really don’t want the confrontation which would occur if I jumped the line so I memorize shirts, hats, shopping bags, anything that will help me remember and pass through this experience largely unnoticed. Well … there is no line as such, just an unspoken rule of whoever arrives first gets cut first.
I sit on the bench outside the shop with the others, avoiding eye contact with anyone. I lower my head and play with my phone for a moment so that I look busy and no one will talk to me. But who are these people anyway? Objects … moving, chattering and making noise. I don’t belong here. I feel so far from all this friendliness, talking and laughter going on around me. They judge me for not being one of them … I know it.
I envy the sight of strangers meeting and just beginning conversations as they wait. It is normal. It is what people do. So what am I? Why can’t I? I know that being quiet and avoiding eye contact must make them think that I am pretentious. A “Mr Important!” But in reality, the opposite couldn’t be more true – I feel like “Mr Nothing”. I just want this over and I shuffle along the bench as a space is made by someone who has just moved onto the waiting seat inside the shop.
I look at feet and ankles, tattoes, shoes and socks, hands, the floor, posters in shops. I look at anything that will not try to interact or talk to me. If I did talk to someone, I am sure I would say something dumb. But I also don’t have the energy to talk right now. I am tired, my mind is busy with nothing – just full of these thoughts I am typing here.
The wait is long, or at least seems long, and the longer I am there, the more lonely and estranged I begin to feel. Why am I so detached from society? Why can’t I interact? Am I really this shy? Is it just introversion? Look at all these people! They can do it … why can’t I?
See … it would be different if I just wanted to be alone … if I just didn’t feel like talking. But the truth is I am lonely. I don’t want to be alone here. I want to belong. I miss him. I miss her. I miss someone being close to me and close to my feelings. I would talk to that person if they were here … I would talk a lot.
The Barber calls out, “Next! Come inside please!” and I feel the strangers all look at me, as it is my turn to move to the seat inside the shop. I feel my face burn as I blush for no reason at all. People can see my face is red and I am sure they suspect I am up to something. I do worry I have missed someone who might have been before me, I worry someone will call out, “Hey! I was first!” … then even more attention will be on me. But no one objects and I slide into the safety of the small shop.
I quietly move onto the bench. I don’t make eye contact and I don’t even say “Hi” or “G’day” to the person I am sitting so close to. It is a common courtesy to do those things. It is polite. It is friendly. It is normal. I want to. I just can’t!
There are some old and loud Italian Barbers in this shop. Two guys in particular that always argue with each other as they cut hair and who also like to joke and jibe with every customer they serve. I even saw one of them storm out of the shop one day after the other swept hair across the floor to his area of work – they are kind of funny to watch and most people enjoy the ‘show’ – but I don’t want to be part of it. I fear they will say something to me and I won’t understand their accent. I fear they will make fun of me and I will blush and then have them make fun of that.
But there are other less excitable and quiet Barbers here and I quietly pray that one of them is free first. “Next!” is called. And my prayers are answered. It is the young guy who I have had before. He is definitely a kid that has had it tough growing up. He is thin and his skin looks older than his 20ish years. Today he is sporting the remains of a black eye. Clearly his life is still tough. He has his reasons and I have mine, but we are both just happy to get the job done in silence.
Him: “What do you want today?”
Me: “Gauge 3 side and back, plus shorten up the top.”
<Clippers and Cuts>
<Staring blankly at myself in the mirror>
<Moving my head as it is pushed around by his hand>
Him: “How is that?”
<Shows me the back of my head in a mirror>
Me: “All good. Cheers.”
Him: “Thank you. Have a good day.”
Me: “You too mate.”
I pay and leave (okay … I escape). Hoping my hair grows slowly and that it is a long time before I have to return again.
I want to fit in, but I don’t.
I want to connect, but I can’t.
I want to be normal, but I am not.
“And never have I felt so deeply at one and the same time so detached from myself and so present in the world.”
~ Albert Camus
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