This Is Us

I Miss My Barber

It took me 25 years to get the cut I wanted. Maybe one day I’ll get it again.

Jay Ludlow Martin
Human Parts
Published in
4 min readMay 14, 2020

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Maksym Zakhariuk/Getty Images

The first time I walked into a barbershop was like a first kiss. I was nervous, but thrilled. I felt square trying to be smooth; self-conscious, giddy with anticipation. I was also 25.

When I was nine, I drew the haircut I wanted on a Post-it note and brought it with me to the hairdresser. I was not very good at drawing, so I labeled the sides “shaved” and the top “long.” If you know what Jonathan Taylor Thomas or Devon Sawa looked like in the ’90s, then you know what I was shooting for — super hot. I was in search of a mushroom, but I always walked out with a bob. A lot of bobs have been forced upon me — almost always by strangers or those who did not know me well — yet none successfully remain. My hair, like the rest of my body, will not conform.

Hair is essential to queerness and it always has been, but I don’t want to type out the history. Anyway, right now, “essential” means something entirely different. When my wife offered to cut my hair with the hypercolored clippers I bought online, she asked if I’d be mad if she messed up.

“No,” I said. “It’s only hair. It’s not life or death.”

Sometimes, I get tired of having to provide context for everything I do to the outside heteronormative world. I just want to speak without translating. I want to share without couching. I want to talk and act like a protagonist, a mane character. Let’s see if I can.

Whenever a Friday afternoon rolls around, I think about my old routine — my walk to the barbershop, on hold, maybe forever.

As I walk from the East Village to the Lower East Side, it is always a sunny day. I like the way the sky opens up on Houston Street — there’s so much more sky downtown.

If you know what Jonathan Taylor Thomas or Devon Sawa looked like in the ’90s, then you know what I was shooting for — super hot.

The walk is my walk. It belongs to me the way all of New York City belongs to all of us — only as a construction of specifics in our minds. It’s like owning the ocean: You…

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Jay Ludlow Martin
Human Parts

Editor of Human Parts. Writer based in Manhattan. Gay Trans Pizza. Author: Death by Nostalgia (2018) and my own misfortune.