I’ve finally reached that age – when I look in the mirror and start seeing a few gray hairs. It’s an inevitable indicator of my disappearing youth, but just as I was getting used to it, something unsettling happened when I went to the barber shop for my regular haircut.
I usually enjoy getting haircuts. The barber places the black cape over my shoulders, and then wraps a band of what looks like white tissue paper around my neck. After the cape is fastened, this makes me look a little bit like a priest. At this point, I usually look in the mirror – to see if I look convincing as a man of the cloth, and then wonder whether it would be possible to be a priest and still retain my irreverent sense of humour. During these moments, I’m often tempted to raise both my arms in the air, like the Pope does when he’s blessing a crowd – but unfortunately those capes don’t have any sleeves, and it would take a long time to explain all of this to my barber.
My life-changing barber shop appointment started just the rest, until the clumps of hair started falling onto the cape. They’re usually barely visible against the black fabric, but this time, there they were… those short gray strands. Most people would simply look at them and think “Yep, the gray hairs have started coming in”… but not I. I had a decidedly more visceral experience. To say that they were merely gray would be an understatement; these fibres appeared whiter than white. In fact, against the jet black fabric, they appeared to be almost luminescent! These gray hairs were a shining beacon, signaling my own mortality – a sign that this was now the beginning of the end. I’ve heard that people who have a near-death experience often feel as though they are travelling through a dark tunnel with a bright light at one end. Well, the symbolism here seemed obvious: the black cape was my own dark tunnel, and these few brilliant white strands of hair were the light off in the distance… representing the end of my journey.
As I sat in the chair, contemplating my mortality, I wondered why barbers’ capes are always black. This is fine if you’re young, but can be disconcerting when you’ve reached middle-age. When I got home, I did a little searching and discovered that barbers’ capes do come in white!
Therefore, I’d like to make a suggestion to all of the barbers and hair stylists: You work hard to make us look good and feel good about ourselves, so please – I beg you – buy some white capes, and use them on your middle-aged customers or on those who are starting to get gray hair. White capes will highlight our remaining dark hairs, as a reminder of our enduring (if fading) youth, and that’s much better (and less stressful) than a black cape that will highlight a symbol of our advancing age.