Refusing Service: The Latest Is a Barbershop

We all know about county clerks refusing to issue marriages licenses to gay and lesbian couples. And bakers and photographers refusing to provide their services at same sex weddings.

The latest is a barber refusing to cut a woman’s hair. But unlike discrimination against lesbians and gay men, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes gender discrimination unambiguous: he broke the law and it cost him $750.

Barbiere is a “gentleman’s barber shop.” Which is fine. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of going to the barbershop with my father or grandfather. In kindergarten, all the other boys wanted to be a policeman, a fireman, or an astronaut. I said I wanted to be a barber when I grew up. The teacher thought that was awesome.

At a barbershop, you just walk in. No appointment. Yes, there’s often a wait. But the point is men shootin’ the shit with other men. Which is nothing against women. The conversations usually revolve around sports, the news, cars, hunting, fishing, work, and gossip. Guy stuff (except for the gossip).

In college I used to go to Joe’s Barber Shop. It’s nice to walk into a place, say “Hi, Joe,” and hear, “How are you, son?” (He wasn’t my father, it’s just a manner of speaking.)

At a barbershop, instructions vary from nothing (regular customer, same haircut for the past 20 years) to, “Off the ears,” or “A little off the top,” to something more specific such as “Flatop” or “Buzz cut.” Greater detail is typically unnecessary.

You can also get a shave with a straight razor, but that’s rare. My dad told me that once in the Philippines (he was in the Navy at the time) he got a shave from a barber with a straight razor. My dad said, “He didn’t nick me even once, and did such a great job that I didn’t have to shave again for two fuckin’ days.”

My mother told me that once in the late ’60s she was in a hurry and went to a barbershop because she didn’t have time to make an appointment with the beautician. And she regretted it. Apparently, the haircut she got caused some confusion about her sexual orientation.

Who knows why a woman sought a haircut at Barbiere. Maybe she likes short dos, and cosmetologists just can’t do it right. Maybe she likes talking football while waiting for her turn in the chair. Perhaps she wanted to smash the patriarchy and thought haircuts was a good place to start.

But let’s look at this rationally. Discrimination is wrong. Besides, it’s not often that a woman will walk into a barbershop, so statistically speaking a man can expect an all male environment almost always. And some women get along better with men than they do with other women. Maybe she doesn’t mind androcentric conversation. Maybe she can talk cars and football with the best of them, and tell a few dirty jokes to boot.

But if she’s can’t deal with mantalk, guaranteed she won’t be a repeat customer.


Black Mass: A Sort of Movie Review (Kinda)

Johnny Depp is a great actor. Though I think Harrison Ford is an awesome guy too, pretty much he plays the same character is every movie. Stoic. Taciturn. Self-interested. But Johnny Depp plays a wide range of characters.

In Black Mass, Depp is Boston gangster Whitey Bulger. Though a Kentucky native, Depp nails the Southie accent. This matters to me as a Mainer because Hollywood usually gets the Maine accent very wrong, and they’re not much more skilled with Boston.

Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Whitey’s brother Billy, does a decent job with the Southie accent too, especially considering that Cumberbatch is British. Oddly, I thought Julianne Nicholson’s accent sounded fake, even though it turns out that she’s from Medford, north of Boston.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Black Mass is a great movie that I really enjoyed. I know, it’s not Goodfellas, but it’s not trying to be.

Of everything I could say about Black Mass, I want to focus on Billy Bulger. The movie’s not about him. His brother, Whitey, was the mobster. But to be a mobster takes not only brutality, but also intelligence. Billy was as brilliant as his brother, but he chose Boston College over organized crime. A Massachusetts state senator, and later president of the University of Massachusetts system, his career ended when it was revealed that he had a phone conversation with Whitey, who was on the lam at the time.

Obviously, I don’t know Billy personally. But the movie portrays him as an honest man who loved his brother, despite Whitey being a murderer.

Should Billy have turned his back on Whitey? I’m not entitled to answer that question. Only Billy is.

But I do respect what a tough choice that is, and I have no judgment of Billy for risking his career to talk with his brother. And Billy did apologize for the pain Whitey caused the families of his victims. But let’s not forget that Billy was put into an untenable situation not of his choosing. I respect his dilemma and tough choices, and I couldn’t have handled it any better (probably worse).