Just a Little Small Talk at The Salon

I think I’m the most emotionally and socially vulnerable while getting a haircut. Why do they make me wear a gown? Moments after sitting down, I already look ridiculous. My stylist always does some kind of diagnostic fluffing that leaves me looking like I lost a pillow fight. Then comes the washing and drying, which never seem to be followed by any combing, brushing or even patting-down. I’m left to scoot back to my chair missing only an IV stand to complete my mental patient on dialysis look. I’m constantly peering out the window to ensure that no one I know sees me because I can’t afford to move across the country right now.

Then the real awkwardness starts. This was a new stylist; my wife’s stylist. What the hell do I talk about with this person? She’s nice, and friendly and interesting. She even has red hair and a sleeve of tattoos, but I have a pathological aversion to small talk which usually causes me to steer conversations toward something dramatic, and often borderline inappropriate.

After a brief chat about why my wife recommended her (she’s adamant that my hair be texturized), I broke a moment of silence by asking, “So, what do you know about this bath salts thing?” To which she responded, “Oh, I’m familiar with bath salts.” She wasn’t quite understanding what I meant. “Right, but I mean the kind that people smoke. I think they’re amphetamines or something. The dude who ate that guy’s face was high on bath salts.”

Let me restate what I said to the woman holding scissors whom I’ve never met: “Hi, now that we’re done talking about my wife and how she thinks you should cut my hair, can we spend a few minutes discussing current events? How about the guy who smoked bath salts and ate another man’s face under a highway overpass for eighteen minutes?”

The question sort of hovered there, thickly, as I quietly calculated the degree to which I just sounded like an over-eager serial killer in training. Luckily, my hair artist was willing to travel with me down this strange path. She’d heard about the face eating, but wasn’t acquainted with the whole bath salt thing, so she called over some of the younger employees to unravel the mysteries of this urban trend. Three women joined us and I found myself sitting, mid-haircut, surrounded by four ladies trading bits of intel on smokeable bath salts. So, of course, my brain told me, “Hey, Jason, while you have them here, don’t forget to talk about the face eating some more.”

I told the women that I thought the story might be sensationalized. “Eat,” I said, “insinuates that the flesh was actually swallowed, and I kind of find that hard to believe.” Three of them nodded in agreement while another chuckled. “I mean, is the story even half as good if he just bit the guy’s face?” I asked. “Even chewed is way less interesting. I think I need to know if he swallowed the guy’s face. If he didn’t, I need them to retract that headline.”

Though possibly frightened, they were totally with me. My stylist and I delved a bit deeper into the specifics of how this might have happened. “Was the man tied down?” She wondered. “Eighteen minutes is a long time to have your face eaten. Wouldn’t he run away?” All fantastic questions.  One by one, the other women drifted away, until finally, it was just Kim and me discussing the finer points of cannibalism and the local availability of “bath salts.”

I’ll be back in 6 weeks for another great haircut and zero small talk.

I'm a contributing writer to Parents Magazine, GQ, Psychology Today and some others. My book, "This is Ridiculous. This is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists" is available here http://bit.ly/1exfm34. Look for two more books in 2015: "Must. Push. Buttons (Bloomsbury Kids), and an as-of-yet untitled memoir I’ve appeared on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham” and “Nick Mom’s Night Out." I live in New Jersey with my wife and two sons and enjoy making them laugh more than anyone else.

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