haircut theory

In an Internet already lousy with unsolicited life advice, here’s mine: Pick a hair salon that’s far away.

Resist the obvious pick of the closest salon to you, the one on the block you go up and down a trillion times a week, because how will that possibly save you?

No, pick one that’s in a neighborhood you like but never go to, preferably one that’s on a bus line you rarely take.

When you schedule your appointments, leave plenty of time before and after to get in trouble. Haircut hours? Pfft, you’re making it a full-fledged haircut day. This is where a surprising amount of your life will happen.

You’ll likely visit on the order of every 4–8 weeks.
4 weeks is what my friend Matthew does. He stops every time at the bookstore a block down and buys a new book. His rule is he must finish it by the time he next needs a haircut. I like the logic of this cycle: hair, knowledge, and curiosity growing out in concert.

I do every 8 weeks, and I too have a bookstore stop. 8 weeks is enough time for all of the trendy books of the season to have rotated out. I make sure to always give myself time to run my fingers up and down the spines, though I don’t always get anything. I’m not sure how long I’ll live here, and books are so hard to part with.

I visit the farmer’s market every time — it’s the best way I can find to mark the passing of seasons in a city that barely has any. Last haircut, pluots were the exuberant stars. Fruit branding has gotten astonishingly brazen: names like Ice Cream pluots, Honey Punch, Flavor Grenade. I try one of each each: I love nothing better than a food that sounds like a dare. I bought some to eat on the spot and stuck the one leftover in my bag, then on my kitchen counter, and forgot about it till this morning, when I finally found the source of our fruit flies. I bit into it — a moment of deflation and then a burst of summer syrup. Some fretting over how to share the taste with absolutely every person I love.

I often get a croissant from the award-winning bakery nearby. Here’s how I figure it: 6 croissants a year never killed anyone, though 0 a year well might. If I still have space (yes, always), I get dim sum and tease my parents about how, in the time it takes me to eat my har gow, I briefly become somehow more Chinese than they are.

The very last stop on my loop is always the coffeeshop. They charge for wifi ($2/hour). Combined with my frugality, this guarantees some unplugged thinking time. I plop down with a journal and the day’s acquisitions (books, fruit). I have an urgent need to be better about acknowledging the progress I make instead of perpetually, impatiently charging forward. This is one of the few places where I can reliably do that. There’s space and sun enough for me to measure and wonder at how I’ve grown.

I never, ever leave the coffeeshop and end a haircut day until I’m good and ready.


So, that’s the template of my haircut days.
You can copy it exactly or substitute in all of your specific things, the teeny luxuries you love and yet never allot time for.

How indescribably nice, how buttressed you’ll feel, knowing that you have these recurring patches of reflection and respite blocked off.
The ultimate genius of having haircut days is that the next one is never so far away.