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  • Writer's pictureNora Studholme

My Haircut with Enzo

Before setting out for our closest salon, I practiced a few key haircut vocabulary words. “Hai un appuntamento?”, “tagliare” (cut), “solo piccolo” (just a trim). Paul had gone to this hair salon a few weeks ago, and my hair was getting pretty desperately in need of a little freshening up at the ends. He told me about his haircutter, Enzo, who was from Napoli, energetic, seemed to give a good cut, not too expensive.

Enzo is sitting at the front desk when I buzz the door. He looks like he’s recently shaved his head, and is sporting a trimmed white beard and glasses. He responds to my request about an appointment “adesso” (now) with a shrug and a wave, beckoning me back to the hair washing station. He doesn’t say much — except to ask what I wanted. “Just a little trim,” I say in my practiced Italian. After a thorough scrubbing (Enzo seems to have only two speeds, and one of them is all in), he brings me back to the chair and combs out my hair. I notice that he’s using his whole body to comb, bending at the waist to pull the comb dramatically down. At first I wonder if he’s trying to make me laugh but his face is very serious.

Before I continue, I think I should tell you that this story ends with me paying $50 (very much too expensive) for the worst haircut of my life.

OK, where were we? Right, Enzo is using his whole body to brush my hair. He stops suddenly and asks in Italian, “Where are you from?” I tell him I’m from America. I explain that he cuts Paul’s hair but Enzo seems to have no memory of this. Trying a new angle, I ask where he’s from.

“Africa,” he replies and then laughs so hard that his knees bend almost all the way to the floor. Just as suddenly, he straightens up with a serious face and keeps combing my hair as if I hadn’t asked him anything at all.

He whips a cape around me with a flourish. I think he’s trying to make me smile, so I do. When he parts my hair down the middle, I point out that I normally part it on the side. He shrugs. “Multi purpose,” he says in English. This should have been my first cue. A couple of days ago in Paris, we were chatting with a lovely couple we befriended. The woman was from Australia originally but had lived in Paris for 10 years. She was laughing about haircuts. “The thing about hairdressers here,” she said, “Is that they are so proud. Like everyone here. Proud of what they do. So when you go in and ask for something, they don’t listen, because they know best how your hair should be cut.” She shakes her head. “I’ve had some really terrible haircuts because of that. I just cut it myself now.”

I’m thinking this as Enzo begins to chop wildly at my hair. He has, for some reason, combed it over my face and pushed my head so that I’m looking down. I can see, therefore, the large chunks of hair that are falling ragged onto my chest. Before he started cutting he’d confirmed with me, in the way hairdressers do, pointing out how much he’d cut off. About half an inch, maybe one. “Perfetto,” I’d said.

But now, my head hanging in preemptive shame, I watch as ragged three-inch curves of wet hair splat onto my chest and shoulders. I think about lifting my head to ask him to stop, but there is already a small pile gathering, and I know that half a head of hacked off hair probably looks worse than a full one.

His friend had come into the shop now and they were talking in animated Italian. Enzo flung his arms wildly as he talked, in the Neapolitan way, pausing sometimes to do that laugh where his knees brought him to the brink of toppling. When he pulled my head up again, I could see that my hair was strewn about me in a three-foot radius, flung from the energy of his gesticulating, ever-snipping hands.

When he pushed my head down and combed the hair over it again, I was grateful — It hid my resigned laughter that I could not keep inside any longer. “Thank god,” I thought, “Thank god I am a writer. Otherwise this would be a disaster.”

I know a picture is worth 1000 words, but I can’t bear to show you yet. In the meantime, here are some words that capture my new look: Think 70’s shoulder-length shag meets face framing mullet. That should give you a good mental picture.

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