Saturday, July 7, 2007

“Take it down?”

June 30
Accra, Ghana

That’s what the barber asked me once I was seated in his chair, covered in an apron with a length of toilet paper wrapped around my neck. Had only had one haircut in Africa, done by Trish, and that was more of a trim. My locks were getting poofy and always full of sweat, so I decided to get a true African cut.

His name was Prosper. Apprehension kicked in when he came at the top of my head with the electric clippers. I stopped him and asked if he had any scissors, but Prosper’s English wasn’t so hot. I hesitated. But then I thought what the hell, and told him to do whatever he thought best.

Prosper came a’shearing, first at the base of my neck. Maybe he’s going to ‘blend it’ like the barbers do back home, I thought. But when I felt the clippers working on the thinning spot at the peak of my melon I knew we were in for the shortest of short.

I shaved my own head once about five years ago but I didn’t do as good a job as Prosper. He got it all, he left nothing. ‘Take it down’ indeed. In the mirror I watched my head go naked. So did several Ghanaians hanging about the parlour, which was air-conditioned on a hot afternoon. I doubted they’d seen a white man get his hair cut like theirs before, down to stubble.

Then Prosper changed clippers and took some shorter ones to my face. I’d asked him at the outset if he could shave my two-day beard as well, but I expected some cream and a straight razor. Foolish me. He grated the clippers across my face and neck. They nicked my throat and the sight of my blood drained my humour in an instant. Blood-borne diseases like hepatitis and HIV are not epidemic in Ghana but they are common enough…

Prosper started heating some water in a kettle and I asked him what for. “To take down the rest,” he said, rubbing his own bald head to show me. I told him no thanks; my hair was short enough. Then I thanked him and paid 20,000 and got out of there, back to the heat of the day.

I wear a hat now. My coiffure is cooler than it was but my shorn cranium is like a white beacon glaring in the sun and I don’t want to get a burn or attract more stares than I already do. Hope Trish likes it. (G)

1 comment:

Janet said...

Other advantages to the shorn look: smaller chance of acquiring head lice, fewer minutes spent in front of the mirror, more blog fodder. I know of what I speak, indeed, I obtained a similar haircut on 'gay street' in Amsterdam. My insistence on short translated into "make me look like a sexy male clubber". Otherwise, I trust Africa continues to treat you well? Take care and mind the blood borne diseases! Janet