Looks Can Be a Gamechanger for a Millennial
It’s summer time, the hair I shaved months ago is getting longer and I have two options. Wait until it grows, then get a proper haircut, or do what you did for months and just get it trimmed with a machine. Number 6 for the top and the sides will be number 1 as usual. I shouldn’t think about a haircut this hard, but a lot is at stake here. If I grow my hair and go to take a proper haircut, I will have to explain to my barber why I went somewhere else. For all the wait and money to be worth it, I will keep the long hair and go to the same barber for a while, which will cost me a lot. On the other hand if I keep it short, it looks bad. I will probably keep it short.
For all this to make sense, I will need to give some background. I was born and raised as an “Istanbuler”. However, unlike some people, I never lived in the richer regions of Istanbul. When I lived in Mimaroba (don’t bother Googling it there is nothing to see) I don’t even remember where I got my haircut. I was too young and my mind was free of the burden of choice. After my nuclear family moved into the smallest house we could find in Ataköy, I started going to a barber in Bakırköy (a much cheaper district). I remember how we talked about barbers in Ataköy being too expensive. It’s ironic, as I look back, I’m pretty sure it cost no more than 30 liras (~9$). I went to my barber in Bakırköy for years. I never saw the need to change it, until I was forced to. It turns my barber used the same shaving machine to cut the hair both in people’s heads, and their backs. I went to another barber in Bakırköy for a while, but change was near.
I didn’t know it back then, but all my troubles about haircuts began when I had to prepare for SBS, Turkey’s national exam to get into high schools. We moved to Etiler(a much more expensive district), so that I could go to dershane(to prepare for national exams) and school without wasting time, leaving my barber tens of kilometres away. It was time for change. My father had just tried a new barber and he was really content with his work. It did cost him 50 liras (~15$) which annoyed him a little, but it was better than driving to Bakırköy. There were no alternatives. So I tried the barber, and I loved it. It was a really small barber shop, but it was much fancier. The equipment shined as if I was in a dentist. He used many tools that I didn’t know existed and he acted as he was my subordinate, rather than my superior by age and knowledge. I tried a whole new haircut which I would keep for years. After he made his employee wash my head, that kid dried the insides of my ear with cotton. I could swear even the cotton was ten times smoother and softer than in other barbers.
Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. Spring of prep year at RC had arrived, and I had lost a bet to my father. It was time to shave my head. After 10 terrifying minutes I am reluctant to talk about, it was over. There was no sign of my majestic hair. I remember going to the school on Monday and how everyone reacted. One reaction I never forget is the one I got from Elvan, a friend of mine, who wasn’t a friend back then. This girl with whom I shared probably no more than 5 sentences, saw me, processed what she saw, and burst out laughing. When it’s a friend it’s easy to ignore. One’s friends do these on purpose. But when a stranger laughs in your face, it’s traumatic. I made up my mind, I would never let this happen to me ever again. So I waited for some time to let my hair grow and called my faithful barber Eren to get an appointment. He told me he now works near a guy called Adem Terzi, and now he cuts hairs for 90 liras. He told me he could cut mine for 70. I was down with it, 20 liras was nothing. It was my integrity at stake.
As I entered Adem Terzi’s barber’s shop for the first time, I knew this was going to be a whole new experience. This was Etiler, right here. It wasn’t the isolated edge of Etiler like Eren’s old shop where you could enjoy your haircut in silence. There was a swarm of people here. People that are trying to convince you to a manicure, people trying to offer you some tea, a boy coming and taking your coat, and another one escorting you to a couch, better than what I have at home, as you wait to get a haircut. There were many actors, businessman and athletes which I assumed were professional football players. All the hairdressers somehow acted both friendly and formal at the same time, and other employees were acting like servants. Up until that moment I always felt like an Ataköy child living in Etiler. But now, my home was Etiler, this was my life. Going to Adem Terzi marks the beginning of the time I finally felt like I belonged to where I live. I wanted to live this lifestyle, I was in love with it.
As months and years passed, I got to know my hairdresser better. I could see that he also loved his new life. I remember talking to him one day about his holiday. He told me how he went to Spain with many of his friends, some of which were his customers. I noticed one odd detail. Even though he went to the most expensive clubs and hotels, he took a separate flight with his mate. The airline he used was much cheaper. When I asked him why, he passed me off with a petty excuse. Over the years the barber raised its prices, and everything started to change.
As years passed, more things entered my life: fitness, more friends, going out on holidays etc. As more of these things came into my life, the less of an Etiler boy I became. Yes, I knew more about the district with each passing day, but when the end of 10th grade came, I was ever more apart from Etiler. In the beginning of tenth grade I joined a gym called Mac Fit. It was the most basic gym you could find and because I signed up before it was open, it cost me 15$ a month as long as I don’t cancel my subscription. It had no towels, no pool, no sauna; nothing. So when I went to the Mac in a mall called Kanyon (as a guest of a friend), I was baffled. That Mac was the Adem Terzi’s barber’s of gyms. It had every one of the things I’ve counted and more. It had rooms for sports I haven’t even heard before that day. (My father didn’t allow me to go there, which costed nearly 100$/month) That was the day I started to drift apart from Etiler.
After that day I started noticing details about my life that I hadn’t before. I realised how I ran out of money each week and had to borrow from my family or get it by mobbing my mother who can not allow me to go out without money. I had to act towards her motherly side every month. Then it hit me, I realised how less free I was as we were choosing a resort to stay in. I had to consider many factors about money which my friends didn’t.
One day I was contemplating the suffering of existence (like every teenager) and I received news of how Adem Terzi’s Barber shop had raised it prices even more. I had to pay twice the money I first paid there for the same haircut. It was aggravating. I decided to try a hairdresser my father went once. He didn’t like the haircut much so he never went there again. But he was a Pilot and I was a student so I figured I could be more accepting toward worse haircuts. I went to the described location and got shocked at what I saw.
The new barber was in Rumeli Hisarüstü. But it wasn’t in the “near Boğaziçi University-not that ugly” side of Rumeli Hisarüstü. This place was as cheap a barber’s shop could get. The whole place was the size of the coat hanging room and one man manicure room in Adem Terzi combined. It was a whole new experience. There were four places to cut hair and exactly four chairs to sit and wait for your turn. It was loud even though it didn’t have many people in it and there were no boys in tuxedos taking your coat. Nobody wore a suit. There wasn’t a hot young cashier to take your money or make you tip. Even though I looked around a lot I could see no lotions or shampoos developed by this hairdresser laying around. It was simple. You went in, got a haircut, paid your 13 liras and left. 13 liras. I could come here twice a week and would still pay less than my old hairdresser. As I was thinking about what hairstyle should I get and if the guy can pull it off, I decided to shave my hair. Feeling like a Buddhist monk trying to get rid of his possessions I was desperately trying to get rid of my hair. Fortunately, the hairdresser convinced me to keep my hair longer than that, but the idea was still the same.
For weeks I kept the same hair style. It was liberating. I didn’t try that hard about it anymore. It served as a metaphor showing me that this is also a way of life. How it never got messed up because it’s so short made realize if I have less, I have less to worry about. If I go to a cheap gym, I won’t worry about not going enough and wasting money. If I have less money, I will worry less about how to spend it since my options are limited. Of course this new lifestyle that came with the hair has its downs: I can’t experience the luxury I did at Adem Terzi, my hair isn’t that good, and I have to sit through the preachings of my hairdresser (his misogynistic ideas about hitting women and how he had no respect for what his son wanted to do for a living). However, for the first time in my life, I can go out with little to no money. It has allowed me to go with the flow and not think about what I am going to do.
After this temporary mindset, which probably won’t last this summer, I have a decision to make. I can keep pretending I’m rich and do my best to adapt to that lifestyle. I can abandon that lifestyle completely, but in the process lose contact with people who are educated and don’t joke about beating their wives. Perhaps I will take the middle road, be honest, do the best with what I have and live a better life only if I earn a better life.