From My Old Barbershops: Two As-Yet-Untold Stories about Relationships

Through the years I’ve written several blog posts on my experiences at various barbershops throughout my life. Rather than repeat any of that content, I’ll just put the links to those posts below. But this post will be about two shop stories I’ve never shared before.

Never Knowing: Should I Have Told?

In my 2021 post, I Had Never Been Ghosted Before, I briefly mentioned one of my all-time favorite stylists: Sarah, now deceased in the prime of her life. Sarah cut my hair for years and years when I lived in Atlanta. I really adored her. She was sweet, kind, hard working, and had a heart of gold. I was frequently the only client in the salon when she cut my hair, and we just talked and talked.

One of the conversations she would bring up often in the last couple of years she cut my hair was her younger brother. She was very troubled by him. Through a twisted and unexpected turn of connections, she learned that her brother had 2 Facebook accounts: the one he shared with the family but to which he rarely posted, and a secret one about his secret life – an account to which he frequently posted.

Unknown, but not…

Her brother, whom I never met, was gay, and his secret Facebook page was his main Facebook presence in which he had many gay friends and chronicled the details of his life in Atlanta. What bothered Sarah so much was that he never came out to her. He had no idea she knew anything about this Facebook page. She said he would be terrified of their parents finding out he was gay.

She always had thought they were very close, and she loved him dearly. When she learned that he was gay, she wanted to be able to tell him that didn’t matter to her at all, that she loved him no matter what and would keep his sexual orientation to herself. She wanted to be able to hang out with him and his friends and anyone special in his life. But she didn’t want him to worry their parents would find out. She didn’t know if she should bring this up to him or not.

She never did. She would frequently ask my advice and share with me her latest thoughts and efforts to let him know she loved him and always would. She was so torn about what to do. Should she just tell him she knew? Again, she never did.

Sarah died suddenly. Unexpectedly. An unknown brain aneurism. At such a young age. Her younger brother never knew she knew he is gay. Her brother never knew she would have loved him no matter what. She went to her grave with his secret, and he never knew that.

I always thought this was profoundly sad. He will never know. I could have gone to her memorial service, figured out who he was and told him. I didn’t know if I should. I didn’t.

‘Till Death Do Us Part

In my 2010 post: The Tonsorial Parlor I mention Dale, the shop owner. Dale had moved to LA back in the 1960’s because he wanted to be an actor. His brother, a gay young man at the time, had already left their midwestern hometown to get away from the insufferable intolerance. He talked Dale into moving out to LA with him and starting a barbershop. This gave Dale the opportunity to try to get into acting while having a steady income. The Tonsorial Parlor was born.

Dale managed to be in a few movies through the years – minor roles. He occasionally did stage/theater work. But his primary source of income was cutting hair with his brother at their shop. His brother, whose name I do not remember, was considerably older. I’ll call him John.

Perhaps my story happened during my very last haircut at the salon before Steve and I left Manhattan Beach and moved to Sausalito. At any rate, this unfolded during one of my very last visits at the Tonsorial Parlor…

John had a client wheeled into the shop by her caregiver. She was profoundly old, exceptionally frail, and at this point in her life very tiny. The two of them parked her chair next to John’s styling chair, and John (a big, strong, tall man) gently and carefully lifted his fragile client out of her wheelchair and placed her in his styling chair. He then had to raise the chair as high as it would go to reach her head without stooping over.

This elderly woman had been one of his clients for many decades. In fact, if I recall correctly, she was one of his first clients from when they opened the shop in the 1960s. She adored her stylist. You could see it in her face. This was her great big outing every month. She sat in his chair as they chatted constantly though he had to bend down to hear her as even her voice was frail. She just beamed, head held high.

I rarely saw John working in the Tonsorial Parlor. I asked Dale if I just happened to always be in on his day off. He told me, “No. My brother just isn’t taking any new clients. He only cuts the hair of the clients he’s had for a very long time, and this is one of… well, probably his oldest.” We were in a totally separate area of the salon, but Dale then leaned forward and whispered to me, “He’s down to just a few now, and when they die off, he will retire.”

Watching this unfold was such a production, I asked Dale about it – hence everything he told me here in this post. I noticed today, over 10 years later, that the Tonsorial Parlor is still in business there in El Segundo, and Dale is still cutting hair. But his brother is no longer listed as one of the stylists at the parlor. I take that to mean he has retired, with all that that means, and Dale remains working at their business.

Funny. He told me back then he was ready to retire himself – any day now.