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What is often regarded as an ordinary occurrence, or part of everyday life, can sometimes be a life-changing moment for the person experiencing it – especially for the first time.
I had my fair share of those moments as a young boy on the West Rand.
The other day, having my hair cut, I was reminded about my first visit to a unisex hair salon.
Back in those days, unisex was a very new and liberal concept. For the conservatives, the mere thought of men and women having themselves groomed in the same room, by the same people and at the same time, was regarded as something straight from Sodom and Gomorrah.
It was a sign of ever-increasing moral decay, others said, pronouncing that the end was near.
For my mother, however, it was a sign that liberation and emancipation was gaining traction and she embraced this.
So I had my hair washed before a cut for the first time.
The barbers back then just used a spray bottle to moisten a man’s head before the standard short-back-and-sides.
But at the unisex salon, the boys got the same treatment as the girls – with the emphasis for me on treat.
I was in heaven. The hot water, the smell of the shampoo, the gentle massaging of my scalp, it was all just so good, even I was wondering if it wasn’t illegal or perhaps immoral.
And when I was given an endless list of style options to choose from, I knew exactly what it felt like being rich and famous.
Fast-forward a lifetime and I’m back at the barber last week. Next to me is a young boy.
The barber wraps him, sprays his hair and starts the electric clippers. Next moment, the bell tinkles as the door opens and in steps a woman.
She has her eyebrows plucked while I’m having my beard shaved. She opts to have her nose waxed while I’m basking under boiling hot towels.
At the same time, the boy next to me is transformed into a pop idol, the barber using his tools with the precision of a plastic surgeon.
Turns out this unisex idea has caught on.