I know you've been waiting for this one, you heartless birthday party haters!
So, my boys usually get their hair cut by a grandfatherly neighbor of ours who works in a barber shop, the real old-fashioned kind with the pole outside and the photos of the Twin Towers on the wall and the containers of Barbicide, or whatever that potion is called that sanitizes the combs. It's very quiet there except for the snip, snip of the scissors and the occasional banter from the Italian regulars. He does a fine job and he charges about 15 bucks for both boys. Then they get their lollies and we go home in a sticky, happy stupor.
It had been a few weeks since we'd been to see our old pal for a haircut, and unfortunately he is open only on Saturdays on the weekends. Our boys badly needed a hair adjustment, but it was a Sunday.
"No problem!" said I. "There is a place in Larchmont Village called SHARKEY'S. It's all about 'cuts for kids.' Let's go there and get the haircuts over with." I felt disloyal trying out Sharkey's, but figured it was a one-time deal anyway.
So we walked into Sharkey's. First of all, the place was a melee (aha!) of noise and visual stimuli. Televisions blared at every haircut station and music pounded ominously from a back "party room." (Who has a birthday party at a hairdresser?)
To add to the disturbing quality of the place, a child in a wheelchair who was there getting her hair cut was barking and groaning in a horrible, nerve-rending fashion. With every guttural scream, her parents would say hopefully: "Ice cream? You want ice cream? Yes, sweetie, you WILL get your ice cream. Now be a good girl." My boys' eyes got big and round as she flailed and howled, and while I'd like to say it was a good exposure for them to the diversity of life it really just wasn't.
While we waited for our haircuts the party guests started to arrive. They were all tiny JonBenet Ramsays of about the age of six, with their twank moms traipsing behind them. (Twink + skank = twank. Yeah, I just coined it. Use it and pay me royalties.) The moms were all unbearably cheesy and wore too much makeup and pranced about in their high heels. The baby slagmounts went into the back room for what I determined from a menu of options at the counter was a "glamour girl birthday party." They were to get hair treatments, dress up in tawdry fashions, and get mini-cures (awww...that's manicures for wiwwy widdle guwls!) "Be a princess for a day!" gushed the flyer at the front desk.
We heard the pulse of disco music, which always scares me in connection with birthday parties. I now have a Pavlovian reaction of terrible fear. I fought my flight impulse and decided I would venture to the back room under pretext of using the bathroom. On the way, I saw one of the twank moms collaring her young JonBenet, who had had the audacity to have paid for a creepy mechanical ride that was like a mini ferris wheel, taking her around and around and no doubt about to strangle her by her feather boa a la Isadora Duncan. (Who has a birthday party at a hairdresser that has a crusty-looking "ride" in the back room?)
"Jordan Taylor!" she shrilled. "They are about to have the fashion show and take the photos and you are going to MISS IT. Get in there RIGHT NOW, young lady!"
In the back room, the little girls were prancing about on a stage with lights blazing. A bunch of sundamaged and over-jeweled grannies were oohing and aahing appreciatively, while the moms applauded and snapped photos. All the girls looked like they were auditioning for the role of Wonder Slut 2008. I tried not to stare as I darted into the bathroom.
One girl who was evidently younger than the rest--she looked about four--refused to take part in the shenanigans. Her exasperated mother dragged her out while talking a mile a minute on her cell phone: "She won't do ANYTHING. She won't dress up, she won't get her hair done. We're just going to LEAVE. Well, what do YOU suggest I do?!"
I thought of offering a suggestion, but I still have to live in this town. Although I'm sure that most of these moms were bussed in from a friendly little place down the line called HELL. They sure didn't look like local moms.
Meanwhile, the boys had been patiently succumbing to their haircuts--the stylist was actually quite friendly. They sat in a chair built like a big jeep and zoned out to Elmo's World while the music from the back room blasted. In addition to the candy-colored experience of the chairs, the TVs, and the decor, the store was absolutely filled from floor to ceiling with things for sale. Puzzles, toys, gadgets, hair goop, hair sprays, jewelry, headbands, nail polish, rubber animals, feather boas. Just navigating through the place was an exhausting experience, and I'm sure worse for mothers whose wee slagmounts tug on their arms and beg for mom to buy them STUFF.
In the end, the boys' haircuts cost $56, including a tip.