Guest Blog from Ben: A “Canadian” in Irkutsk

March 21, 2012

This week our friend Ben has contributed a guest post about getting a haircut in Irkutsk. Enjoy the great story. Thanks Ben!


The place looked pretty harmless from the outside, just a typical Soviet-era concrete one-story building, only painted pink. Sliding gate on the outside, in case anyone wants to rob…a barbershop. After the first door you had two choices: the “men’s side” or the “women’s side”–somewhat like in prisons, I’d imagine. I entered the small men’s salon where two women were standing giving some old guys cuts. The middle chair was free. After standing and looking at myself dumbly in the central mirror for a couple minutes, one of the ladies standing sighed and called tiredly, “Natasha!” into a side room where I could see one lady texting and the other looking at the calculator in her hand. “What do you want?” Natasha asked me.

In Siberia, there are three cuts: “Simple,” “Canadian,” and “Stylish.” Risking the stylish but not wanting to look like a Gulag prisoner, I said, “The Canadian, but not too short, please.” “Come again?” she answered. “But not too short,” I repeated. No answer. Taking a look at my curly head as if it had committed some crime, she grabbed the largest shears out of the disinfecting liquid, which was probably just water. (I should note that only about 0.1 percent of Russians have curly hair, and they are usually Romanian, Latvian, Jewish or in other ways ostracized or come from another at one time marginalized ethnic group.)

After only about a minute of attacking my head, she said angrily, pushing my skull to the left, “hold your head stronger” as if I were a statue that came to life and needed to be put back into my molding. Between bouts of removing enormous chunks of my head, she would zero in on an area as if trying to annihilate all life there. Then came the ears. Most hair-cutters in the free world will delicately snip and buzz around these parts, but Natasha approached my head with the belief that my auditory organs had somehow been placed on the wrong part of my head, or should not be there at all. She sighed and I just about ducked to avoid her lopping off the top half of my right ear. She then brought my head back to with the force of a USSR weight-lifter. It serves to be noted that Russia invented the kettle-bell.

“Straight?” she said. Tempted to say, “Why yes, I am,” I replied, “yes, please,” with reference to my sideburns. She had already begun buzzing. When I looked up to see that I still had bangs hanging down awkwardly at the front, I asked calmly if she could make the cut shorter in the front. “I am not done cutting your hair,” she answered (though with a one-syllable word added here for emphasis. Let’s translated it as “damn it”).

After fulfilling my wish to get rid of those childish bangs all Russian boys under 20 wear, she came to the realization that the shearing was a failure. I could tell from her facial expression hanging in the mirror above me that we would have both been better off had I not even bothered coming in today.

Needless to say, worse 6 dollar haircut ever. This tragedy was reaffirmed by my female track coach, who after asking me what happened, recommended me to a friend of hers, “so that you don’t have to walk around looking like this.” I guess the name is a misnomer then; there aren’t many Canadians in Siberia, but I’m willing to guess that not one of them looks good sporting a Canadian.


One Response to “Guest Blog from Ben: A “Canadian” in Irkutsk”

  1. sarahinthegoldencircle said

    Sounds like one of those things you look back and laugh about…. We seem to have a lot of those here! Funny experience and fantastic post, Ben–thanks for joining us for this!

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