September 17, 2013

Victorian Barbershop

written by Rosa Morgan


 
Because of my spectacles I am often taken for being much older, but in truth, I turn eighteen today. To commemorate this rite of passage I am venturing to the barbershop. Up until now, my dear mother took shears to my head and there being no moustache to speak of and only peach fuzz upon my chin, I had no previous use of that establishment. But I am now clerking at Goslings & Sharp of Fleet Street and appearances are everything as I aspire to one day seek promotion.

And so with sweaty palms I entered the cigar smoke filled bastion of gentleman grooming and affected an air of experience and confidence whilst taking a seat on the bench to await my turn.
On the shelves were the customers' personal shaving cups each decorated with their name. There was a section entirely devoted to clientel who were Masons and I could only hope that one day I would have my own cup up on that shelf.
Nervously studying the diagrams of possible haircuts, I felt the other chaps' eyes upon me and when one asked my occupation, my voice broke as I declared my newfound position. This was a respected establishment and I knew they accepted no customers lower than a baker, but my answer seemed to be accepted without any qualms. When I was finally asked to take a chair, my heart skipped a beat and I slid giddily on the hair clippings littering the tiled floor.
With an abruptness I had not expected, my collar was ripped off, a starched sheet draped over me and my body flung backwards. A steaming towel infused with witch hazel was wrapped around my jaw and then as if examing the contours of my face,

he chose a brush from his collection, dipped it into a bowl of bubbling water and whilst pinching my nose sharply, lathered my face with the hot soapy mixture.

With almost diabolical gusto he ran the blade a few times along the pigskin strop then brought it up to my extended neck. I feared how he would navigate my Adam's Apple without making me a permanent falsetto, but my trepidation was for naught for like an artist with his paintbrush, the barber deftly manipulated his tool throughout an incessant chatter.
"Lilac water, sir?" he asked when he had finished
I nodded and felt a tingling, slightly burning sensation of the fragrant tonic. I handed him the two pence payment, nodded to the other gentlemen, and sauntered out, ready to take on the world.




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