The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 14, No. 1

The Salon

by Jonathan Lethem

The time I feel most like a spy is sitting in the hairdresser’s chair. I can’t be certain why that should be—perhaps because it is a place where I both lie about myself and watch others carefully through mirrors. The reason for my prevarications is the same reason I submit myself impulsively and too often to the shears: there is an unbearable degree of intimacy in a haircut, which for me is a kind of guilty secret. I create oversimplifications or whole diversions, falsify my career (which is in fact nonexistent), declare travel plans I never mean to enact. The talk between a stylist or barber and a client is always so insouciantly familiar that my response is to shroud myself within a cover story, to reserve something of myself for myself. This also probably explains my tendency to vanish after a year or two as a given hairdresser’s client, then to forever avoid returning. I’m a serial monogamist of the salon, faithful before I flee.

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