First, I can't buy presents. I don't get the whole idea. You have shoes. You have a sturdy coat. What's the problem? The first few times I gave out gifts I went with useful. Steel-toed boots. Pepper spray. Bolt cutters. Waterproof matches, a flashlight that doubles as a club, a duffel bag. I'd be happy to get any of these, but for some reason the rest of the world saw them as weird. Though I had the best intentions I always got dirty looks, or even worse if they were opened at the wedding.
Second, nobody taught me how to make friends. On my first day at grade school, all the other kids were introducing themselves and chatting and bonding. "Hi, my name is Roman," I should have said. "That's an attractive shirt. Shall we meet at recess for a juice-box?" Whenever anybody approached me, though, the wolf came running out. "Do you have food?" I'd ask. "I have two dollars. Do you know if it's safe to travel north?"
The most obvious side effect, though, is my cheapness. I'd think twice about paying $12 to get my hair cut, and the going rate in New York is $45. Forty-five dollars. I wouldn't pay that for a dozen condoms, and nobody wants to touch my hair.
Which is how I found myself in the chair of a yet another trainee hairstylist yesterday afternoon. They're easy to find online: the hard part is making sure they've picked up scissors before. Unfortunately, Craigslist doesn't filter out people who wake up one morning and think, "Hey, I want to randomly cut somebody's hair at least once in my life." Take my word for it: they exist.
I didn't get the best vibes from this woman. She had a pierced nose and pink streaks in her hair that screamed "Short Attention Span." I pictured her making two or three snips before texting a friend, "I'm bored again. Why don't we screenprint t-shirts and pierce our labias tonight?"
"When did you last get your hair cut?" she asked as she ran her fingers through my straggly brown locks.
"Just last month," I said. I told her about my last free cut, at a hipster barbershop. It was decorated like a gold rush saloon, and the stylists wore vests with watch fobs and their mustaches were twirled up at the ends. I watched from the waiting room and the cuts were uniformly dreadful. They were all clippered short on the sides and longer on top, which leaves every third customer looking like he's got a giant lightbulb atop his neck. I tried to sneak out before the stylist got to me, but he beat me to the door.
"I knew it was going to be terrible," I said. "I told him to leave it long so if it was really bad I could have it fixed."
"Yeah, it's not great," she said. "What kind of cut do you want?"
I looked at her. She looked at me. "Maybe leave it long," I said.