A Tale Of Charades And Dull Razors

In Stories, Vietnam by Nick6 Comments

This morning I hated the monster staring back at me in the mirror. Can anything match the self-loathing of realizing it’s been almost a month since your last haircut?

I didn’t think so. Scraggly hair is worse than meeting your first girlfriend’s parents in high school.

The worst part about realizing your hair looks like shit is actually cutting it. I know back in the west we all have private drivers or helicopters to take us to the barber, but here in Saigon I have to walk or drive myself.

Showing up at the barber with sweaty hair is like going to the dentist with pepperoni pizza packed in your molars.

But it’s unavoidable.

My barber’s cramped little shack is stuffed waaayyyy back in a connecting alley between my street and another main road. He’s got enough room for 3 chairs and standing room for one person to awkwardly wait their turn.

You probably know that my vocabulary is extremely limited outside of eating food. Shit, I just realized I don’t know how to tell time yet.

Anyway, describing which hairs to remove, shorten or leave alone is a chore. I just point at pictures on my phone and hope he gets it right.

And he does. But today I was feeling dangerous. And trusting. Today I asked him to give me a shave, too.

I used a double-edged safety razor at home. No shaving cream, just water. I rarely cut myself. But I’ve always wanted an old school shave with a straight razor and shaving cream left over from the Coolidge administration.

When pictures aren’t enough, my barber and I play charades. Meaning, I speak English. He speaks Vietnamese. We wave our hands around wildly. And hopefully we both win.

Well, he always wins because he always gets paid. Usually I win too.

Ooh, ooh! Scissors! Cutting! Uhhh, Caesar cut! Goatee, sideburns…shave! You want a shave!


My barber was surprised when I motioned for a shave. He was used to wispy facial hair that you could blow away with a fan. Not this wild foreign shit.

Roughly ten seconds in, I was already regretting my decision.

The blade went dull before he was even done with my right cheek, but we soldiered on.

Trusting another human with a blade against your neck is like letting a pack of wolves lick BBQ sauce off your face—they’ll probably get get rid of the mess, but at what cost?

Sweeney Todd must have forgotten people have Adam’s apples. If I didn’t know any better, he could have been doing prep work for a sex change by getting rid of that unsightly bulge in my neck.

That was enough for him. He was tired of looking at my constant grimace. No charge for the shave.

What a bargain.

I looked like budget-Wolverine, but the lame mortal Wolverine who can actually get hurt and bleed.

The Ripper wildly tried to explain how his razors were just utter pieces of shit, and that if only he had a guillotine I’d never have to worry about facial hair again.

My handkerchief got to pull double duty on the walk home, switching between sweat and blood mop-up. But I smelled of shaving cream, and isn’t that really what life is all about?

Would any of you guys trust someone to shave your face? Ladies, use your imagination.


  1. David

    Man theres a horror story. I’ve always wondered about the old school Sweeny Todd shaves but for these exact reasons avoid it at all cost.

  2. Author

    The main reason is because he used shaving cream. Shit destroys my skin. I just use a razor and cold water to shave now. People say hot water makes your hair softer and blah blah blah…but unless your facial hair is made out of steel wool, that’s unnecessary. Hot water also makes your SKIN softer and easier to cut. Put on your tin foil hat. Shaving cream and the latest disposable 10-blade razor from Gillette are scams. One blade. Water. That is all.

  3. Guy

    Nick, I really enjoy your writings! As the song says, you’re “Livin’ la Vida Loca”. Stay safe and know you are loved and missed back here.

  4. Beth Quill

    I figured you would try this at least once! Brave man you are….I wouldn’t have the balls, nor the facial hair thank God.

    1. Author

      It was like shaving with a butter knife. I don’t think I’ll ever do it again.

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