I Let My Husband Cut My Bangs, But I Still Tip My Hairdresser

For years, my husband jokingly pleaded for a chance to cut my bangs, mainly to annoy me but also because he was “curious.” I just rolled my eyes. I would never let my husband near my bangs; I didn’t even dare to trim them on my own. The only person who is allowed to touch my bangs is Ming, my hairdresser. Ming has been cutting my hair at Tease in the East Village since I first came to New York City as a college student with thick, wavy, Okinawan hair. He looks like Jack Skellington: tall, elegantly gangly, and donning steampunk-lite attire (always black, always pointy-toed boots). He moves with grace and fluidity as he works, pulling out different scissors and combs, round brushes and hair dryers to sculpt my hair into the usual Zooey Deschanel-ish coif.

Then, of course, came coronavirus. As the days grew long and untenable, so did my fringe, swaying hard to the left like I was the lead singer of an emo band. Late one night, I gave in. We spread out old newspapers on the floor, plopped a dining table chair in front of our full-length mirror, and grabbed a pair of office scissors. (I didn’t want to splurge on actual hair scissors because I’m cheap but also because I didn’t want to accept this was really happening.) I sat on the chair, waiting and watching, as my husband’s glee melted into stress. He realized that he was trespassing on holy ground: my perfect blunt bangs.

I’ve been a bangs girl since before I could even make the decision to be one. Like other Asian moms, mine defaulted to giving my sister and me bangs and my brother bowl cuts. I flirted with bangs throughout college, letting them grow out and inevitably cutting them again, but a few years ago I embraced my bangs-girl identity.

Ever since I recommitted to bangs in my adult years, Ming sternly told me not to trim them myself, to just come to him. I listened, squeezing in monthly 15-minute touch-ups on lazy Sunday afternoons or weekday evenings before dinner reservations. A sign by Tease’s entrance advertises trims for $15 a pop, but he never lets me pay for them. Still, I always do this weird dance once he’s finished, like how Asian parents fight over paying the bill at restaurants. I ask the bored-looking woman at the counter how much it cost, giving Ming a chance to rescind the offer. She slowly lifts her eyes from her phone, glances over at the computer, and mumbles that it’s taken care of. I act surprised with each transaction of unmerited kindness, then shout thanks to Ming. Before I head out, I linger at the door for a bit, smoothing out my fresh, silky bangs, and pull up Venmo on my phone to tip Ming five bucks.

I stared at my husband through the mirror as he nervously began snipping at my bangs. He was terrified of chopping off too much—“YouTube says that is the most common mistake,” he told me after I told him to watch said tutorials. He trimmed a millimeter of hair. After meticulously evening out my bangs, he realized he wasn’t cutting enough hair to actually get it out of my eyes. So he went back and did it all over again. As he cut, he accidentally dug the dull side of the scissors into my eye lids, so my eyes puckered open, and blew away stray hairs on my face with his own breath, which was not cute. “Ming uses a blow dryer!” I scolded him. I didn’t realize I had been thinking about Ming the whole time, how he confidently sectioned off my bangs and went at it and banished away snippets of hair with the blow dryer on low so it didn’t burn me. I wondered how Ming was doing, and if Tease would reopen when this was all over. I had no way of knowing.

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