I went to get my haircut today. This is not a process I have ever enjoyed on any level. I have a weird, misshapen, alien head and if the hair on top of it is cut incorrectly I look like Shrek. I used to go to a Korean lady downtown who I stumbled onto years ago for my haircuts. I literally walked into the closest place to my old apartment and hoped for the best. She barely spoke English but the first time I went to her I emerged very un-Shrek-like, and so for years I continued going back.
This year I finally decided that trekking downtown for haircuts was silly, sort of, and built up the courage to go to a barber where I live now. Which was confusing. I haven’t had the “How do you want it cut?” conversation in ages. Plus, the last time I had it, it was with the aforementioned Korean lady who spoke no English, so I don’t even know if that counts. That was mostly expressed through mime. Add in that most of my haircuts were dictated to me while growing up and I really never know what to answer when someone asks me how to cut my hair.
The guys in front of me in line had a number system down. They’d get “3 on the top and then 2 on the sides” or something. Which means that those are the number extensions to use on the electric razor.
No. Just no.
The only thing I’m sure of is that attempting to treat me like a person with a normal head results in me looking like a fetus.
Plus…I don’t know, most males my age seem to have given up on the notion of hair. Just getting it buzzed is fine. I’m not even sure that would work for me. I have to pay extra at my barber because my hair is too thick and they have to use scissors.
So I was sitting there while the scissors went snip and I started thinking about taste and subjectivity.
I mean, you take something as basic as hair cuts and they’re capable of making me feel lost. I mean, have you ever looked around at all the different hair cuts out there?
Good, bad, freaky, in need of, fake, shaved.
By the time you’ve reached the age of 30 you probably have a haircut that you generally stick to. People, unless they completely need a change, just keep on getting that same old haircut, as long as their hair allows them, for years at a time.
So those people you see walking around out there are all wearing something close to the haircut they want, and the solutions they’ve come up with are infinite.
How am I supposed to approach this situation as a book writer? How on earth do you take into account the broad arrangement of tastes that people have in this world?
I just don’t think you can. I really don’t think the human brain actually fits that many different tastes into its data bank. I think you convince yourself that you have an entire world contained in your head, but you don’t. You have your taste, which you know well, and then you have some sense of other people’s taste, and then you have “all that other stuff” which you think people don’t, you know, really like, but it still exists for some reason.
People will listen to someone list their favorite books, and then assume that they don’t really like those books if they conflict too much with their stored sense of the world.
It’s a profoundly difficult concept to grasp, but one person’s “crap” is another person’s “absolute favorite book.” And both of those people are right. The second person isn’t joking that it’s their favorite book, they really mean it. It honestly produced in them a sought after effect of stimulation in some mental or emotional form.
But try to tell someone that a book they hate is actually beloved by someone and the reaction is priceless.
It always makes me amazed to hear discussions about “what’s hot” and “what people really want” and “what will go mainstream.”
Take a good look at most of those predictions and you’ll see that they’re really just drawing obvious conclusions from hindsight.
Taste is nuts.
You can look at this situation and despair at ever managing to fit your work into an audience that is so amorphous.
But I like to take heart from this.
Anything can fly. Anything can be great. Anything can catch on fire.
So, please, just write your heart out.
And stop laughing at my head…