The next benchmark

My non-sister took a flattering picture of me.

I was 18. I didn't know any better. I was getting tattooed because it was this permanent change, there was no going back. I could look cool and meet girls, and meet girls I did. Even after having a seizure in the middle of my first tattoo (which scared the hell out of the guy giving me the tattoo) I went back for more. I set up my appointment to get my second tattoo, and got there a few minutes early to find this girl finishing a tattoo on her back. 

She had won a gift certificate to the shop. I don't remember exactly from where or how she got it, but she was using it for this tattoo. She told me about how she lived in Germany, and I told her that my family had been stationed in Wiesbaden when I was very little. I learned about her hermit crabs, and just about her as a person. Her name was Nicole.

I started out having a huge crush on Nicole, but then I realized quickly she made a much better friend. A week before my 19th birthday she was the best wingman ever and got me the phone number of the cute girl working at Fanci Freeze on State St. A week later on my birthday she was the first person to introduce me to alcohol, and proceeded to get me drunk off a six pack of Smirnoff Ice. I remember stumbling back to her apartment with the group (there were 4 of us) making a ruckus about how I needed to go into the grocery store because I needed to use their bathroom.

"You can't go inside, you're underage and way too drunk"
"But I can act sober!" (clearly, I couldn't)
"You'll have to pee outside like the rest of us"

Nicole and I have both been in each other's lives for a lot of major events. Moves, boyfriends, girlfriends, breakups, marriages, self discovery, divorce, children. And even if our lives drift apart for months at a time, we always seem to pick up right where we left off. We just have that much more to talk about and get caught up on. She has seen me in my bad times, so she quickly recognizes my good times.

Nicole isn't the bad influence that she used to be, I'm a bit too far gone. She's shifted into the role of a fantastic mom who incorporates her love of nerdy things into all aspects of her life. Invitations to one birthday party were sent out as Hogwarts scrolls tied to the end of white helium balloons that were made to look like owls. She named her youngest daughter Granger, and her husband hand carved a tobacco pipe with the bowl being the circle of the deathly hollows (having seen it in person, it's entirely badass). I love seeing her life from the perspective I have, and how much contrast it has to the decade younger versions of ourselves.

Being a full time mom and a licensed Doula, she hasn't had the same amount of time to focus on herself that she used to, so a while ago she turned to blogging. Her blog Perfectly Askew is her experiences that come with the overall craziness of being a stay at home mom, and this website has allowed her to to connect with a community of other bloggers. 

Now at this point, you might be asking "what does this have to do with your barbering experience?" Nothing. This part of the story isn't about me. It's about Nicole.

Nicole's husband is Mason. 3 weeks ago, Mason was my very first haircut. After that haircut, Nicole called me and wanted to go to lunch with Hailie and I. This was the first time I've been able to see her in months. We talked about our blogs, and how The Barber Story was in it's infancy, and she gave me a lot of stats on her web traffic and showed me the value in blogging daily vs. the infrequent posts. But she kept emphasizing "I want to get back to the point where I was blogging every day." I thought it was worth the viewers, but god did it seem tedious. I couldn't figure it out. Why does she enjoy this? All my blog entries up until that point felt like I had been sharing stupid nothings in my free time. Everything Nicole talked about was around parenting, how did she have so much variety on the same topic? 

Then I cut my mom's hair. I had something that I had to share. I wanted others to experience the same emotions that I experienced, because of how important that moment was to me. On the way home from school, I stopped by Nicole's apartment to give Mason a few VIP cards for cuts and shaves. Partly so we can keep up my education, but also so I can have more opportunities to get to know him better. After all, he's married to my non-sister, and I can't think of a time she's been happier, so he's obviously a good guy. While I was over there, Nicole showed me more of her blog, as well as a few other blogs she stays connected with. The commonality I noticed was that these individuals weren't being selective over what was being shared. It was the experience as a whole, not the cherry picked portions of the day.

So instead of a quick ten minutes, I spent 90 minutes reliving the day. Web traffic soared. I had set a new benchmark for visitors in 24 hours, more than any other day since the story launched.

Then I had my emergency room scare with Hailie. I had to relive that day twice because I realized that SquareSpace doesn't autosave your work. I realized this five minutes before hitting save & publish as I was going through my final edits. I was obviously upset at first. I had just spent over five hours at the hospital, and then spent another hour reliving it, just to have it go away in the blink of an eye. But it was important to me that I get it out there, so I spent another 90 minutes staying up late to publish it. To be honest though, I think the second version was a more complete version of my emotions. I was able to have my thoughts more organized and focused, and apparently it came across. One of the other barbers came up to me the next day and said "Your blog was amazing, I felt like I was in the ER with you. Every single time I read 'beep' I was just waiting for what was happening next."

I set a goal 3 months ago. It was to share my experience, share my perspective, and share the story in a way that could draw the reader in in the way you can stare at Starry Night for hours and get a feeling of the night Van Gogh had. I wanted to paint a picture. I haven't put in the effort to hit that goal, but I found the immediate difference in putting in the extra effort. Not only did I accomplish the first goal that I set for myself, but I hit yet another benchmark for the blog. 6 days into the month and I had more traffic than all of the prior month. Now I see why Nicole loves blogging as much as she does.

As I started thinking about it, it has to do with the immortality of words. Thoughts are fleeting, but words on paper can be shared forever. I don't want to convey thoughts anymore, I want to convey imagery. And if the picture I paint is the possibility happiness, not temporary happiness, but the kind that lasts your lifetime, and only one person is impacted for the better, than all of this has been worth it.

Yesterday, Mason got to be my first straight razor shave. I've gotten more comfortable with one after practicing on my legs (so much bleeding), my own face (much less bleeding). Karlo even let me clean up his cheeks with the stipulation of not touching his beard (no bleeding involved), but this would be my first beginning to end shave. This was exciting. I love razors, they are more fun than shears and clippers. I want to give great haircuts, but I want to be a monster whenever there's a straight razor is in my hand. Mason had said I could do anything I want, because he'd have to be chin bald by the 20th for drill, so we might as well have fun in the meantime.

I told him the outlandish idea that I've told all of my bearded friends for the past 5 years.

"If I had my way, I'd make your mustache connect to your sideburns and that's it." 

I love mustaches. My scion has a mustache on the hood, and whenever people ask why it's there I just say it's my mustache ride. I've been involved with Movember in one way or another for 6 years, and the creativity that people put forward in the month of November is always fun to watch. Even Hailie doesn't like the version of me without a mustache. Having one is just part of my personality. 

He went for it. Wait, what? This is more than small. greater than big, and calling it gargantuan wouldn't do it justice. This is seeing Star Wars in theater for the first time in 1997 . This is me going to the Chicago F.A.O. Schwartz with my uncle, and finding the life size Darth Vader and C-3PO and R2-D2. This is jumping on the giant piano that Tom Hanks made famous in Big. This is finding out that the snozberries ACTUALLY taste like snozberries. This is me being excited like a kid again.

Was it a perfect shave? Not even close. I wasn't expecting it to be. But, I know it wasn't a terrible shave, we were able to hang out and  have some fun. It also became the next benchmark for me.

This was the blog that I wanted to post last night, but hanging out with Hailie was too important when I got home. I'm so busy between work and school that I feel like we don't get enough time together to just be us. This week is our nerd week. Last night was Creating kingdoms in Massive Chalice. Tonight was Game of Thrones and wishing I was Atreyu. Tomorrow Jurassic Park. Tuesday Lost World. Wednesday Jurassic Park 3. And then Thursday I get to see Hailie with excitement than she'll know what to do with. 

I leave you with this.

Chris BentleyComment