Bro Hugs-River City Counseling

First, I want to thank all of you who recently subscribed to my blog.  As quirky as this post might seem at first blush, I’m looking at themes that I often explore: parenting, healthy relationships, and men communicating with other men.  I hope you enjoy this.


Many of you know that the stereotypical barbershop has Playboy magazines displayed on the front table. Never Penthouse or Hustler; always Playboy. But in all my years of going to the barber, I’ve never actually seen anyone look at or touch one. Really, do you want to look at porn as you sit and wait for a haircut? As far as I’m concerned, the magazines are props, roughly equivalent to “No Girls Allowed” signs on boys’ clubhouses. How else could we talk unfettered and uninterrupted about the things men want to discuss? Sure, we talk about sports, fantasy football, beer, and other stuff, but there’s more to it.

S is one of my barbers. As expected, he has the stereotypical magazines and, as an added bonus, a keg of beer, neither of which anyone has touched or ever referenced. Remember, they’re props. He also has a full beard, tats, leather and earrings.

I’m a professional listener, but I didn’t go to S’s shop to sit quietly. Instead, I wanted to chat with him about whatever “guy stuff” that came to mind for me. The problem with that is that I’m also really curious about S and what makes him tick.  And when I asked about S’s life, I wasn’t disappointed.

His story: his wife left and he is a single dad raising their autistic child. He tried to get services at his school, but they weren’t sufficient. So his son spends every afternoon at the shop doing schoolwork. S is understandably frustrated with the school system but making the best of it. Juggling being a business owner with parenting (which obviously includes kicking customers out to pick-up his son when he’s having a rough day) is very difficult.  But it’s very clear that he didn’t tell me in hopes that I’d throw him a “Father of the Year” parade.  He was just sharing his story…  I have tears in my eyes as I write this.

Over time, S’s shop became geographically undesirable, and I’m getting my hair cut at a shop around the corner from my office. Ask my wife, I’ve gotten solid haircuts by a guy who understands that dudes start getting hairs in those places you don’t want them. I now understand what it’s like to get hairs plucked…

The other day there was a man holding-court in another chair. I tried tuning-him out, but 125 decibels are exactly that. With a sigh, I tuned-in and was surprised by what I heard. He knows much, much more about geopolitics than I ever will. He talked about ISIS, the ins and outs and political implications of Bobby Fisher playing chess against the Soviets, and the potential global impacts of the impending rate hikes by the Federal Reserve.

Being too loud to get in a word edgewise, we all were forced to continue listening. I expected to hear something about how Kobe Bryant should retire right now from the Lakers, not at the end of the season, or an analysis of the long-term implications of the city borrowing against future parking revenue to finance the new arena. Instead, he turned-down his volume and reflected on his relationship with his wife.  He wondered what people thought about how he’s treating her and her him. Given the green light, the guys chimed in with solid feedback. Then, one-by-one, each man gave every other man a “bro hug” and headed out for his day.

So, what do we have? At one shop I have a dedicated single dad with a special-needs kid, and at the other, a cadre of men helping each other navigate their marital relationships. I’m considering taking lunch at the shop rather than a coffeehouse. If I do, maybe I’ll get a ‘bro hug,” and learn a few things that I can share with my clients.

And once again, this therapist/parent wades through life, each day trying to be a little bit better than the day before.  Until next time…



2 Responses to Bro Hugs-River City Counseling
  1. elizabeth
    December 16, 2015 | 9:27 am

    What an interesting article. It’s kind of like a Seinfeld episode, but more serious. It’s real life….at it’s best. Maybe you could become the barber shop shrink…….

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