Living In The Past
So I'm getting a haircut on Saturday morning. My barber is in his mid-70s. He starts talking about how horrible it is that they are making a movie about the Charles Manson murders. It's due for release next year on the 50th anniversary of the killings.
My barber was a young newlywed at the time, in California, and working for hair stylist Jay Sebring. He showed me a picture on the wall of the two of them. He joked that Jay gave the worst haircut he had ever seen, but in 1969 he was getting $55 a haircut. He described Sebring as a great friend and boss.
I just listened.
On the day of the murders, my barber was being trained how to close the shop. He was probably one of the last people, besides the other victims, to see his friend alive. He told me he was a young hothead and wanted to go out and kill whoever killed his boss.
My barber sort of blames fellow victim, Sharon Tate, for Sebring's death. If he hadn't been romantically involved with her, he wouldn't have become one of the seven people murdered.
My point is not to gossip about the dead. My point is that my barber blames his friend's death on Tate and said the guy could have lived a long life if he could have gotten "that woman" out of his life.
Is that typical mourning almost 50 years later? Seven people died in two nights, but he blames one of the victims for one of the other deaths.
Robert, the murders are a traumatic memory for your barber, and traumatic memories differ from ordinary memories. Ordinary memories fade quickly, but traumatic memories remain intense even after many years.
That's one explanation. Then there's the celebrity aspect. Contacts with celebrities are so out of the ordinary for most of us we don't forget them. Meeting Russell Crowe makes a bigger impact than what we had for lunch a week ago Tuesday.
We remember things bigger than ourselves: an army on the march, a Bruce Springsteen concert, a great football game. They are a big deal. The Manson murders may not have been The Crime of the Century, but they were one of them. The helter-skelter craziness of the Manson clan is infamous.
Perhaps your barber constructed a fantasy future and saw himself managing a Jay Sebring salon in Hollywood or London, though Jay may never have had that level of success. Perhaps he wants to ignore his friend's role in his own death by resorting to a time-honored male strategy: blame the woman.
Or it could simply be he grieves over a friend's death. But repeating the story and keeping the photo wear deeper and deeper grooves into his memory and nervous system. At this point the memory would be almost impossible to escape.
The story and the photograph are like your barber's trademark. They make him memorable compared to all the other barbers in the world. They are like the white suits and white fedora worn by writer Tom Wolfe, or the odd speech pattern of actor Christopher Walken.
People raised in abuse cannot get past what happened. They think: what was, is. Some people throw themselves into a tizzy over what if. What if I had gotten on that plane that crashed? But life is not about what if or what was. Life is about what is. We can't live in an imagined future or the remembered past. We should only live from what is, today.
Wayne & Tamara