At a TEDxSomerville event in the Spring, I heard a tremendous speaker who really made me think. He was Clarence Smith, Jr., a jovial black man with a bald head that glistened under the lights. Smith spoke about barbershops. Every week, regardless of where he is, Smith visits a barbershop. He described the wisdom that is shared among the men in these shops through informal conversations, across individuals of all ages.There are no boundaries, no clichés, no generational divides. Wherever he is, when he is in a barbershop, he feels like he is home.
While I have a lot of hair, I am pretty confident that I will never be a regular at any barbershop, let alone beauty salon or spa. So I started thinking about what my barbershop equivalent is. Where can I go and always feel at home? Do I have a place where I can show up and almost instantly feel woven into conversation, into a community? Where there is no judgment and no divide?
There is a coffee shop I go to that feels like my coffee shop, but I rarely speak to anyone there outside the people behind the counter when I place my order and exchange pleasantries. I have a yoga studio I frequent, but I usually just rush in to class and then rush right out again.
So, where is my barbershop? Ironically, it seems the more technologically connected we are the less connected we really are, real and in person. Maybe we need to start a new trend of geo-connection. And not Foursquare or some other app that tells you where your friends are, but real, face-to-face, old-fashioned sit-down communication and gatherings.
As we work and socialize more virtually, where do we go for “water cooler conversations?” Where is our barbershop? Where do we share wisdom and make connections? What will become of the barbershop phenomenon? Where can and will we convene for casual face-to-face conversations with friends we have not yet met?