Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The complicated cost of my hair cut

My good friend TL cuts my hair.  She's a terrific friend, and she's an even better hair cutter.

(She's also my running boss, leading me 8 miles up and down hills last weekend, and threatening me with 10 miles this next weekend.  She runs like Tigger, bouncing along on her toes, never seeming even remotely tired.  I'd curse her peppiness if I weren't a total sucker for everything TL, but the truth is, I'm totally under her sway).

Last Saturday as we got toward the end (huff-puff) of our run, TL mentioned that she's taken up swimming in a regular way.  So much so, she said, that she'd started looking at swim suits.  In stores.  She said this, and then she paused.

And I knew, of course, what she was asking with that pause.  Because of course, I don't go to stores.  And I know how to get swimsuits for cheap.  In fact, I just happened to have about 4 decent suits in my drawer that I'd bought for  $1-$2  each.  (Two of these pairs -- the expensive $2 ones, I'd bought with the tags still on from a development yard sale.  Neighborhood yard sales in places where all the homes have vinyl siding -- that's the place for all sorts of excellent booty!)

With four suits sitting in my drawer getting no use in the pool, especially now that the school year has whomped me, it's a joy to be able to share with TL.  So the next morning in church (limping along after the grueling workout she gave me), I handed TL my smallest, newest suit.  Not the one with leopard spots, though, because even though I don't get much chance to wear it, I love that leopard print suit.

The swimsuit isn't a payment for my latest hair cut; it isn't a barter; it's friendship.  It's sharing.  Our back-and-forth is the best kind of what Robert Putnam calls "social capital", the ways that investing time in relationships and community makes us richer in ways that are sometimes hard to measure, but sometimes very clearly financially advantageous.

Still, it set me wondering:  if I *had* made a "you-cut-my-hair; I'll-give-you-a-swimsuit" kind of a deal, then how much would my haircut have cost?  What would my payment to TL have been?   From my point of view, a max of $2.  That's what I spent on the suit after all, and given how well-stocked my swimsuit drawer is, I'm unlikely to feel the need to buy a "new" one anytime soon.   From TL's point of view, probably much more, because stores sell swimsuits for $30, or $50, or even $60 (at least, from what I could see on line).

Did I hand her a $2 bill that turned into a $50 bill once it touched her hand?

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