Agglomerizing the Aesthetic

Sometimes I just marvel at the world we live in. People always bitch about the global, remote workforce—a race to the bottom, downward pressure on wages, blah, blah, blah—but here I was getting ready to Virtual HouseGuest with my new girlfriend’s parents for dinner tomorrow, and I was about to get some niche expertise on styling my hair on a Sunday night. When you needed something, no matter how minor, someone, somewhere in the world could help you with it. It was amazing!

Agglomerizing the Aesthetic

Illustration by Justice.

“Hi, this is JoAnne, your Medium-Length Men’s Hair consultant. First, can I get your hair profile?” I turned my head from side to side so that the camera on my computer could capture all the angles of my head. “Thank you. While that’s processing, what can I help you with today?”

“Yeah, I’ve been growing my hair out for the first time since—well, I guess since the last pandemic. Ha! Time flies, right? Anyway, I’m virtually meeting my girlfriend’s parents for the first time tomorrow. I want to look relaxed but not flaky, amenable but not ambivalent. What should I do with my hair?”

“Well, I think you’re asking your hair to do a lot of heavy lifting here,” JoAnne chided playfully and winked, “But let me see how I can help. First, you’ll need to answer a few questions about your hair, your grooming habits, your girlfriend, her parents, your parents—”

“Whoa, JoAnne! Geez,” Putting my hands up in mock resignation. “I’m trying to get some styling tips, not a security clearance!” I laughed loudly. The thing about a global labor market was that you had to be on top of your game, because if you weren’t there was always someone else looking to replace you. Customer service had become an art form and that included witty repartee. I loved it.

JoAnne smiled graciously. “Don’t worry. I’ve helped thousands of men with medium-length hair in hundreds of different situations. We’ll figure out exactly what you need.” The survey appeared on my screen. Twenty minutes later I clicked Send.

“Read it and weep, JoAnne.” I joked. “Don’t fall in love with me now.”

JoAnne smiled, “No, no, we’ll get right down to it. So first—” JoAnne paused as she read my survey answers. Her brow furrowed and she looked quickly to the screen with my hair profile.

There was an intake of breath through clenched teeth. “Oooh, I’m sorry. It looks like your hair has some potential pH balance issues. I only handle hair in the normal 4.5-5.5 range. Don’t worry though! I’m going to connect you with our pH specialist and she will take care of you.”

“Wait, I just need—” the video call disconnects and after a long pause, I see another face appear on-screen.

“Hi, this Sandy, your pH balance hair specialist. First, can I get your hair profile? I’ll also need you to answer a few questions about your hair, your grooming habits, your girlfriend, her parents, your parents…”

“Goddammit…”

Ben is a social science researcher interested in the gig economy and the future of work. He enjoys creative writing and is curious about the potential of speculative fiction as a research tool. He grew up reading Tom Clancy and Philip K. Dick novels.