The Unexpected Power of Non-Conformity

Unintentionally, I gave my life an exciting new turn.

Erik P.M. Vermeulen, PhD
6 min readJun 7, 2024
Photo courtesy of author

The Past

Since we moved to our new house in 2008, I’ve been going to a Turkish hairdresser just one block away. It’s always bustling with people coming in for haircuts, free coffee, or just to chat. After making an appointment, your name will magically appear on the whiteboard near the window so people can see if and when there is availability. It’s like the barbershop in the “Coming to America” movie with Eddie Murphy, where everything is up for discussion — sports, vacations, politics, weather, and neighborhood gossip.

I recall reading once that Turkish barbers are considered some of the best in the world. Having experienced their services for over fifteen years, I can confirm this. They are extremely skilled with scissors and razors, and have unique techniques for removing stray hairs from the face and ears, such as nasal hair waxing and singeing ear hair.

Older men often have to deal with these things. The first time I experienced the singeing procedure, it frightened me. I was puzzled when my barber friend put cotton on a stick into alcohol and lit it up. The scariest part was when he held the lit cotton to my ear. “It will burn off the unwanted ear hairs. They will just smolder away,” he said. The next…

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Erik P.M. Vermeulen, PhD

Prof (law) exploring the collision of life, work, and technology, with a current project in the works - a sci-fi novel.