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A Supposedly Small Luxury That Doesnít Necessarily Make Me Gay

By Tom ďblue bonnetĒ Waters
May 16, 2002

One should never change their dentist, their therapist, their florist, or their barber. A man should have these things in order by the time heís in his late twenties. A person you can depend on. Some people treat their hair like I treat my car. I beat the hell out of it, and when it needs maintenance, Iíll whore it around to any old service shop for the cheapest price. I could care less how well the service is performed, because it just isnít that important to me. You should never, EVER treat your hair that way. My big brother goes to Super-Sucks and for six dollars they run a trailer park haircut razor over his brain and he comes out looking like a cross between George Clooney and Sam Donaldson. Why would you do that to yourself?

When some of my friends get a terrible do, Iíll ask them what the hell happened and theyíll tell me ďOh, I was picking up some plywood for my back porch and it was right next to the department store salon, so I walked in with a coupon and they took me right away. Itíll grow out.Ē Thatís not the point! Thatís not the point! If I cut my finger off and had the skin grafted, but they used baboon skin by accident because I accidentally went to a zoo surgeon, I wouldnít go around saying ďOh, itíll grow out.Ē You donít deliberately screw up your fashion sense out of novelty. Or at least I donít. Hair styling is not like an oil change, youíre not shooting for the land speed record and they donít get extra points for expediting the haircut.

My little brother cuts his own hair, or has some of his hippie gypsy henna wearing, patchouli-reeking friends cut it for him. Itís one thing if youíre trying to attract a woman by letting her cut your hair. I suppose I can understand that. He had a ponytail for the longest time (as did I, but weíll finish with him first.) And for Halloween, for Halloween for bleeding, buggering sake he decided to chop it off so he could go to a party as a soldier!? Is there something wrong with this picture? Are you seeing a pattern? Men really donít care how they cut their hair, who cuts their hair, or what sort of hatchet job results in this wheel of logic.

I had a pony tail until the age of 24. At that point I looked around and saw that most men over the age of 18 with ponytails were either baby boomers going through severe mid life crises, social misfits who had their pictures up in police stations, or pedophiles. I came to the conclusion that none of these were suitable to my lifestyle and that I wasnít going to adapt my lifestyle to my hairstyle so to make things simple, I got it lopped off. It used to be ratty all of the time and I didnít trust any barbers. Iíd wake up with it plastered to the side of my head and a family of immigrants were on the lam somewhere just above my right earlobe, so the hair had to go. It was time to look respectable. It was time to get a real job. It was time to give up on some of the folly of youth.

So my girlfriend at the time took me to Regis, a salon at the mall. It had never registered on my radar because it looked like a shop for girls. The front window of the store was covered from top to bottom in gels, spritzes, mousses, exfoliates, defoliants, cleansers, conditioners, and billions of designer bottles in all manner of shape and size that I didnít even know what the hell purpose they served for the hair and scalp! I felt like a hen pecked fool, but I trusted her advice. All they had to leaf through while we waited were womenís fashion magazines. I didnít see one man in the store. Until Mario walked up to lead me towards the execution chair.

Itís a funny thing about Italian people. They can have the most effeminate, emasculating, homosexual jobs in the world, and yet theyíre still manlier than me! Itís an Italian thing. I canít quite pin it down. My florist is Italian and Mario, my barber, is Italian. Could you guess before I told you? Mario has some massive Harley Davidson eagle tattooed across the majority of his back. He drinks, he gambles, he womanizes. We hit it off. He had an excellent rapport. He saw that he had his work cut out for him and I told him to be gentle, and that it was my first time in a long time. Well, it took him an hour and we got along famously. I remembered hair cuts taking a half an hour, but that was with unresponsive, half witted, gum chewing dolts behind the shears. When he was done, Mario had created a vision. I tipped five dollars, which was a first for me. That was almost three years ago, and Iíve gone to him ever since. I was unfaithful twice, regretted each instance, confessed to him, and we resolved the infidelity.

I look at going to my stylist as being pampered. Itís a luxury, in the same way that a lot of people go to tanning booths, massage therapists, or mud wraps. Itís not an absolute necessity, but it makes you feel good. Itís important to treat yourself to the finer services in life, because who else will? Blow some cash on yourself. Spend a little bit more than you should on a trifle. Go see that sadomasochistic mistress with the buggy whip and the retractable claws. Whoa. Revealed a bit much back there.

Since I had long, filthy, unkempt hair for so long, though, Iím not that good at knowing when itís time for another cut. Once it starts curling around my ears like Yiddish dread locks, though, I make the appointment. When I get there, Mario takes my coat and washes my hair in the basin. Then we discuss what weíd like to do, and to his benefit, I am very difficult. Women are smart in one sense because they bring in magazine pictures or they mention celebrities that trigger definitive sense memories. Iíll go in and say ďIíd like something short, but also long, and curly and messy on top, but crafted, and please donít take too much off the sides, but Iím looking for a bit of a Jimmy Hoffa meets Cesar Romeroís Joker in the 1969 Batman movie plus sort of the same aura that Brad Pittís hair exudes.Ē And he pulls it off flawlessly!

I donít have a therapist anymore, either, so Mario gets the weight of that to carry on top of his shoulders as well. We talk about writing, since heís a writer, too. We talk about women, and how long term relationships are for idiots. And we talk about jobs and books and music and movies and five million other topics. A barber I used to go to many moons ago told me that you never discuss religion or politics, because you can aggravate people too easily. Thatís good advice. Mario is opinionated, but weíre both offensive on the same wave length, so thatís not a problem. Itís funny, because the girlfriend is long gone, but I still have a committed professional relationship p with my barber. And we take hot oil baths together every three months. Not really.

Just last week I went to get my hair dyed. It wasnít the first time, but I always feel a little funny getting that done. Itís not a real lumber jack, steak and eggs, all of a man activity to engage in. I hear that a lot more men get their hair dyed than youíd imagine. Iím starting to go gray up there, though, which bothers me. Little strands of gray are scattered and hidden on my head like land mines, and Iíll stare with my head two inches from the bathroom mirror for an hour obsessing over them and then go to a graveyard and weep quietly. Iím getting old, thereís no disputing that. So why wait until your forties to have a mid life crisis? I just get my hair dyed blonde. Itís fun to be a different person sometimes, and itís very superficial, but you do get treated differently by the opposite sex. And it makes me feel younger, if only from the moment that I leave the salon until the moment I have to unbutton my pants to put my seat belt on when Iím leaving in the car.

Back to the masculinity thing, though. The hair dying process is very, very feminine. First Mario puts a translucent Amish bonnet on my head. Itís a...itís a...blue cap! Then he pokes at my head like heís playing pin the tail on the donkey and punctures holes through the aforementioned cap. Thatís more humiliating and demoralizing than anything else. After that, he dumps some goop all over my head with the consistency of bull semen and lets that filter through, and finishes the whole affair by slapping another cap over the bonnet. Finally, we waltz over to the heated blow driers. This is where I feel gay. Exceedingly gay. Limp wristed and marjorie jane-esque, to be precise. By some stroke of luck, the two hair driers they have are in the direct vision of any mall passers by. I would prefer that they were stashed away so that no one would be able to see me in such a prone and weakened state. After what feels like three days of agonizing hell, the cap comes off and I have golden locks that last for months! I feel pretty, oh so pretty! Oh dear. Iíve started reciting show tunes. Thatís never a good sign.

Iíve learned some great advice concerning proper hair care. Every woman is an absolute expert when it comes to hygiene, so I get differing opinions. Change your brand of shampoo after every bottle just so that your hair doesnít get complacent. Itís a lot like feeding a cat the same brand of tuna-stench flavored tender vittles for five years. They get sick of it, and after a while, it just doesnít do it for them anymore. They need something more offensive to roll out of their mouth when they lick your face. You get my point, though. Try and condition your hair once a month after your general wash. The instructions on shampoo are confusing, though. It says to rinse and repeat. If you follow this to the letter, youíd be in the tub until doomsday, rinsing and repeating, rinsing and repeating, until you were grinding foam into your exposed brain stem. And thereís nothing worse on your scalp (short of boiling acid) than hair gel. Foam and spritz are all well and good, but gel builds up in your hair like plutonium. Before you know it youíre clogging all those pretty little follicles with half lives full of gunk. Foam is best, with a protective halo of spritz just to keep it all together. And moisture. Lots and lots of moisture. My head is like a damned weeping willow. I have to water it constantly or it turns into motzah hair. And when Iíve been very naughty, or when I sweat profusely, it coils up. It has itís own individuality, and itís as wild and zany as itís symbiote.

If you take care of your hair it will take care of you. And if you tip your stylist well and go to him often enough over the course of a few years, heíll know what you expect. I expect nothing less than perfection, and thatís why I keep going to Mario. He told me a story once about the Old Country. How Italian men would go off to some sort of barberís monastery off in the mountains for twenty years and study the art of cutting someone elseís hair. How they would watch others and practice slicing a pair of scissors suspended upside down for ten years before they were even allowed to touch another personís head. I doubt that the people who train at Super Bowl-Cuts do more than watch a fifteen minute video before they go onto the cutting room floor for their first shift. Mario never went to one of those Oxford Barber retreats, but heís the closest thing Iíll get to one of those maestros of style. So my brothers can continue to subject their heads to fates worse than death or marriage. Thatís fine. But leave me to my pampering. And my manicures.

I donít really get manicures.

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