Monday, April 20, 2009

The Ambiguously Gay Barber

When the mystery was solved my ego rocketed skyward, a steroidal geyser exploding with arrogance and cocksure bravado. Never had a question embedded itself in my skull for such a lengthy period, wherein its answer changed monthly. There was no algorithmic solution. No pattern in the randomness. No troop of idiot savants to rent for a calculated explanation. Only with the passing of time would the yoke of sleepless nights and unfocussed mornings lift forever.

In those cloudier days, the enigma cloaking my barber’s sexual preference spawned endless debate; dissected asininely as if the balance of the free world lay in its resolution. This was also a topic in which my wife had zero interest discussing, despite my placing it on par with the banking collapse, evolution, or the annoying ubiquity of Ryan Seacrest.

For every shearing administered in pink plaid, the next was performed in handsome khaki. During certain appointments, I mulled sadly amongst septuagenarians, believing that a once sociable barber shop had degenerated into a convalescent beauty parlor, shrinking my testicles with each visit. Other days, I listened to exhaustive analysis of Giants games peppered with masculine bluster. In other words, the man who shaved my sides and thinned out the top, no gel, easily flirted with re-coifed helmet heads and busted balls with sports enthusiasts in alternating breaths. The son of a bitch was purposely keeping me off-kilter. Until I figured him out.

He was gay. Gay as the happiest man to have ever fluttered into Manhattan’s Continental Baths to catch a Bette Midler concert and, on exceptional evenings, a venereal disease. For $15 plus tip, he was (and is) one of the most important gentlemen callers in my life. And despite the uncertain waffling between fabulous geriatric bouffants and utilitarian cut-and-shaves, I was thrilled to have solved the gender preference puzzle. No amount of gridiron banter would ever mask the Saturday morning where my hirsute hero donned, quite bizarrely, a full length silk robe; content to prance about his salon like some oily lounge lizard engaged in bad dinner theater. Yes, the mystery was solved with one egregious wardrobe malfunction. Without coffee, I might have assumed I’d mistakenly wandered into the Playboy Mansion to convene with Hef, receiving a smart trim by the randy mogul while enjoying the pleasures of silicone. Except, of course, this tiny shoebox next to an A&P supermarket is far from a tropical paradise, and the blue haired darlings who comprise over ¾ of the customer base are not the types I enjoy seeing stripped of their house coats.

Things weren’t always like this. The trappings of my first barber shop – an Italian safe house of ersatz wood paneling, splashed with fading posters of outmoded hair styles and Roman panoramas – attracted slovenly Mafioso aspirants who thumbed through The Oggi newspaper and spoke, argumentatively, in loud staccato bursts. If you could tolerate the interspersion of opera and easy listening dreck, took pleasure in receiving subpar haircuts which hearkened back to Wally and Beaver, and enjoyed a few cranial daubs of Clubman tonic, you were welcome to loiter in the cheap plastic seats from breakfast through dinner (or until you keeled over, or got shot, or just plain died of boredom). And if you grew tired of that, the crumbling racetrack – a once thriving establishment of vice and back room arm breaking – was located within walking distance. Of course, if you were wearing a silk robe in that neighborhood, you’d better have been carrying a concealed tire iron.

* * * * *
Addendum: As I learned in subsequent years, my barber was gay, but strictly in the original parlance of that term: merry, alive, exuberant. No ankles had ever been grabbed, no pillows bitten, occasional chickens choked, but certainly not in the shadows of a drag cabaret. In fact, he boasted a wife and kids, one of whom had recently married. The clues were there, and yet they weren’t. Assumptions will often backfire. Stereotypes will disappoint. If I gained anything from my rash misjudgment, it was the knowledge that one can confidently stroll a large town dressed as a pornographic tycoon, yet live a life as mundane as my own, behind closed doors. A little finesse keeps things interesting, at least in the ambiguous sense.

Either that, or his wife fell behind on the laundry.


Expat From Hell said...

Fantastic blog, as always. I remember my first trip to San Francisco...same impact. Funny to see that community as actual people. Indeed, stereotypes will disappoint.
Hopefully we can avoid the same labels as bloggers!

Best to you.


blunt delivery said...

oh that is just crap. what a let down. you need a new barber. if he's not gay, he's not worth it.

Suldog said...

I thought this might have been about my own barber of the moment. He has all of the "typical" mannerisms, yet speaks of having been married, etc. I am overjoyed with the service he gives to my very bald head, though, so he could be doing it with goats and I'd still sit in his chair. Since there is so little to work with in the usual areas, he plucks stray eyebrow hairs, trims the odd one growing from my ear, sends his little scissors up my nose, and does a superb job on the sideburns and goatee, all for (yes) $15.

MVD said...

BD & Suldog - It's always possible that the marriage and kids is a sham, thus requiring an addendum to my addendum. On my next grooming, I'll check to see whether his family photos are genuine, or simply the ones that sell with the frames.

Chris said...

Generally, if a guy is in the hair-styling biz, he must certainly be aware that he's going to be considered homo. Sexual. Sorry, almost got non-PC there for a minute. So any excessive "family pictures", talk of football, or non-Midleresque music could easily be (and probably are) decoys.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Anonymous said...

Oh I'm sure if push came to shove he'd cut hair for cock! LOL!! The family is a rouse! Perhaps to appease his Catholic mother?

Dude, I am SO adding you to my blog roll.

AlpHa Buttonpusher said...

Am I the only woman reading this?! *there must be something wrong with me*

Ron said... KILL ME, man!

You have the greatest way with words!

The whole Hugh Hefner image you painted was flawless!

And even being an ex-hairstylist, believe me, I too have assumed and was wrong.

But hell, even if he really is gay….the guy obviously gives you great HEAD….so who cares?


MVD said...

Hey Ron - The head is surprisingly gratifying (even if it is a quickie) in four week increments. Fortunately, the man is efficient and quite neat.

I only made the switch in the first place because all three of my original barbers succumbed to heart attacks. Not mid-cut, mind you, but it was a quick and disappointing succession of death.

The old shop is now run by Middle Easterners. Less track suits and medallions, and much more “opium den” in appearance. They do say you can never go back.

MVD said...

Hi Alpha - Funny, I was thinking of relocating our affable forum from the Men's Room to the Lady's Loo in order to jack up the estrogen interest.

But honestly, you'd be surprised. There's a good mix already.

growingupartists said...

Such a sensitive soul, even gets the whole laundry picture. I'm thrilled or amazed, or neither.

Jen said...

Not to worry Alpha, I slum it in this testosterone fest and am indeed a woman. My husband can attest to this fact.
And my dear Bastard, you must know that the family may just be a useful cover. There are many people who play for both teams so to speak. Sad that they feel they must keep up the charade.

growingupartists said...

Dude, wake up. Wake up! You were so right about the Meyer brothers, a total turn on. Would they be offended to do the morning show circuit? I mean hosting, obviously. What a woman wouldn't do to start her day with that kind of bondage. And they sing, too.

growingupartists said...

Ahem, cough cough. Another proud male, just blending into the industry. Seamlessly.

MVD said...

Growing Up Artists - What the hell are you talking about? Although I'm sure you've earned the privilege of "starting your day" to a ball gag and gimp suit, I’m not sure why any of that is applicable to my reverential barbershop nod.

growingupartists said...

Dear, you ruin your career too soon.

Matt Shea said...

Mike, my enjoyment of your barbershop stories is matched only by my confusion re: the comments. Regardless, a few Jimmy Fallon cuts later it should be noted that my barber is not gay, yet in an ironic twist of fate, he is bald. Also, he's from Birmingham and speaks in such a ludicrous midlands twang that he's but a few timezones away from appearing in the next Guy Ritchie film. Until that time, make sure you pop in for a 'do' and a refreshing hot lemon towel, and maybe some heroin also, for all I know.

MVD said...

Hey Matt - Perhaps your barber maintains a smooth dome because the sight of his otherwise amazing coif would thrust paying customers into the muck of insecurity. In other words, he's doing you a favor by sprinkling weed killer on his strongest asset.

And, yes, there is a back room in the salon. Although I know it contains a coffee maker and toilet (hopefully on opposite ends, as opposed to one filtering through the other), I've yet to see evidence of Mr. Brownstone or Captain Jack.

Bob said...

Not to be found in the shadow of the 'ambiguously gay duo'...sing it for me BASTARD!

MVD said...

Hey Bob - I was humming Robert Smigel's brilliant "Gay Duo" throughout the entire composition of this piece. Whether eating cereal or tending to the plants, I felt compelled to belt it aloud. Unemployed cabin fever, perhaps.

George said...

Wow! First time to your blog, and I was just captivated while reading. You're quite good!

MVD said...

Thanks George. Welcome aboard the crazy train. It's amazing the places one's mind explores after a steady diet of crack rock and lime Tostitos.

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