Clark April 16th, 2007
Right from the beginning you’re going to think I asked for it, but keep in mind I’m a victim.
I went directly across the street from my apartment in Buenos Aires to the unisex hair salon. It was a neighborhood place with a little old lady getting her hair done. I asked if they could fit one more in before closing, as it was about 9PM, and the hairdresser told me to wait a few minutes and he’d be right with me. In this brief interchange in Spanish I could see that he was a flaming queen in his mid-forties: Perfect, just the man I wanted to cut my hair. I defer to gay men when it comes to a man’s appearance. They’re the experts.
My time came and I got into the chair. I made it clear from the beginning that I didn’t know quite what to do about a ‘distinctive’ hairline like mine. One option is to shave it all off and go completely bald; the other is to keep some vestige of a haircut. I don’t want to look like one of those pathetic guys with a comb-over, but I don’t want to throw in the towel if I still have some hair to work with, so I put myself in his knowing hands.
The haircut was pretty standard, with normal barber chit-chat in Spanish. He seemed most impressed that I was a Pisces like him, and only once did he make a comment about my beautiful eyes. I noticed that he was shaking a lot. Either he was nervous or on drugs…not sure which.
We were almost finished, but he said that I was covered with hair, that he should do a rinse and that I should just take my shirt off to shake it out. Fair enough. We went into the back room where the shampooing sink was. I lay back and he rinsed my hair out, sat me up and dried it, then said to take off my shirt. I did.
As I shook out the shirt he said he should shave my neck while it was off. He commented that I had a bit of hair on my lower neckline, otherwise known as my back, and that he should take that off too. This all seemed like a good idea, but then he suggested shaving my chest. I balked at this, but he insisted it would look good. He said he would only take off a little, the equivalent of a woman with long hair cutting off her split ends. He made a quasi-scientific argument that I had had hair on my chest since my twenties, and since it had never been trimmed the chest hair was old and mangy and needed a little clean-up. He was again very convincing that it would look good and that this was the right thing to do.
I saw that he was using a number 4 attachment on the shaver, and I know that this means it leaves about ¾” inch behind and he wouldn’t take off too much. Yes, I was willingly letting a flaming Buenos Aires hairdresser shave my chest.
He shaved my entire chest—it was a little uncomfortable as he shaved around my nipples—then he started shaving my love trail down my stomach. I balked, but he said it all had to be even. He started actually shaving below my belly button, I protested again, but he kept insisting it had to be even and that it would look good.
He started pulling at my belt. This freaked me out, I stepped back, and said no, no, no. He was straight-faced still, and said he just needed to get the belt line and then we were done. I undid my belt myself.
OK, OK, I know what you’re thinking. I took off my shirt and undid my belt to let a man shave me? I was asking for it. What was I thinking? The truth is I wasn’t thinking, and there is something more at work here other than the power of suggestion: There is an age-old covenant of trust between a man and his barber. The ritual of the haircut and shave is an enjoyable one, the only way a straight guy can ever feel the touch of another man and admit to liking it. The barber is trusted to take a deadly straight razor to one’s neck, stick pointy scissors in one’s nose and ears, and guide one’s head in all directions. This implies a great level of trust that is build up throughout life, from a boy’s first screaming and kicking haircut to total pliability later in life. From shampoos and hot towels to pudgy hands slapping lemon-scented alcohol on the back of the neck, the barber ritual is one we have been conditioned to give our total trust, to lay back and give in. My gay hairdresser broke this covenant of trust, and I feel so…betrayed.
He started pulling at my zipper, which pulled my pants out to where he could see most of my private area, then he started trying to shave my pubic hair! I pushed him away, but he told me to look at his partner, at how good it looked. His partner, standing a few feet away, had dropped his pants and was showing me his shaved genitals, which in addition to being all around disgusting, were indeed shaved and looked very…gay.
The hairdresser then plunged his hand into my pants and grabbed my package. Game over. I didn’t take a swing at him or react violently, but nobody was touching me any more, that was for sure. I backpedaled, did up my pants, and put on my shirt. All the while he kept saying, “You’re not mad, are you?” I kept replying that I wasn’t mad, but that we were finished. He asked, “Do you mind when men touch you?”
I didn’t know how to say straight in Spanish, so I said it in English. There was some confusion, and finally I said, “No soy gay.” And I was moving for the door.
He kept asking me if I was angry and telling me not to be angry. I told him I wasn’t angry, but asked him what I owed him and paid him twenty pesos. I then reached into my pocket for a tip, out of habit, then thought, “Fuck that.”
As I left the back room I noticed that he’d had the door bolted from the inside. He said this was because you had to be careful when money was changing hands. Hmm.
What was I thinking? I don’t know. If asked what I was doing at precisely 9:51PM last night, I would have to answer, “Well, I was in the back room of my flaming gay hairdressers shop with my shirt off and my belt undone while he was shaving my body and grabbing at my cock, while his long-haired partner was showing me his genitals.” Yeah, it sounds pretty dodgy to me too. I didn’t get any pleasure from this groping, and while it certainly seems otherwise by reviewing the facts, I didn’t invite it.
My chest itches.