Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hair story.


The day I cut off my thick, halfway-down-my-back, envy-of-all-the-ladies, curly brown hair, suddenly everybody was nice to me.  It was September 8, 1997.  That day, the nasty cashier in the A&P actually said “Thank you."  Her name was “Meelissa” – we were never sure if her name tag was misspelled or if her parents had thought it sounded French – and just a few days before, we’d had this conversation:

Me: Oh, no, that’s mine. (I was next in line and she’d accidentally rung up my orange juice with the current customer’s stuff)

Meelissa: Next time, use the damn divider!

Me: You don’t have to be a bitch.

Meelissa: A bitch? Yo’ mama’s a bitch!

I didn’t have a response because, while I didn’t think my mama was a bitch, I did think that was a pretty good line, and I couldn’t wait to go home and tell Duane (since this was pre-texting).

Where was I?  Oh yeah, my new life ATH ("after the hair").  Wait, let me back up.  We’d lived in Chelsea for about 5 years at that time.  We chose it the same way we’d chosen all of our previous neighborhoods (East Village, Lower East Side, Jersey City): the rent was cheap.  This was a slightly depressed area: many storefronts were closed and gated or completely boarded up; it hadn’t yet become the trendy art gallery/restaurant/club mecca of today, and we loved the quiet, desolate atmosphere.  Our favorite time was 7 AM on Sunday mornings, when we’d head to the flea market (pre-eBay) at the vacant lot on 26th & 6th (the same one Andy Warhol had famously frequented to collect ceramic cookie jars, and which sadly has now become the site of yet another hi-rise condo) to get deals on collectibles and modern furniture. 

Chelsea was also a so-called gay ghetto, and that was fun.  Well, not exactly “fun,” because we didn’t take advantage of all the fun there was to take advantage of…fun like guys getting head right on the sidewalk of our block (we’d walk past and nod “Hello”) or S&M daddies walking home from the now-closed leather bars of 12th Ave, looking for someone to flog or piss on, or pumped-up muscle guys shirtlessly flaunting their shaved flesh in bulge-boasting shorts, cruising each other hungrily on their rollerblades (or as we called them, “Meals on Wheels”).

Actually, Duane did take advantage of that last one.  With his perfectly-proportioned physique (albeit much smaller than it is now) and cropped hair, he not only fit right in, but he got lots of looks…and took home lots of phone numbers (we were 100% monogamous, so he never did dial any of them).  I, however, still looked like I did when we lived in the East Village, with the body of a vegan in frumpy 70’s thrift-shop clothes and the hair of a straight rocker (or, as I used to say in my stand-up act, I looked like Kenny G’s lesbian sister).  I was truly invisible on the 8th Ave. runway.



But then, with the advice of a fellow comic who suggested that my long hair was distracting from my material, I decided to chop it off.  I didn't totally agree with his reasoning, but I felt like I needed a change and that was a good excuse.  I used to change my look frequently, but this long hair had been around more than long enough...ten long years.

With my palms sweating (this was like losing my identity), I went to a nearby barbershop and a 60’s-ish Cuban man named Willie with cheap whiskey breath hacked it all off and handed it to me in clumps.  It was a weird, exhilarating experience.  I finally felt free of all the shampoos, conditioners, detanglers, gels, and scrungees.  But more importantly, I noticed an immediate change in everyone else.  On the way home, I was checked out by three cute guys…and when I’d passed and looked back, they were looking back at me.  For once, I collected a couple of phone numbers.  And, stopping to get some O.J. at the A&P, Meelissa said “Thank you” instead of the usually unspoken but understood “Fuck off.”

At first, I was annoyed.  I thought, “I’m the same person inside, but suddenly everyone likes me?  WTF?”  But soon, I learned to enjoy my newfound power and made further changes to accelerate it.  I worked out like a fiend and began wearing tighter, sexier clothes, and we eventually opened up our relationship for 3-ways, courtesy of our new computer and America Online chat rooms.  We’d finally stopped fighting it and joined that other part of gay life in Chelsea – the part that was having a good time. 




But almost as quickly as we’d thrown in the towel, it turned right around and whipped us in the ass, just like in a college locker room.

Bendix, our local diner which had been a favorite gay hangout, closed down and reopened as a Bloomie Nails salon.  I remember thinking, “But there are hardly any women here; who’s gonna get their nails done?”  My answer came in the form of all the newly arrived Sex and the City chicks and mommies pushing baby strollers past the steroidal studs, who were very steadily disappearing, and have, by now, mostly dispersed.
  
Then came Ricky's beauty supply and American Apparel and even the archetypal symbol of suburbia, Home Depot.  They tore down the A&P (poor jobless Meelissa) and in its place, there is a dorm for the New School (who knew the New School even had dorms?).  So, the rollerblading Meals on Wheels have been replaced by Ugg-booting students with meal plans.  Suddenly, it’s brightly lit everywhere and the gay ghetto has morphed into just another neighborhood.  Yes, this is progress, but couldn’t I have had just a few more years of that Gay Disneyland before I’m old enough to get a discounted senior ticket?

12 comments:

  1. Great Story, and totally relatable. It is a shame, and it happens everwhere. Even here in Bigoted Houston, Texas. We find a rundown part of town nobody wants to call our own. Usually know for it's high crime, cheap rent, art scene and they call us the dregs of society. We slowly make it our community, fix it up, and the breeders move in take it over in full force now that it is fashionable. Tear down wonderful 100 year old a-frame house to build cramped condo/townhomes with no yards. Not that is not bad enough, but then they want us to clean up our acts and convert to their suburban morality. Soon places that are gay owned and operated (that never even carried high chairs before) are holding wedding rehersal dinners and their new patrons give you funny looks because you kiss you partner/trick/stanger in front of their rug rat. It is a crying shame!

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  2. I had a similar experience when I cut off my long blonde hair. Straight women were jealous of my hair and gay men hated it. It seems like the moment all the hair was gone women stopped flirting with me and gay men started making passes at me. It was the best decision I ever made...:)

    Mike

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  3. Thanks for sharing your stories mate. I've been following you on face book for a while (must be the celebrity dolls) and as much as I appreciate your humour there, hearing the stories behind it is lovely. I have hundreds of questions I'd like to ask you both, but don't want to appear rude. LOL

    Go figure.

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  4. Yeah, Steven, I keep hearing from others around the world who report the same thing. It's really a shame. I just wanna know...where's the next run-down neighborhood for us to fix up? Maybe this economy will create a new one.

    Anonymous, yeah, I had women flirting with me all the time. Apparently, it's a straight-guy trait to have girly hair. :P

    Thanks, Kal. That is so nice to hear. You can send me or the Ape a private message on FB and ask anything you want. I don't guarantee we'll answer all of it, though. :P

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  5. Richie, if it means anything I remember you from your longhair days both in the E.Village (where I live) and Chelsea - I always thought that you were beyond hot with the hair. Not to say that the lack of hair is any less hot, just that to me the hair made you stand out in a great way. I never talked with you - too shy (plus that bf of yours) - but want to let you know that at least one gay guy loved your hair.

    I experienced something similar when I started to wear contacts - the same guys who never even looked at me once with glasses were cruising me and doing double takes with the contacts (I distinctly remember the first time, with someone who had ignored me just a week earlier).

    Don't get me started on the changing neighborhoods of NY (I've lived here over 30 years), but there's a book called "A Passion to Preserve" about how gays settle in marginal neighborhoods with good housing stock and transform them. It's a process that's been going on forever.

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  6. Wow, Steve, that's neat (do people still say "neat?" well, I still do) that you remember me. And thought I was hot back then! Son of a gun...I felt so invisible, even with all the attention the hair got me. Also neat that you know exactly how I felt when you got contacts. Was life also more fun for you, as it was for me?

    I'm gonna look for that book now.

    Thanks!

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  7. Well, I do say "neat" sometimes, but find it difficult to say without at least a trace of irony. And yes, I often felt invisible (and often still do - though that's more a state of my own mind, I think). And yes, life definitely got more fun when I started wearing contacts. Sad that we're so shallow, right? But why not take advantage of it?

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  8. I was around 23 when I shaved off my long hair (down to the mid-back). I did it myself and just kind of hacked away at it, so that I came out looking like Laurie Anderson (or so I thought). Somehow it was more of a shock to go to the barber for the first time and get a real cut.

    And on the changing attitudes tip, when my previous boyfriend and I broke up, I grew a 70s-style moustache. (This was in NYC in the mid-90s). Just two words: man magnet. Since then I've moved on to the full beard and that seems to be doing the trick, too.

    You two are very sexy; nice to read all yr funny stories.

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  9. Steve, I did feel like I was being a bit shallow at first, but then I thought, "What the hell? Let's have some fun." Btw, could you email me (if you want) at dicknduane@gmail.com? I have a couple of questions...

    Thanks, Ken...and yeah, facial hair is sexy (unless it's too overly groomed). :)

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  10. Found your blog by accident and glad I did. Just wish my son (vegan, tall, dancer) could find someone to love. You two are too cute!

    Love, grammie

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  11. this talk about changing ourselves and feeling shallow when we do. possibly it's all about what you change, why and for whom. if YOU feel better, more confident, perhaps you communicate this to others and they react to it. I have days when I feel sexy and faaabulous and I seem more aware of other guys' interest.

    self belief is very sexy...

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  12. Hair! Hair! Hair! Isn't amazing the way people are at times of indifference. I can also relate to the slow the whole "progress down". LOL

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