First Rule of the Beauty Parlor Name: Nobody Talks About the Beauty Parlor
Guys, this column is for you in particular, as I have just had a major
I have a talent. (No, that's not the revelation.)
I can be invisible.
Not literally of course, but I can almost drop completely off the human radar
screens. I am something of a social chameleon, and can blend into almost any
group. In fact, if I concentrate, I can actually blend into the background; it
almost becomes like I'm not there at all. While this ability is something of a
drag when at a party or going clubbing, it's perfect for a chronicler of the
human condition. It's a talent that came in handy for Sir Richard Burton on his
Pilgramage to Mecca, and came in doubly so for me as I ventured deep into
forbidden territory to bring you this column.
Sometimes, I have to fight and strain to bring you the latest news and
information on our twisted human existence; other times, like today, these
stories just fall into my lap like hair from the barber's shears. Which brings
me to the beauty parlor, a realm heretofore unpenetrable by men.
Oh sure, you can go there and get your hair cut, but as any woman will confirm,
the actual haircutting is the smallest part of what goes on inside those
hallowed walls. Similar to the afternoon golf game, or the business lunch, male
rituals we are all familiar with, going to the beauty parlor is the place where
women can let their hair down while they, er, let their hair down. I mean, come
on, you guys didn't think that your ladies really need to get their hair
professionally washed, cut, dried, combed, and curled once a week, did you?
After all, they've been doing it themselves for most of their lives, right?
Nope, the big attraction is that they can get together and talk about us and all
of our shortcomings in excruciating detail. It's very similar to the "going to
the bathroom in pairs" phenomena that's left countless men staring off into
space, waiting for their dates to return. Now this isn't really a well kept
secret, having been discovered and reported to us two decades ago by Martin
Wilson of Bethchester MA. (May his poor soul rest in peace.) The true secret is
the one I inadvertantly discovered last week.
The circumstances were somewhat harrowing, and it is with fear and trepidation
that I've decided to relay it to you now. I also note in passing that I have no
plans of suicide, taking up any dangerous hobbies, or going on long trips in the
Just in case I disappear, I want the truth to be known.
Now, normally, I get my hair cut by a local lady who cuts hair for our whole
extended family, but she was busy last week so I got an appointment at a salon
in Sevierville. Yes, a salon; it's too hard to find an honest to goodness barber
shop anymore. In fact, the only one I know of is up in Erwin, and I don't plan
on making that drive again ever. I made the 3 hour round trip 5 times a week for
almost 4 years and brother, I don't care if I never see those roads again.
Anyway, I went to Chez Gertrudina's for a quick haircut so I'd be reasonably
presentable for the Christmas pictures later this week. (That's another
important tip for you daters, by the way. Most men make the mistake of getting a
haircut the day of the date. They think they can impress the girl by showing her
that they went to great lengths to look good for the date. But the smarter dater
gets his hair cut a week before the date. He impresses his date by showing her
that he always looks this good.)
For a man, there's something vaguely intimidating about a salon. When you first
walk in, something just tells you that you really don't belong, and that if you
aren't on your best behavior, dreadful things may happen to your hair. Most
people don't know this, but the mullet was invented as a punishment for Billy
Bob Hoedecker who loudly passed gas while in the salon.
Sadly, this was one case where the plan backfired. Who knew that he and his
redneck buddies would actually like looking like the north end of a southbound
I don't know what it is that makes the place so forbidding; maybe it's the smell
of the chemicals, or the pictures of androgynous models on the walls with
impossibly perfect hair. Maybe it's just an instinctive respone, brought on by
centuries of evolution; when a man walks into a woman's salon, he's on enemy
ground, and he knows it.
When I walked into the place, I was pleased that it was just two stylists and
me. Ginni took me back to begin the cutting, and I leaned back in the seat, and
just tried to blend in. I succeeded, because after a few minutes, Ginni and
Bunni (Ever noticed that stylists names always end in a vowel, and it's usually
"i"? A trait they share in common with exotic dancers, I do believe. Hmmm. I
just may have found the seed for another column. The things I do for you
people...) began talking as if I wasn't even there. Apparently, Ginni was having
a hard time dealing with her son, who was getting out of hand. She tallied up
his offenses, which were long and mostly minor, but the sheer volume was
incredible. Bunni allowed that her youngster was a bit of a rapscallion as well,
and that she was having to take harsh actions to reign in her hellion.
They went back and forth for a bit, sharing their sad tales when Bunni suddenly
spoke with real venom.
"You know what the worst part of the whole thing was? Frank said I was going too
easy on the kid and he was right! I hate that!"
Ginni echoed her, saying that her husband had also said the same thing, and now
that they were following his plan, her kid was straightening up. Ginni said she
was mad at her husband for three weeks simply because he was right.
"Men are right," she spat, "and that sucks!"
Well folks, truths like this don't come without a heavy price, and I don't mind
telling you I was a bit nervous, because it was about that time in the
conversation that Ginni, who was trimming my eyebrows with some very sharp
scissors, realized that there was a man in the room, and they'd just revealed
more than they should've.
An oppressive silence descended over the room, as Ginni continued to move the
scissors ever closer to my eye, trimming my eye brows.
"Listen buster, and listen good. What's said in the Beaty Parlor stays in the
Beauty Parlor, got it? If I find out you blab any of this to anyone, well, let's
just say that your next haircut will be your last. And don't think I can't make
it happen, bubba. I have connections in salons and barber shops from here to the
California coast. Cross me and there'll be no place for you to hide! Sooner or
later, you'll need a haircut, and when you do..."
Her words trailed off in an evil sounding laugh, accompanied by her drawing the
business end of a comb across my throat.
I quickly began to assure her that I'd fallen asleep and hadn't heard a thing
she had said, and further that if I had heard anything, which I hadn't, then it
obviously fell under stylist/client privilege, and even further, that even if it
wasn't privileged, which it was, and if I had heard something, which I hadn't,
that I was totally taken by her beauty, grace, charm, and capacity for violence,
and I wouldn't think of crossing her.
My sincerity and obvious fear must have convinced her, because she let me go
with my remaining eyebrow. If she'd have known about this blog, I don't think I
would have made it out of there a whole man. I left a big tip on my way out and
have spent the last week, deciding whether or not to share this story with my
fellow man. At long last, I decided that this knowledge was too important, that
no matter what the personal cost, I had to come forward and share what I know.
So fellows, if you come home to your wife, girlfriend, or significant other, and
she seems pissed for no discernible reason, rest assured, she's just coping with
the agonizing realization that, once again, you were right.
And if you see me coming down the street with a ragged haircut and only one
eyebrow, just realize that cutting my own hair for the rest of my life is a
small price to pay for your peace of mind.
Making Beautiful Name: Male Workers in Beauty Parlors
Many competing sociological debates intersect in the world of beauty parlors.
There is an increasing proliferation of male or "gents" parlors—a space where a
new formation of the male self is being produced and established through new
cultures of care and work. Because "work" has always been understood as central
to the lives of men, a major basis of their identity, it is often seen as being
identified with masculinity. "Beauty" and "caring," on the other hand, are often
viewed as something intrinsically feminine.
This article weeds out such notions by presenting life histories of men in
"beauty work" and argues that just as different work situations produce
different models of masculinities, the same work situation also may prove an
arena of a variety of masculinities. The article also explores the possibilities
and potentials of understanding gender relations in South Asia that will prove
helpful in making comparisons with other masculinity studies.