With Brenda gone and a new year unraveling before my bloodshot eyes, it seems an opportune time to take stock of my physical condition.
The degree to which men allow themselves to go to seed once they have pledged their troth is astounding. I have friends who went from strapping young lads with nimble minds to bloated wrecks with broken brains within just a few months of married life.
I thought I had been keeping it together rather nicely. Until Wednesday, when I made the mistake of glancing at my reflection in the door of the beer fridge at my local bottle store. I looked like some kind of yeti with a drinking problem. Years of marital discord had exacted a terrible toll.
Top of the list was an urgent deforestation operation. My head looked like a municipal plot – neglected and infested with alien undergrowth. I broke two disposable razors on my face before reaching for the panga. Shaving with a machete isn’t for the faint-hearted. One nick and you’re on your hands and knees spraying arterial blood like a cloven-hoofed animal on Eid ul-Fitr.
My hair, hanging halfway down my back like a snarl of angry serpents, was next. I would have gone to a barber if I didn’t mind looking like Steve Hofmeyr.
The choices were limited. Either I cut it myself and risked looking like an escaped mental patient or I went to a hairdresser. Tough call.
Hairdressers are more frightening than dentists. At least at the dentist there’s the possibility of being given drugs. With hairdressers you have to bring your own. Or, preferably, take them beforehand. It’s the only way to cope with their relentless questioning. “Where are you from? How would you like your hair cut? Have you ever explored the inner ring of Dante’s seventh circle?” It’s worse than the Spanish Inquisition.
I chose a hairdresser in a small coastal town which shall remain nameless. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of these people. Badmouth them and they won’t hesitate to cut your head off the next time you’re in the chair.
I had to case the joint first. Weigh up the male-to-female and gay-to-straight ratio. You don’t want to be walking blindly into a situation that could end with you rethinking your sexuality. Redecorating is prohibitively expensive these days.
Luckily the place was empty. Some might think this isn’t a good sign. Not me. It’s bad enough having to tolerate the yelping and wailing of the abominable Nicki Minaj, but to combine that with the criminally inane chatter of a dozen sparkly-eyed Subaru-driving hockey moms having harlarts put in is altogether too much to bear.
The moment I walked through the door, the fear kicked in and my sphincter snapped shut. Everyone heard it. This is not like a trouser cough for which one can blame the dog, so I simply smiled and enquired about a haircut.
To their credit, they didn’t ask to see my money first. I only say this because apart from the tangled mess of vipers nesting on my head, I also have a smattering of premolars that have gone astray. I call it the Trovato Gap. Homeless chic, east coast style. By this time next year, everyone won’t have them.
Hairdressing salons always remind me of brothels, or what I imagine brothels to look like – a gimlet-eyed harridan at the till, a roomful of pseudo-solicitous ladies with enthusiastic breasts and a Zimbabwean woman waiting to wash your hair.
“Is the pressure too much,” she said, massaging my scalp. My mouth went dry. Was this her idea of irony? I’m lying down with my feet up while a black woman washes my hair. Of course the pressure was too much.
I wanted to switch places and wash her hair and weep and beg forgiveness for the sins of my forefathers and then, later, have a ménage à trois with the well-known Feminist-Tauist-NeoPagan-Post-Structuralist-Deconstructionist-Socialist Gillian Schutte and her black husband as a final act of contrition.
Instead, I said: “A bit harder would be nice.”
I don’t enjoy looking at myself in a mirror for too long, which is unusual for a narcissist. Perhaps there is something wrong with me. However, I prefer to think there is something wrong with the lighting in a hairdresser’s salon. It accentuates ones flaws – masculinity and a white skin being just two of them. A double chin the size of Perth being an obvious third.
The cutter was an Indian woman. Paying off a debt of some sort, I imagine. At least she wasn’t in shackles.
Once I was seated in the electric chair with an enormous pink bib lashed around my neck, making my head resemble a giant goitre, she asked what I would like. I thought for a moment, then said: “I’d like to buy the world a gram and garnish it with thrills, grow dagga trees and jail keys, and snow white Mandrax pills.”
She failed to recognise my playful homage to the old Coke jingle. Hmm. A classic case of indentured servitude. I nodded to myself. Well, not strictly to myself. Everyone in the salon saw me nodding. They probably thought I had that tropical nodding disease so many people seem to have on the KZN north coast.
“I want a haircut,” I said. Again, no response. Was this not enough information? Should I have brought photographs? Was I expected to procure a pencil and a piece of paper and sketch a rudimentary diagram?
In the end, she gave me a cut that, in medieval times, would have earned me the name Bob the Pageboy, the overgrown apprentice squire to Sir Snortalot, son of King Chopaline of the Kingdom of Ballito.
When I left, an elfish youth with dark eyes and harlarts in his hair took my money and said, “You look so hot.” Being a neophyte in the world of male-on-male compliments, I agreed on the humidity and said how nice it would be if we had a little rain in the evening. This appeared to be code for: “I’ll meet you in the parking lot in twenty minutes” because I found him leaning all louche-like against my car after I had completed my standard post-haircut double brandy-and-beer chaser procedure.
I just wrote an entire column about going to the hairdresser. I do so hope it’s not going to be that sort of year.