April 1997
s m u g
bumping uglies
by Todd Levin


I like getting my hair cut. I mean I really like getting my hair cut. Nothing I have ever done has more closely approached purchasing sexual services than slapping down green for a slickety-slick hair styling (except that time that I paid a hooker to poke her head into my bedroom every fifteen minutes for two hours and nag me to make my bed).

I love approaching the front desk, speaking in hushed tones across the counter, telling the aging shop Madam (I'll bet that she cut a great head of hair in her day) that I don't have an appointment but would be willing to wait forever for anyone named Denise.

© 1997 Mark Zingarelli

I love flipping through Italian hairstyle books, imagining a complex coiffure superimposed on my plain old head of smoothed down black bristle, dreaming precious Suffolk County-raised hands laboring through the damp jungle of my head. And I love the Nexxus Humectress handjobs.

I have tried to explain, without success, my hang-up with hairstylists (someone once said -- I think it was one of them rascally feminists -- that "women have challenges; men have hang-ups"). I find a simple shampoo and haircut to be the single most fulfilling experience in my current sexual vocabulary (funny thing -- there was a time in my life, not too long ago, when I could have repeated that same exact sentence and replaced the words "a simple shampoo and haircut" with "the sit n' spin," "peeing my pants," "prison showering," or "the sensation of room temperature uncooked veal against my face" without changing the meaning of the sentence one tiny bit). There is something so completely erotic about a woman dressed in nothing more than a plastic Paul Mitchell smock inviting me into the back of a perfumed room and easing my head backwards into a low sink, running warm water over my hair, and working long, Hard Candy nail polish-tipped fingers drenched in sweet, sticky conditioners deep into my grateful scalp. I cannot get over the mutual confidence of having my neckdown regions covered up for privacy while Denise leans in close, her smock buckling to reveal dark pockets of wonder, with the only light still shining coming from the gold-filled nameplate charm necklace dangling between her breasts like an incense lantern on a holy swinging chain. And let's not forget the Nexxus Humectress handjobs.

Once, in my typical no-appointment fashion -- I rarely get my hair cut at the same hair salon twice -- I had my stylist pointed out to me as I was led into the shampoo stations at the rear of the salon. Much to my horror, the shampooist was a young hustler named Victor. As he was testing out the water temperature, I remember that I kept crying out "colder, please" through a veil of confused tears. Which isn't to say, incidentally, that I passed up the Nexxus Humectress handjob. Victor still writes occasionally, that impetuous fool.

But when I am down, feeling defeated and craving some self-serving attention, I will force myself to cough up the forty or so horse painkillers I'm likely to have swallowed, turn off my Nick Drake eight-track, throw on my dry-cleaned Members Only beige bomber, and find myself a half-hour later, dizzy with lusty delirium, at some foolishly named ("Hair Apparent"; "Locks, Stock and Barrel" -- you get it -- just insert your favorite cornball follicle pun here), just-out-of-beauty-school, training ground for working-class hair stylists. Frankly, I am not interested in the more professional European salons; I find the experience quite masochistic. I will, however, proudly march into any establishment that claims to be "Euro-Style" or "Europeanish" because that usually sends up a very visible Aqua Net smoke signal, promising Nail technicians and teased up experiments with restraining orders on their ex-boyfriends. This is where I feel at home. This is where I will be spoiled for 20 to 40 minutes, under the carelessly roaming hands of a certified Cosmetologist hell-bent on making me attractive to other women, and emerge a new, gelled-up man with an embarrassing erection.

I once heard a story from a hair stylist about an associate of hers who was cutting a man's hair and noticed something disturbing going on beneath the man's light-resistant smock. She described it as a rushed, rhythmic movement in the region of his lap. The hairdresser, increasingly disgusted, reacted as she should, and beat the man's lap with a hairbrush, announcing loudly to the rest of the establishment that this man was a "fucking pervert." It turns out the man was just cleaning his glasses. After hearing this I remember thinking, as I was furiously masturbating beneath my own smock, this is probably a pretty typical story.

Obviously (is it obvious?), I am not such a complete sociopath that I would actually act out any of the creepy fantasies I have about having my hair cut. Contrary to anything I have said in this column, or to my Jungian therapist, my Freudian therapist, or any of my Psychic friends, I have not masturbated during a haircut. I have not dreamt of being in a steamy standup shower, getting a full-on conditioning with a hard-working hairdresser pressed tightly behind me, her cheap plastic smock the only thing separating our raging teenage lust. I have not begged my hairdresser to fasten banana clips to my nipples. And I have never received a Nexxus Humectress handjob (though I have received a Salon Selectives #5 for Color-Treated or Dry, Stressed Hair enema, but that was self-administered and was purely for research purposes). I am just peculiarly attached to the blatant hampering (after all, how often do we get our hair cut for medical reasons?), and the effort from a total (female) stranger at making me a more physically attractive man. I like walking out of the salon and into the sun, changed, cleaner and, in the eyes of a woman whom I hardly know, a better looking person. It's shallow, it's strange, and, if you make the kind of efforts only the most fantasy-laden creepies like myself would to find all of the bordello metaphors in a typical beauty parlor experience, it is slightly erotic. And nothing beats those damn Biolage Leave-in Conditioner handjobs.


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