to pull-a da toot,
Require da grace
and not-a da brute
For if you slip and nick-a da skin,
you clip-a da chin
You rip-a da lip a bit
And dats-a da trut!
-- "Sweeney Todd"
I'm not all that hung up about getting older, at least not for a gay guy. I mean, I do wake up some mornings and think, "Holy shit, I'm forty-one?! How the fuck did that happen?!?!" But I still look and feel more or less like I have since early adulthood. With one notable exception: My hair.
And not just the kind on my head.
Yes, I'm balding in the back, and some of the side hair is starting to grey. And that's a drag. But again, from the front, I look basically the same as I always have. (Or do I?)
Is it me, or has my nose shrunk?
No, the real problem is the hair growing everywhere else. On my ears, out of my nose, over my eyes, and let's not even get into the nether regions. The older I get, the hairier I get... and in all the places I don't want any hair. What could possibly be the evolutionary benefit of nose and ear hair? Feh!
And it's not just more hair -- it's coarser hair. Like fishing line. GROWING OUT OF MY FUCKING EARS!!!
To avoid turning into Andy Rooney, I have had to adopt regular and rather tedious grooming techniques. Every two to three weeks, I now get my hair cut and buzzed at Erik's Barber Shop on 10th Avenue. When I visited them last week, the barbers at Erik's asked me to give them a plug, and I'm happy to do so.
I've been going to Erik's for over ten years -- ever since they opened their doors. The place is staffed by a bunch of vaguely related swarthy, Russian Jews. I used to see either Larry or Tony, but then Larry moved on. Now I get my hair cut by Tony or Nathan (pronounced nuh-TON). Nathan is forever studying Hebrew from a children's workbook, and he loves to talk to me about comedy.
"How is the theater?" He always asks when I sit down for my usual high-and-tight.
"The comedy is fine," I always reply, hoping he'll learn the word. He never does.
"I have joke for you," he usually says.
Here's one of the jokes Nathan told me:
"The leedle girl. She is at school. And she have her period for first time. And she is crying. And the leedle boy see her in hallway. He say, "What is wrong?" And the leedle girl say, "I don't know. I am bleeding." And he say, "Well, let me see. Maybe I know what happen." So the leedle girl spread her legs, and the boy look, and he say, "I don't know what happened, but it look like someone cut your balls off!"
I actually tried telling this joke on-stage once, Russian accent and all. It didn't go over very well.
Tony, on the other hand, is less interested in my comedy than in my gayness, which he finds alternately fascinating and horrifying. Long ago he taught me the Russian word for gay -- "goluboy" -- which literally translates as "light blue." Apparently, light blue is considered a really faggy color in Russia, the way pink is here. "Ya goluboy" loosely translates as "I'm a fag," and I say it every time I see Tony, which makes him laugh.
Once when I came into the shop, Tony asked me which channel I wanted to watch on his little TV set. When I said CNN, he replied, "You sure? You sure you want CNN? You sure you don't want Gay-NN?"
I told that story at Carolines once, with Tony in the audience. It killed.
Once or twice a month, I visit Unique Threading in Chelsea to take care of the ears and eyebrows. (I used to go to Cinderella Spa on 125th Street, but it became a bit of a schlep and rather embarrassing to be the only white and male person there every time.)
Getting threaded at Cinderella.
When I was younger, I used to shave between my eyebrows to avoid the dreaded unibrow, but this resulted in eyebrow stubble (and in one unfortunate instance, accidentally shaving half of my left eyebrow off). So now I thread.
Threading, for the uninitiated among you, accomplishes the same result as waxing, but it's supposed to age you less than repeated waxing, which pulls your eyes down over time. In threading, the Indian lady takes a thread and twists it, like one of those rubber-band-propelled toy airplanes I played with as a child. Then she holds the twisted thread over my eyebrows and releases it in spurts, with each spurt tearing multiple hairs out at a time. It feels like being stung over and over again by tiny bees, but the results are lovely.
The goal, by the way, is not to look like a woman or a drag queen, but simply to look clean and fresh. If done properly, an eyebrow threading comes off looking like a minor facelift.
Then it's time for the ears. For this, the Indian ladies at both Cinderella and Unique use hot wax, which actually hurts a lot less than the thread. Using a little popsicle stick, they rub a little wax on a section of my ear, apply a small white square of paper, and then RIP!... before moving on to another section. This process is insanely satisfying for me, especially at Unique, where they are positively OCD about getting every last hair. I leave each time with the ears and eyebrows of a newborn baby. I love it.
Actual photo of me after leaving Unique Threading.
I've saved the most arduous and annoying process for last: Shaving my face. Again, this has gotten progressively more difficult over the years as the hair on my face has become darker, thicker and coarser. It's reached a point now where I simply cannot shave my chin and neck completely smooth, even using a combination of scorching hot water, moisturizer, fancy shaving cream and my beloved Gillette Sensor Excel blades, which cost more than their weight in gold. I shave and I shave and I shave, and still, the whiskers remain. Also, the sink looks like a crime scene afterwards.
So why not just grow a beard, you ask, as in the photo above? Because, dear reader, a beard requires constant maintenance, lest I look like a terrorist. Beards have to be shaped daily -- carefully, meticulously shaped -- and you still have to keep your neck completely shaved. (There is nothing more hideous than a neck beard.)
I keep thinking that at some point, I'll just give up all these obsessive grooming habits -- that my desire for comfort and relaxation will overtake my desire to look young and pretty, and I'll just let myself hit the wall.
But for now, I'm holding on.
Homo groomed. ♥