I was only able to slip out for an acupuncture appointment midweek because my wife was home sick with a gnarly cough, and was therefore able to watch our two sick children while I did yard work and ran errands. I'm sure it was very therapeutic for her. She probably wished she had gone to work.
As I left the acupuncture session/nap in blissful disorientation, I called the local Supercuts, where I've been getting my hair did for the last eight years, to announce my impending arrival. This would be a day of self-maintenance. Never mind that I half-assedly resolved to start clipping or shaving my head in 2012, since paying for professional haircuts grows ever more galling as the follicular exodus increases exponentially. Today I would parlay my wife's illness into a low-rent spa day.
This particular Supercuts is in the heart of the gayborhood, and is the most fabulous of its ilk. How could it survive otherwise, in a part of town where half the residents are hairstylists? But yesterday, I didn't recognize any of the usual employees, and I was a little anxious when the least gay-looking male stylist in the place beckoned me to his chair. (Call me heterophobic, but I don't really like straight guys messing with my hair.)
The vexation began almost immediately.
"Hey, man. How's your day? How's your life? How's everything," the pudgy man-child asks, draping me with a maroon tarpaulin.
"All right. Not too bad."
Back in the day, I made it a policy to not engage with hairstylists. Just get in and out quickly. But since I've been coming to this place for so long, I've gotten into the habit of chatting and gossiping with the staff, most of whom have interesting lives, or, like my acupuncturist, seem to find whatever I say fascinating. It's another excuse to talk about my favorite subject: me. (And my kids, who are really just extensions of me.)
"Cool, cool. What are we doing today?"
I recite the specifications of my haircut.
"Cool." He starts clipping my hair as if he's scraping paint off the hull of an old boat. I say ouch, but he's oblivious.
"So, what have you been up to today?" He's got a weak mustache and a slovenliness that is clearly not calculated. He reminds me of a particularly irksome subset of the high school students I used to teach.
"Well, I just got acupuncture for the first time!" I enthuse.
"Oh, man. How was it? Did it hurt?"
"Nah. It was really good. Relaxing," I say.
"I don't know. It seems like it would hurt. Like, if you had a problem with needles, you would hate it."
"I guess," I allow. "They were such little needles, like wires almost. You just feel a tiny poke."
"It sounds terrible to me."
Okay. The kid is a Negative Nancy. Whatever. I'll just hope he stops talking.
"So what do you got going on tonight?"
It's Wednesday. I'm in my mid-forties. Does he think that I'm a cool gay guy who goes out clubbing on schoolnights? Would he ask his dad what he's up to tonight?
"Hmmm...well, I'm just going to get through the day, you know. Then collapse," I say.
"Oh, c'mon, man! You must be doing something."
"No, not really. My wife and kids are all at home sick, so I sort of have to take care of them."
"Oh, man. That sounds like the worst! How did you not get sick? You're probably like, 'You have to take care of the kids next time they're sick', right? That would be the fair way to do it."
"Well, we both take care of the kids when they're sick."
"That sounds terrible."
He asks about the kids. How many? How old? I provide the information.
"That sounds terrible!"
"What did you guys do when you found out you were having twins? You must have been like, 'Whoa! Check it again, doc! This can't be right!' Har har har..."
"No, we were actually really excited. Really happy. It was great news."
"You were probably all, 'No way, man! One of these kids ain't mine!' Somethin' like that. Twins? That's terrible. Har har har..."
You know how sometimes you want to punch somebody, not because you're actually angry at them, but because you think it would do them some good?
I can't really extricate myself from the conversation now without seeming like a dick to the idiot who is, at the moment, the only person who could make my my head look less attractive than nature already has. So we go on to other topics. Diapers. He feels that it's wrong of his cousin to make her babydaddy change their kid's diapers all the time. It's not fair. But he can tell the babydaddy is gonna make a great husband one day, har har. What? However, the man-child himself could never change diapers. His gag reflex is really strong. Like, when he goes to the bathroom after someone has taken a big dump, he almost pukes. Or when he sees someone else puke, even if he's "sober as a bird," he'll puke too.
"How's it look?" He undoes the snaps on my neck.
"Actually, could you take a little more off the top?"
"Now you tell me," he says, snapping the drape back on. "Just kidding."
He takes off another eighth of an inch.
"For the record," he snips, "I thought it was a good blend."
My post-acupuncture placidity had been replaced by unaccountably high agitation, and disappointment at the reminder that aggressively stupid people will never be able to understand why they rub people the wrong way, if they even notice it at all.
I can just imagine what that little turd said after I left: that bald guy only gave me a 2-dollar tip. What a terrible customer. Oh well, his life sucks anyway. Har har.
I thought about the lady giving cooking instructions to her parents. After ten minutes of exasperation, she finally added, "You can go to the Food Network website and look for Emeril's recipe. It's the same thing." How had she not seen that exit strategy as soon as her dad asked her how to cook the chicken? And why had I not told the little douchebag who cut my hair that I was kind of sick and didn't feel like talking? It would have saved me a good deal of aggravation. I guess if we only talked to people who we knew for sure weren't going to get on our nerves, whether they're family or strangers, our vocal cords would atrophy and then we would only be able to piss each other off on Facebook.