Monday, August 22, 2016

MORE THAN A HAIRCUT


I’m a serial monogamist, but I gave up on men after a couple of years in Vancouver. The first was Jean-Paul, a very pretty boy whose mind seemed to drift during our monthly sit-downs. If only I could have read his mind. I’m guessing the flow would have been something like this:

Butterflies. They’re so sweet. I wonder if any have pink dots. Gee, my pores look good. I think I’ll put a mint leaf in my water for lunch today.  

Ah, Jean-Paul. I crushed on him for over a year but we never could meet on the same level. His head was always in the clouds.

So I switched to Ali. It was doomed from the outset. I spotted him in a club, dancing along his best friend, the deejay. Another pretty boy, but thin, lanky. When he showed up at my gym, I thought there was a connection. We’d briefly make eye contact before I’d glance down and smile at my shoes. (All my flirtatious moves were wasted on Nikes.) When I showed up at his workplace, he offered a vague “Hey”. Maybe he hadn’t noticed me before. Maybe the sexual tension was all mine. But I continued to haunt his worksite every four weeks. And I learned not to bow my head so much. He wasn’t any chattier than Jean-Paul, but I don’t imagine he was thinking about butterflies. I’m not sure he was thinking at all.

Seven months into our “relationship”, I called Ali after returning home from one of our sessions. I asked him out and he politely declined. Flattered, he said. Boyfriend in Calgary. I think it was the quickest thing he could come up with on the spot.

I made myself go back to Ali. Yes, crushes are crushing but I knew I’d keep seeing him at the gym and in the clubs, week after week, without any visitor from Alberta. I needed to show I wasn’t as fragile as I truly was. For all I know, Ali had forgotten the phone call thirty minutes after it happened.

A few months later, I finally had a Vancouver boyfriend and I went to Ali one last time, probably just to let that fact slip into the conversation. The announcement was met with silence but it was Ali’s normal kind of silence. Nothing to read into it.

That’s when I switched to women.

My boyfriend called a girl friend who recommended I go to Christina in a trendy Yaletown salon. We clicked. She was chatty and not at all pretentious like the others in the shop. She moved to a different salon in the city and I followed. Over the years, we chatted about her trip to India, her wedding and her first baby. I didn’t have much to say about my boyfriend—just a few thinly veiled rants laced with humor. Yes, he’s difficult, but—ha, ha—he’s mine. She’s was there after I broke up with my boyfriend. Yes, we’re in the middle of renovations so—ha, ha—we’re stuck in the same house for several more months. (A year as it turned out. By then, I couldn’t muster up a single “ha” or “hee”.) Even when I regained my freedom and moved to my rural home, I sailed over once every five weeks. I would stick with Christina no matter what.

But then Christina went and moved to Vancouver Island. Hmm, that would mean two ferries or a plane and a rental car…

I suppose it was good that Christina announced that she was giving up hair. She and her husband had worked it out so she could be a full-time mom to their son and the little one on the way. I put on a brave face, hugged her and wished her well. It wasn’t easy.

I’m more committed to stylists than boyfriends. The ex and I lasted seven years. Christina and I went nine.

CJ's tats were something like this, only with
more orange and green. They grew faster than my hair.
I had no choice but to find someone new, someone along the coast where I lived instead of a person in the city. I’d heard chatter about a gay couple that owned a salon in the closest town so I dropped in. I figured it was time to give men a try again. Besides, I was starved for any gay connection in this land of mill workers, fiber artists and retirees. As luck would have it, they booked me with a gruff, heavily tattooed woman who took over the salon when the boys moved back to The Prairies. If only I’d had one session in either of their chairs. Surely they’d have warned me to flee this place, too.

I stuck with CJ for four years, even as others bailed when she was under investigation for child pornography. Just imagine how widely and wickedly that kind of news spreads in a small town. I’m not sure if my loyalty was a message of support or just a self-centered need to get a consistent cut. I finally had to look for someone new when I arrived for my appointment and found a handwritten note taped to the door announcing that CJ’s was out of business. It was a highly impersonal Dear John letter, but I guess it was understandable. Yes, she was arrested and convicted. There was a moment when I wondered what prison. Could I get a haircut during a scheduled visit? But then I came to my senses. I figured scissors were a banned item in that kind of environment.

So I started seeing Kat, a new age philosopher whose weight loss grew more and more concerning as she endured a rough breakup—again, in a small town…—, a liver transplant ordeal of the father of one of her boys and the drug dependency of her other son. I listened plenty, always waiting for the right moment to express concern about her weight. I’d like to think I provided a diversion as we often talked passionately about the books we were reading, about how we’d changed since our youth and about how to survive in the quirky coastal area we called home. We lasted four years until I finally had to break up in June. We knew it was coming. It ended in another wonderful conversation in which we each added to our reading lists. I wondered once again if I should express concern about her weight—she’d reached the point where thin turns to frail. I withheld. In every breakup, there are words we wished we’d said. All I did was thank her for the monthly moments of sanity before we hugged goodbye, her bony frame all the more apparent.

And so now I’m at that awkward stage, looking once again, hoping I can find someone to click with, someone with a few things in common, someone who maybe gets me…and someone who won’t butcher my hair with an overzealous razor. (It’s happened.) Time to start a new relationship.

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