Got your attention? Sorry, the probing was all of a metaphorical, conversational level. It was still hugely uncomfortable, though.
I finally got my hair cut, which is great now that it’s done, but which was a really unpleasant experience.
Due to exciting circumstances relating to my flight out of town, I wasn’t able to go to my regular hairstylist, or even anybody I’d ever heard of before. I picked somebody from the yellow pages who had a cool, modern logo, and hoped for the best.
It was not the best.
For one thing, the haircut was not done well. I had to have three separate arguments to get my bangs the way I like them– one to say “even though my bangs were long enough to tuck behind my ear when I came in, I really do want them short.” and then a second argument to say “No, short for real. Shorter than my eyebrows!” and then a third to say “I also want them to be straight! That means you have to actually look at me head-on when you cut them, and you can’t make one side a lot longer than the other! I really mean it. I want them straight! As in, all the same length!”
The rest of my hair is too long and not even either, but it’s less obvious and I’ll just pop by my regular hairstylist in a few weeks to get it taken care of and to get highlights put in (I let this guy color my hair, but I decided it was too risky to ask him to do highlights. Especially since my stylist does something very subtle with “lowlights” as well.)
Anyway, I can see again, and my hair is bright red like I want it. Those are the only positive statements I can make about the experience.
You see, (and this is where I get into the real meat of it), I’ve never had my hair cut by a hardcore conservative before. Or maybe I have, I don’t know, I don’t talk about politics with people who have sharp objects right next to my head! I’ve come out to a few of them, mostly just when they’re doing my hair for prom and I can’t really lie and say I don’t have a date (since I just talked about how silly I felt trying to get a boutonniere). And once, that led to a really good conversation about all sorts of progressive topics. But mostly, it’s just an, “I see. So you needed the boutonniere to match her vest?” and we’re back to less weighty topics.
I’m more than willing to talk politics. I’m not shy about my opinions. I’m also not at all shy about being out to people. I just think it’s rude, when a total stranger is obligated to remain in your company, to bring up conversations that may make them uncomfortable.
That’s really the crux of this issue– I don’t care that the man who cut my hair was super conservative. It doesn’t matter to me, I don’t really know him. What I mind is the fact that he insisted upon bringing it up while we were both obligated to remain in each other’s company. I disagreed, but because of the nature of our relationship (i.e., basically nonexistent) I couldn’t tell him how strenuously I disagreed, because that would only escalate the situation. All I could say was, “Mmm. Yeah, I guess some people feel that way, but I don’t mind X.” and try to change the topic.
Except no topic of conversation was safe! I mean, I guess the fact I’m majoring in Arabic is notable, but there are a lot of things you can say about it without going on a rant about foreigners. And especially without asking me if I’ve ever dated one of “those,” because “that’d teach you.” (Teach me what, I’m not sure– that it’s difficult to maintain a meaningful relationship across a language barrier? That all Arabic-speaking people are evil terrorists?). Most people, when I tell them, say, “Oh, isn’t it hard?” or “Oh, how did you pick it?” or “Oh, I’ve always had trouble with foreign languages.” These are all politically-neutral responses. There’s no need for “Oh. Heh heh. Well, you tried dating one of those? That’ll teach ya.”
In fact, there’s no need to talk about my dating life at all. Please! Stop trying to ascertain whether I’m having sex! It’s not subtle, and it’s not appropriate! You are literally a grandfather! You are too old to be asking if I’m traveling to see my boyfriend, or if I have a steady boyfriend, or if I’ve tried dating one of “those,” or if I’m looking for a boyfriend, or if there are a lot of boys at my university, or what do I mean by the ‘people I live with,’ and if any of them are boys. Just leave me alone! Just like deep-held political beliefs, sex lives are too personal to be acceptable conversation between strangers who are trapped in a room together for two hours!
(Also, heteronormativity? Sucks. I wish there was a way to tell people I’m not straight, and thus avoid all the stupid “boyfriend” questions, without telling them I’m gay, and thus being saddled with everything that comes with that. I mean, I know I’m tapping into straight privilege by “passing,” but man, I don’t want it!)
Anyway, I was so squicked out by the whole experience that I just had to write about it. It wasn’t anything reportable, or even notable; it was just an old man refusing to respect my personal space, and I couldn’t shut down his increasingly awkward lines of inquiry or argue with him about his repellent political views. (I’ve left out the long conversations about the fact that our town is 51% Hispanic, or that his son is doing missionary work in Africa, or our economic and political troubles; you can imagine them in yourselves. I assure you, they were stunning.) I mean, I brought a book with me. At one point, I even started reading it. (And thank god he didn’t ask what it was– it was Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman!) But either he couldn’t tell, or her didn’t care that I wasn’t interested in having long, meaningful conversations with him.
I wish I could just have said, “You’re intimately touching my hair, sir. There is no reason to transgress my other personal boundaries.”