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Bruno & Gay America, but Just a Little Slice of It
Whenever a gay man cuts a straight man’s hair, a tense drama fraught with danger ensues. For the hair-stylist, that is. At least, if I’m in the chair.
I am going to digress big-time here. There’s a reason intelligent straight people like gay people and it’s usually this: they’re not stupid. When's the last time you crossed a completely dumbass gay person? A gay person with a gun rack in their truck? With testicles hanging off their mode of transport? With a “W. 2004” bumper sticker on their fender? When did the last gay person tell you they were “allergic to mace”? Think about it. I may be over-generalizing here, but gay people typically read, travel, enjoy good food/wine, and for added flavor they’re often a tad cut-throat bitchy, catty. Their lack of kids, their healthy cynicism, penchant for hedonistic pursuits all make hanging out with gay friends like adult summer camp for me: interesting, stimulating, challenging, different. So if gay people want to marry, I say let 'em. My only caveat would be no option for divorce. Put up or shut up.
Back to Bruno, and that is his name. At least his nom de salon. The Salon. The Salon. That’s what it's called. I’m cheap and would rather go to Great-Super-Fantastic-Clip-Cuts but the women there are horrible and chop hair most egregiously and want you to talk about Thanksgiving, your kids, your job. [Screw them - it's like seeing your mom only I don't know these spotty women or owe them anything, let alone sordid details clarifying my underachieving life.] So it turns out I don't want a $7 haircut after all. Enter Bruno. He styles hair but whenever I come into The Salon we have this melodramatic dance of death. Not that severe exactly, but more like a dance of scissors, a chess match, sort of. Basically, Bruno wants to fix me but I won’t let him. And this frustrates him and for some reason I enjoy it. The sticking point, and seemingly a key to Bruno's ultimate mission: my eyebrows.
He’ll work my hair and, Bruno knows what the hell to do with my hair. I don’t say a word to him; he just does his thing. He knows what the crones in the Super-Clips-Great-Cuts could never, ever get. He makes no small talk. It’s blissful. Silent, almost malevolent. He carefully dishevels my hair and does whatever the hell he wants with it. Who am I to question my gay stylist? But barely concealed beneath the surface is Bruno’s one true desire: to pluck my eyebrows.
It started the first time I saw Bruno. I had that typical “straight-man-encroaching-upon-cool-gay-salon” trepidation. He motioned me toward his chair impatiently and said, “We’ll fix you up.” He was more resigned than enthusiastic. This was maybe 2002. Bruno was the first white person I ever heard use the phrase “hot mess.” He made me laugh. “I sometimes wonder how women put up with straight men,” he mused.
It was years later that cable television picked up on the Bruno factor: "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and all those other gay style shows and even networks came along. And admittedly, straight men, at least white straight men in middle America, are often a fashion nightmare, wearing camoflage-plaid combinations and whatnot. And why older men staunchly refuse to even consider trimming their eyebrows, nose, or ear hair remains a mystery to me. Maybe by that age sex is no longer even on the table, so they just plain don't care how they look. Maybe it's liberating. But their eyebrows are scary and beyond unkempt - see Bob Knight or Andy Rooney if unclear on this. Their eyebrows look dangerous and sharp and they distract me when they talk to me. [I let Bruno trim my eyebrows, but he really wants to pluck them. This seems important to him and it is probably cruel of me on some level to deny him what would be a harmless exercise. But since gay salon stylists expect a large tip every time they touch your hair, I feel as though Bruno has no right to pluck my eyebrows. Irrational, I know.]
This part is for the gay men - well, it's for everyone, actually. Gay men as portrayed on television seem, imo....extremely annoying, one dimensional, and hornier than hell. I think gay America is done a serious disservice by such characters as Jack McFarland in "Will & Grace" or Kurt Hummel from "Glee." [Side note: I'd like to beat Kurt Hummel with a tire iron and I'm not homophobic. His ridiculous wardrobe choices and saccharin voice make my skin crawl. Why can't Puck be the gay character?] Again, portraying gay America as that kind of person seems like an attempt to "freakify" and isolate them. And I might totally lose you here, but "Glee" has come full circle from surprisingly quaint surprise hit in 2009 to absolutely ignorable now. Do you know anyone who still watches or cares? If I'm going to watch a high school series where people never seem to graduate on time it's going to be season three of "Friday Night Lights." Tim Riggins, yo.]
So I'm out drinking with a bunch of smart, interesting people, mostly gay. And this vivacious, curvy straight female creature sidles up to our table. It's near last call, the bar is dark, I'm drunk and in love almost immediately. But my friend Bryan is having none of it. The woman, who's intruded into our conversational space, says something - I can't remember what - and Bryan vivisects her with a couple of razor sharp comments. [He reminds me of certain characters in "Portlandia."] She exits most hastily, huffing and I ask Bryan what it's like for a gay man talking to a woman. "I don't have anything at stake," he says, butting his cigarette. "So if they're stupid or annoying, I just tell them so and move on." He knows I don't have this option if I ever hope to have sex again and he laughs. And that's the way the show ends.