... and then, there was the cream horn story.
I was insecure growing up. I spent years trying to be a different person and
never succeeded. While other guys my age spent time in the bathroom with exotic
fantasies of being with another human being, I spent mine fantasizing of just
being another one. I stood before the bathroom sink and tried to remake my
face. I pulled, mashed, pursed my mouth, tried flesh toned makeup to hide the
acne, colored my hair black -to appear goth (a miserable failure I might add),
tried radically different clothing styles, ways of speaking and walking. I
refused to believe that the face that I saw in the mirror was my own. I refused
to believe that I would have to settle with who I was for the rest of my life. I
wanted to be perfect.
It never worked. I could only transform myself, like some kind of weird
Cinderella, into another person for an instant. I stood in the bathroom,
splashed a little water on my face and the person I truly was dropped in as
smooth and gay as a swan dive from Greg Louganis.
I would not be defeated.
In the spring of 1989 I moved to Granbury, Texas to live with my father. I
was 21 and still mesmerized by the lure of being someone else. I imagined that
Texas would be the perfect place for me to invent a new persona- I would be the
new, perfect me.
My miserable, closeted years in Scottsburg, Indiana could end. I planned to
leave the repressed asshole, the insecure, bitter teen with no concept of the
world, behind me. Like the phoenix I would arise new and straight from the ashes
of the flaming gay kid I was.
So I packed my bags and cast off my old life and headed for something new and
I grew a mullet - I don't have to describe just how bad this looked. Of
course, in Texas, one is surrounded by them so I didn't stand out as looking
particularly strange. I kept this haircut for months - allowing it to grow long
enough to be the envy of Joe Dirt.
Somehow I remade myself from a flamboyant gay kid into a rather odd hybrid of
progressive-redneck. Frustratingly enough the haircut didn't make me any
straighter. I don't know what I was thinking.
Several months into my life in Texas, some co-workers of mine decided they
wanted to go to a bar and dance. I'd never been bar hopping or club dancing
before so I wanted to make sure that I fit into the scene perfectly - I wanted
to blend in and be one of the crowd. I was desperate for such acceptance so I
asked Tracy, the girl who did my hair, for something new, something different.
She and I talked for a while about what I could do with my hair and she
suggested a few things. She decided that I should do something a little more
modern, something that wasn't a mullet.
"I'm going to cut all of this back part off." She held out the back of my
mullet as she speculated on action. "I think you'll like short hair in the back
a lot better. It will be lots cooler, especially if you're dancing." Tracy
studied the top of my head. "The hard part is this." She fluffed the hair on the
top of my head. "It's all just limp and light."
"What do you feel like doing?" I asked, up for a change.
"Well, I'm going to try something that will work better with your face." She
looked thoughtful. "Why don't we try this? You have lots of length on top. I'll
do a body perm up here and give your hair a little texture." She roughed the top
with her fingers.
"A perm?" I was skeptical.
"It's not going to be like what you're thinking." She said, still fluffing.
"It'll look great and it will have a wonderful texture. Girls won't be able to
keep their fingers out of it."
Having female fingers in my hair wasn't a big selling point for this haircut
but I was willing to give it a try. If a haircut could make me straight I was
willing to try.
My hair had always been baby fine and limp and the thought that it might do
something other than just spike up or lay flat was alluring. I tried to imagine
the idea of having a little bit of a wave in my hair... something different. I
imagined myself as someone different so I agreed
She permed it into a texture, a little curl there a little bit of body here.
She made a big production of the wet curls and stylish appearance. She turned
the chair around to face the mirror and I was stunned by what I saw.
I was a different person.
It was perfect. I was perfect.
I met up with my friends early in the night and we drove the 40 or so minutes
to Fort Worth to a bar on the southwest side named West Side Stories. The
building used to be a warehouse and they transformed the place into a
smorgasbord of venues: country bar, jazz bar, pop dance bar, sports bar,
videogame bar and so forth.
We started the night at the pop dance bar and my
friends marveled at my confident demeanor. They said they liked how different I looked
and said it was "great". They were "impressed" with me for my willingness to try something
so new. I let loose on the dance floor and allowed them to ponder their
other questions while I danced on. They seemed to like the
new me a lot and it spurred on my newfound coolness.
I pressed us to go to every other bar
to get a feel for the layout and to experience some new music and people. I was
they height of the dance floor; I was the life
of the party. I tried out new grooves; I head-banged to some of the 80's glam
metal they played at one bar, two stepped in the country bar, I chilled out, cool and
rhythmic, in the jazz bar. In the pop dance bar I was experimental, enthusiastic.
I danced with everyone and anyone who even came near me. Faces smiled
down at me from the upper balcony as I showed off my new moves, my new personae.
I was that guy - I was new, straight and perfect. Everybody liked me.
I asked strangers to dance and some of them actually did - always with a
confused, or amused, look on their faces at my forward enthusiastic confidence.
My head even felt different and the weight of the curls moved nicely with my
tossing head. I was in heaven.
The night was a spectacular success, it was perfect and somehow it was all
because of a haircut.
Three am rolled around and everyone began leaving. I felt hot and happy and
tired. We prepared to leave and I stopped my friend to let her know that I
needed to use the rest room so she waited for me by the door.
The bathroom was quiet and empty so I used the facility, walked to the sink
to wash my hands and then cupped my hands under the water to splash some nice
cool water onto my sweaty face. That much dancing was almost too much. My entire
body throbbed from the heat and exercise and my head swam a little from the
alcohol. The water was a nice relief on my hot, red face and I looked up at my
reflection and just stopped.
The exertion of the dancing had left my face red and blotchy and a little
puffy. The gyrations, dancing, sweating and head bobbing had somehow congealed
my body perm into one long curl that started on the top of my head and spiraled
forward to stick straight out over my forehead. The closest description I can
possibly give you is that someone had sucked all of the cream out of a cream
horn and tacked the pastry shell on top of my head in the form of a thick, limp,
The water dripped down my face as I realized that not only did I look like a
complete freak, I looked like this and NO ONE HAD TOLD ME! no.... no, wait.... I
remembered the comments from the early part of the evening and realized that I
had looked like this right after the very first dance - everyone had said
I was brave. I then heard the unspoken question that had been on
everyone's lips but had never passed them...
With that thought queued up, my mind rolled out the movie version of the
entire night in my head. I was dancing the Two-step in the country bar, all of
the men in their cowboy hats and the women in their tight jeans trying not to
look too long while every girl I danced with refused to look me in the eye. I
was bobbing my head to the beat at the jazz bar, snapping my fingers and the
musicians were forcing their eyes to their empty music stands so they could
continue playing- trying to ignore the idiot with that thing bouncing on his
head. I saw the pop dance bar and the balcony full of people staring down at the
tops of everyone's heads - my head - I watched the lone curl flop about like a
damaged windsock in a windstorm or some kind of bizarre prosthetic baby's arm.
Greg Louganis scored a perfect 10. The water dripped down my eyelashes and
the end of my nose. My mouth was an round "O" in horrified realization.
When I left the bathroom my hair was dark, wet and plastered to my skull, my
shirt was soaked.
No one ever said a word and I never returned to the bar.
The next morning I returned to Tracy, explained the previous night's events
and ordered her to cut the damn thing out. When she stopped laughing she took a
wistful look at my badly tended curls and turned her head thoughtfully.
"Well, the perm didn't work." She smiled. "Ok, how about this time we try
some color?" She nodded. "I'm giving you blond highlights... "
It was perfect. I was...