About two years ago, I decided to become a hair stylist. I had been a struggling painter and I was using a lot of pills and drinking every night, aimlessly drifting around in my life. A couple of times I was homeless, and more times than I like to recall, when I was less proud, I stayed with my mother in Newton, Mass. Then a gay couple who I know who owns a salon in Westhampton suggested I try my hand at cutting hair. I had sold them a few of my paintings to decorate both their home and their business and through that the three of us became friends. It seemed like an arbitrary thing, to start cutting hair, but they explained that it was a profession that drew on the skills of someone with a fine arts background, and they themselves had been artists of different types before they opened their salon.
I expressed concern about sending off the wrong message to women – I didn’t want to seem gay. I was afraid it might hurt my love life. Not at all, they said; if anything, it would actually help it, like it did for Warren Beatty in Shampoo, which I hadn’t seen until they recommended it to me.
So after I finished beauty school, I apprenticed under Jay, one of the owners and a Master Cutter, and after about three months I became one of the few male stylists working at Unity Hair (their store was named after one of their favorite gay clubs in Montreal). I quickly realized that, indeed, Jay and his partner Dominic were right, and I regularly had sex with my female clients and many of the other female stylists.
Then I met Amber, a new stylist. We quickly hit it off. Many of the girls at the salon were, admittedly, kind of stupid and vapid, and although I had no qualms getting freaky now and then with them when we partied together – they were attractive and fun, at least – I knew that nothing serious would happen. Amber was different; whereas the other girls were perhaps stylish, she was actually hip. Not unlike myself, she came from a different background and had decided to style hair later in life. As much as I hate to use the word, we were, in effect, the two hipsters at the salon, and we could commiserate over our derision for all the sorority girl types or high school girls getting ready for prom who came in. Cutting their hair was analogous to serious writers writing advertising copy; of course it paid and the tips were nice, but it was beneath us. Over this and many other things, we quickly bonded, and before I knew it we were spending every night together.
Around this time, Unity Hair, being an innovative salon (especially for Westhampton, Mass), decided to expand and open up a gym right next to the salon in the same building. After it opened they dropped the “hair” part of their name and just went by “Unity,” the idea being that people achieve unity through great hair and a sweet bod. This introduced a new atmosphere, or rather, bromosphere, to the salon. Of course the members were fine, and came from a variety of backgrounds. However, the field of exercise science tends to attract a pretty narrow demographic of broey dudes, and Jay and Dominic had no choice but to hire these people to run the gym and train the clients. This created a dichotomy within the establishment; there was the salon side, filled with cosmopolitan, or at least, refined, fashionable women and mostly gay men and the gym side, filled with bros who most certainly found the idea of a gym/salon combo ridiculous.
Well, it was okay with me. In my adolescent days in high school I held animosity towards bros because they had social capital – they went to parties, were well-liked by teachers, and had sex with girls, whereas none of that was true of me. But like many nerdy guys, I eventually came into my own and in college I did fine (and certainly by the time I came to Unity, I had no complaints). As such, I didn’t really feel threatened by the gym people; they were simply part of a different culture, and we co-existed. In fact, we usually got along pretty well, because I like to say things like, “’sup bro” and “you get your dick wet last night?” and even though I was being slightly, if not completely, ironic, the bros loved it (and to be honest, I couldn’t really tell if they were being ironic sometimes).
Because the gym was a new project for Jay and Dominic, it went through several policy and staff changes, some of which surprised me. One such surprise was when they hired Rick, a really, really buff black man who sported the ghetto or gangster look and sometimes spoke in that vernacular. There was something incongruous about him training delicate, white older men with lower back problems and skinny gay guys. Not that I cared or even thought it was a bad business decision – it just seemed a little strange, and not in keeping with the image of Unity.
Rumors began to spread about Rick. He was a ladies’ man, they said, and he had apparently slept with at least two of the stylists, if not more within only a few weeks. They even began to talk about the size of his member, which was reported as being enormous. Many days, this was the central topic of conversation in the hair washing room between the girls.
I finally had the opportunity to become acquainted with Rick when Dominic and Jay had a party at their house. They were in the habit of throwing lavish parties with great snacks and a clever theme; this time it was a pajama party. I went in a V-neck and long underwear, and Amber went in traditional PJs. In the backyard, I found Rick with a pair of lounge pants and a bath robe. His t-shirt clung to his bulging muscles. He was lighting up a big blunt. “There’s some hotties here tonight,” he said. He had a big laugh.
“The girls are looking sexy,” I said. “That’s why I like PJ parties,” I added.
“Oooh look at that,” he said as one of the girls from the front walked back inside, wearing only a slip.
There is nothing like a remark about an attractive girl to break the ice between unacquainted men, and I was instantly endeared to Rick. There was no doubt; he was hounding for some ass, and he was the definition of a man eternally on the prowl. We spoke a lot that night, and I became more and more vulgar in my own language as the night went on and we discussed how we liked to hit that ass. We were just a couple of bros, broing out. I was reminded of Larry David’s relationship with Leon in Curb Your Enthusiasm.