compulsory heterosexuality @ the barber shop.

i’m a bit of a baldie as of late. and, after nearly 3 months without a cut (i swear it didn’t look bad until 2 weeks ago) i made it a point to go visit the barber i’ve been going to for the past few months. he’s a haitian dude who’s lived in the states for almost as long as i’ve been alive (he’s barely 8 yrs my senior, if that) and seems to have picked up a whole slew of traits that, to my womanist mind, are precise indicators of wtf’s wrong w/ black folks: he’s homophobic but passes off his thinly-veiled jabs (worded as questions) as curiosity about queer folk, he’s sexist but masks it as speaking to the purported regal nature of black women (peace sista, how you doin queen, et. al), and he definitely thinks that children prefer fast food to freshly prepared food items. three fatal flaws. three counter-revolutionary, so-run-of-the-mill-i-barely-flinch flaws. sigh. so common, and so deeply wrong.
not that i expect an episode of the mclaughlin group out of the barber shop.
not that i anticipate some cheikh anta diop or frantz fanon goings on @ that place.
but damn. i also don’t anticipate feeling attacked for not believing that queer women are such exclusively because of ‘damage’ done by men in their lives (molesters, fucked up boyfriends, rapists, violent/ substance abusing siblings or other family members). i never imagined that trying to have a bit of a conversation w/ the brotha who cuts my hair would make me feel like i’m being mocked or laughed at by virtue of some cat deciding to loudtalk me. the place never felt like home, but i feel like my guard has to be up higher than it usually is. i wouldn’t say it felt like being surrounded by hyenas, but it wasn’t like sitting on a mountain of cushions, either. i have trouble articulating it. maybe that’s just my bullshit sensor working overtime to keep me out of the path of danger. i can’t really call it. but it’s an icky feeling to have. like i’m being written off, misunderstood, or simply humored by someone who doesn’t take the function of human genitalia seriously. ugh.
it’s cool, though. i stood my ground and reminded myself that i only had to pay him and leave.
scratching the surface is showing me more about these dudes than i really care to see at this point.
it’s like stepping on what looks like solid ice and feeling the sheet crack under your weight, and praying you can make it back to the soil before you fall into a lake. i didn’t expect all that. should i expect all that? wouldn’t that be generalizing, then? that’s what i don’t want to do. that’s what bugs me about the conversations i have w/ hetero-identifying, masculine-presenting biological men who aren’t close friends of mine: they decide to apply what they learn in one or two instances to everyone who fits particular criteria. and i hate that.

it’s getting harder for me to treat ppl like individuals, to treat them the way i would want myself or my child(ren) to be treated. it’s a mess.
and my sleepy ass hasn’t even tried to make this rant sound coherent . . .

an addendum:

knowing why they are how they are (why i am the way i am, why anyone functions a certain way) doesn’t make it any better or easier. i just have trouble trying to look past that with some people. so, i’m staying over here in my little womanist corner and building community with like-minded persons. that’s not to say that i’m fully isolated, but i definitely feel like i need to build myself up a bit more before trying to go play w/ the other, less aware kids.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. AlteredThought
    Aug 10, 2008 @ 16:33:00

    The worst place to breed gender equality is in a men’s barbershop. My largely feminist/womanist views are often shunned, riducuded and tossed away because we’ve (men) have been reduced to chasing the alpha male stigma even at the expense of our souls.

    But do regard this point I want to make: They don’t know any better and nobody is telling them it’s wrong. Some women probably encouraged it. My own mother once told my brother and I that, “you will be handsome and attractive men so use it to your advantage and get all you can out of a woman”. This is THE WOMAN who bore me saying this. We’re in this fucked up cycle of stagnation and these men at the shop represent a small but typically vocal segment of Black Male America.

    Do you give up on them? No. But do you have the energy to raise a nation of Grown Babies? Of course not. But seriously, my friend…you know full well why we’re the ways we are. We have been split and cut and opened and tossed and put back together again and not with the most nimble of hands. This is where we are. But together, it’s not where we HAVE to be.

    Peace

    Reply

  2. AlteredThought
    Aug 12, 2008 @ 02:32:00

    “an addendum:

    knowing why they are how they are (why i am the way i am, why anyone functions a certain way) doesn’t make it any better or easier. i just have trouble trying to look past that with some people. so, i’m staying over here in my little womanist corner and building community with like-minded persons. that’s not to say that i’m fully isolated, but i definitely feel like i need to build myself up a bit more before trying to go play w/ the other, less aware kids.”

    Peace,

    You know I wanted to speak to this because it sort of couches a lot of feelings that I believe are both the cure for the ailment and also aids in the downfall of us all. The less aware still recognize segregation and I have never been tired of helping or have been afraid of the work that it entails to shift paradigms, if you will.

    That insular stance, whether you agree with it being so or not, is so noticeable amongst the less enlightened of us and alienating in a way that further perpetuates the issues. I agree, we all need to build for and do for self first before we go shifting continents. But that “mountaintop view” can appear as an ivory tower to some.

    All I’m saying, beautiful sister, is that we can’t forget the path’s descent as well as our individual ascension.

    Reply

  3. sparkle
    Aug 12, 2008 @ 07:27:00

    i get what you’re saying — please don’t think i don’t — but on some level the shit feels like an attack when i try to engage ppl who kinda bristle at the notion of being outside of their boxes, dig? the uncomfortable feeling, the feeling that it’s getting messy and may explode? i usually invite them and am excited to see ppl get pushed. so, as i work through my trepidation i’m gonna be mindful of when i feel overstimulated or when i feel like it’s time to pause and reflect. i also have zero desire to get myself into a position where i’m being made to feel wrong, dirty, or bad for standing on my ground. does that ring true to you at all? i mean, i’m all for being in the trenches and getting my hands dirty to make sure that jobs get done. but maybe the barber shop isn’t my place. it may be the natural hair salon, the classroom, or (as with my birthing/ healing work) the childbirth education classes. i’m just not so sure, fam, that i can fuck w/ that level of insecure macho when all i’m tryna do is inform. i know you know what i’m talkin about. kirkin out cuz alll i said was “lesbian sex is NOT about the presence of a man. that’s why it’s called lesbian sex, not two man-excluding straight women sex.”

    i’m not gonna go farther into this cuz i will mess around and be days late to work. lol.

    but i appreciate your feedback.

    Reply

  4. AlteredThought
    Aug 12, 2008 @ 09:25:00

    “i also have zero desire to get myself into a position where i’m being made to feel wrong, dirty, or bad for standing on my ground. does that ring true to you at all?”

    To this, indeed it does ring true. I understand you more than you know. And as I’m sure you know, I’m definitely on your side with all of that. At that end, we know that it’s not an attack at the very root. SO many of our people are largely uninformed and/or confused. People are learning all the time. Some of us are prodigies. Others, remedial. The gift God gives us is to know when to say when.

    Good exchange.

    PEACE

    Reply

  5. Karas
    Aug 12, 2008 @ 18:05:00

    ironically

    i just got back in from a shape-up
    and what you’ve alluded to in a mass of words is pretty much the end all be all of every experience i’ve ever had in a barber’s chair.

    not that the conversations i’m indulging even get close to matters of gender/sexuality, et al.
    but it is that they beat around the bush in every way (pun intended) just by virtue of being men and feeling the need to assert and re-assert that even if it means anything from comparing dicks to wallet sizes to women to china patterns and water ice flavors.

    i think they are validating each other based on these arguments as if they are the litmus for determining a real man.

    ie. ion’t want no faggots getting comfortable in my chair.

    and my use of faggot is not just a reference to men who identify or are identified as such, but to anyone at a barber shop who is vocally against the grain…since that usually what they’re going to call you.

    it really doesn’t matter.
    between the hallowed walls of these places, balls are apparently all the way out and that’s how they like it.

    your comfortability (as a woman or anything other than a hetero and usually black male) be damned.

    luckily i am at least easily amused by the stupidity of the arguments and sometimes the people themselves…at least enough to get myself in and out without incident. but i’ll be the first to admit that it does indeed get old very quickly.

    what is also interesting is how quickly a barber shop argument can make you lose respect for a man you thought was cool, as soon as he gets comfortable and lets some wild sht fly out of his mouth, ie. your barber.

    you then begin to separate these gentlemen along the lines of who should be kept at an arm’s length and who shouldn’t.
    and really, they all should under those circumstances.
    because no one is going to be the voice of dissent to the point of jeopardizing their membership in this rag tag brotherhood.

    i know these spots mean a lot to guys so i try to take it with a grain of salt.

    and let’s be real, hair salons are no better. it’s just women making a point to degrade other women…the same women whose pictures they reference when choosing the looks they’d like for themselves.

    it’s a sick cycle all over.
    but what’s worse than anything for me is that barber shops are NO place at all for rational discussion most of the time.

    why?

    i have no clue, but i’d definitely offer ignorance as one clearly cut reason.

    it’s like a “WOW”
    by the time they’ve spun you around in the chair, taken your change, and ushered you out.

    i think really and truly that every single time i’ve opted to grow my hair back, it’s been partially due to the sex politics of barbershops, and my lack of tolerance for the niggotry of it all.

    i’m not rushing to go back to the hair shop either, but i can definitely empathize with what you’re saying on a few levels.

    but hopefully you like your haircut when it’s all said and done.

    Reply

  6. ms. bliss honeycomb
    Aug 14, 2008 @ 10:36:00

    wow…interesting stuff.

    it’s funny…i’ve had a different experience in the shop i used to go to, but (1) it’s called “conscious heads” (run by the rbg set) and (2) it also employs female stylists. even when they’re not there, there’s still a different vibe from the typical barbershop.

    when i still had a perm, there was a female barber who worked in the back of my stylist’s shop. that was also a very different barbershop experience (her clientele was mostly older black men, though).

    the heterosexuality angle is still pretty typical, though, no matter where you are. it seems to me that most blk folk fall somewhere within three categories: “don’t ask, don’t tell”, passive aggressive, or straight up phobic.

    still, the hyper masculinity can be greatly downplayed, given the right conditions.

    insecure macho makes me wanna vomit. lol.

    Reply

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