If you've followed this blog for any length of time (or read comments that I've made on other blogs) you'll know there's no love lost between me and black barbershops. But this time you need to stick a fork in me because I'm so done. I'm completely over black barbershops, and as I make my exit, they can kiss my black ass as I walk out the door! Ahh, a kiss! One simple and innocent kiss is what started and ended it for me, but I'm getting a little ahead of myself.
For many (heterosexual) black males, the barbershop is a sacred space to vent, get advice, and to pontificate. Black barbershops are considered holy ground; the last bastion of no-homo black male bonding. I think they're nothing more than a ground zero for bullshit, homophobia and other forms of extraordinary ignorance. A blogger friend calls them "wretched hives of scum and villainy" that seem to turn especially vile when certain females invade the territory and the brothas feel like they want to preen and posture.
What happened was relatively mild compared to some of the scenes I've witnessed in the black barbershop, but it was enough. But the real truth is that I'm less vexed with the denizens of brotherhood and enlightenment as I am with myself. In retrospect, there may have been a reason for me to be there at that particular time. But I failed to meet the purpose with boldness, presence, or to stand up in my own truth. I hate assinine barbershop conversations and prefer to mind my own business. I think it's safer because on the rare occasion that I do chime in, I tend to be very blunt and that seems to spoil their fun. But this time I kept silent.
The other day, a young black woman (no more than 30 years old) entered the shop wearing daisy-dukes, and a very revealing top with no bra. She had fake hair, fake eyes and fake nails but could have otherwise been attractive. She sat wide-legged in front of the male barbers and the men in their chairs. She also had her own sons with her - most of the EIGHT that she confessed to having. This young woman was the center of attraction as she bemoaned the fact that there were no good men (and certainly no gentlemen) to choose from because she was certainly a lady and a gentleman is what she needed. She lamented the fact that she wasnt currently dating, never had a husband, didn't know where her baby-daddies were, and how every man she met just wanted to "get with" her. As this "lady" became more comfortable, her legs opened even wider and the easy interplay with the men in the shop quickly took a very crude turn.
The little boys watched their mother's antics with pained expressions. They listened to her foul mouth and feigned ignorance as they heard almost every man in the shop, including my ever so happily married barber, say something inappropriate to her. And I'm sitting there thinking how they can do and say as they pleased because they're grown but what about these little boys? What lesson were they all teaching them but nobody seemed to care about lessons and respect and the hurt that little black boys felt as they listened to a group of grown black men disrespect their mother as she disrespected herself.
And then it happened. One of these fine, upstanding brothas noticed one of the little boys attempting to kiss another one. According to those who saw it, it was a flat-out, all-out kiddie lesson in the art of tongue-kissing! An unwanted pre-adolescent homosexual advance! The same men who'd just told their mother how they wanted to see her ass in the air as she changed her own tire were suddenly shocked and appalled by what was no more than innocent childhood behavior. The raucus laughter was soon replaced with derision and sharp reprimands:
That's just WRONG!
He needs his ass whipped!
Somebody's not teaching him right!
He's seen SOMEBODY do THAT before!
It's probably happened to HIM!
"I thought I told you to stop doing that" the mother screamed, almost as an afterthought. She wasn't going to say anything and only chose to speak up when she finally found herself embarrassed for the first time since entering the shop. Her comment further infuriated the men because it indicated that this "unacceptable behavior" had somehow happened before. I didn't see the kiss and I didn't have to. I'm sure it wasn't anything sinister. Kids often kiss each other especially if they're siblings and love each other! But it was enough for Miss Lady to quickly gather her brood and leave.
And there I sat. I didn't even stop to think about how that little boy might have been feeling as he listened to the adult men in the barber shop degrade, marginalize, and relegate him to something evil and other. His own mother didn't come to his defense! Since everyone had such a loose tongue that day, could I have said something that would have given him a sense of validation? Perhaps he was only following his own natural inclinations to kiss another boy? He was only about 5 years old. I watched as his "barbershop shame" started early, and I know he got the message. But all I could think about at the time was me: I WISH I WASN'T THERE! Why did I have to feel a sense of trepidation everytime I went there? Why do I keep giving them my 20.00 every week for this garbage?
But then Fathead spoke up! Fathead hangs in the barbershop every week and he looks like a walrus with the head of a giant turtle. He is the ugliest, the least likely, the sloppiest but hardest hustla, always the center of attention with the biggest mouth and the most ignorant opinion on everything. He also knows I'm gay! Most of them do. By this time, I'm sitting in the barber chair and Fathead is sitting in front of me. "Yes, he's only about five now, but next year he'll be trying to put on his mother's wig ... and then it's heels and a dress from there ... that's how it starts, you know. ... that young boy has homosexual tendencies" he added. I shot him a look with daggers but it wasn't enough.
He made a few other intelligent comments and it suddenly occured to me that he was trying to bait me into conversation. Now, I've had to stand up in truth in other such-like situations and it usually stops the foolishness cold because they aren't EXPECTING IT. They're used to our silence while they run off at the mouth about us in front of us. They depend on it because our silence keeps the conversation from changing or ending. When I got out of the chair and paid for my cut, I turned and saw Fathead cast a very self-satisfied smirk to my barber. Just as I was finally about to take the bait - I thought better of it again. When I went home and told my hubby - who is NOBODY'S PUNK - he told me that he was glad I didn't because all the welts on Fathead's neck and arms were knife wounds and battle scars from his many street fights.
It's hard to describe the angst, turmoil, pain and indecision that I felt from the whole experience. All I could say was that they could french kiss my ass hole because I'm not going back. I'm sure I'd enjoy that as much as they enjoyed trying to antagonize me and making that little boy feel like shit for kissing his little brother or cousin or whoever. In the meantime, I plan to visit the gay-friendly, white-owned hair salon on the next corner in a few weeks for a consultation. But I do plan to redeem myself by going back to that barbershop and telling the owner "LOOK ... some things went down in your shop that I felt were terribly offensive and here's why I won't be giving you my money any longer."