Saturday, January 21, 2012

Who Am I And Can I Pull Off This Shag?

I come to you with a problem that has worried me of late. I have found myself recently single, and since I live in Queens (it's part of New York City), I figured there would be plenty of single women to spend time with. However, I recently found myself at a homosexual establishment (a "gay bar" for you readers in "the know"). I was there with three of my best friends who happen to be gay (living in New York City, I have a very eclectic group of friends... don't worry, I still watch my backside around them!) and they pressured me to download an app for my iPhone. It was called Grindr (No, I spelled it right, I'm finishing my doctorate!), and it is where gay men post pics of themselves and find each other nearby and then proceed to have sex with one another. I was both astonished and interested that this app existed! They signed me up all in good fun. I also signed up for Blendr (once again, spelled correctly) which is the exact same, but for the straight community. Suffice to say, the straight version sucked, but I found myself still occasionally logging onto Grindr, seeing what men had messaged me and getting a momentarily boost of self confidence before remembering our Forefathers and closing the app quickly. So what I'm asking is, if I keep checking Grindr, will I eventually scratch that sexual itch? I don't believe I'm gay, but how can a straight man be on Grindr? Should I prepare for the eternal hellfire that awaits me once I leave this life? Please help.

Why, mercy! Am I to understand that there is a program for electronic devices that allows individuals (I assume only men of desperation and women of ill-repute) to advertise openly for intimate encounters? Well, I never...

Now that I have returned from a debilitating case of the vapors, I feel responsible to inform my gentle readers that Grindr has recently been hacked. (Yes, that's where I get my news.)

I do not profess to be an expert on sexual identity. It is one of the few topics I freely admit knowing nothing about. I don't understand or tolerate extreme rhetoric from either side of the predictably polar issue. Who you have sex with is of no interest to me, provided it's not me or my husband or a minor. That means, if you are so inclined,  you also get to marry the person you have sex with, even though I'm not sure how you would swing it if you can't get knocked up by accident. Like I said, I'm not an expert. 

So normally I wouldn't care, but since you asked, and I'm not above pandering to topical issues, let's talk about sex. The problem I have with sexual identity is that I consider identity to be the most personal element of an individual's life, so I'm reflexively skeptical when anyone tries to describe or categorize identity. Not only does identity vary among individuals, it can also develop and change through a person's life. (For example, I used to identify as a bossy, opinionated, know-it-all.) Sexual identity is even more useless because social prejudices require that we form a definitive answer to a nebulous question. Hence your fear that enjoying the attention of men is some sort of gateway drug to debauched, bathhouse sex. Of course, it can be, or else Grindr would serve no purpose, but it doesn't have to be. 

School-yard Linnaean theory aside, sex is not a series of steps or categories that determine our future actions.  I'm not going to go on about sexual journeys or continuums because there are much smarter people writing about such topics with a straight face.  I will simply say that sex has many physical, mental and emotional iterations and you should embrace them, as long as you aren't hurting anyone or yourself.  Sex is natural, normal and necessary.

Could you be sexually attracted to the men that message you? Sure, but you could also be flattered by the attention and excited by your perceived decadent dabbling. Enjoy the tingling feeling while it lasts. Cultivate and nourish the excitement, because if you let it die you will have to find something different, until eventually you are sitting in a room learning about latex, bead-filled boom-booms and yawning. This needn't happen if you accept and appreciate sex in all its forms and opportunities. 

Congratulations on finishing your doctorate. That's a whole other problem.

How do I get a good haircut?

This solution to this eternal struggle, like so many others, is almost completely within your control. 

To begin, you get what you pay for. Stop short-changing yourself and your appearance. Not only is it painful and unfair for those of us that have to look at you, but that Dorothy Hamill affects your self-esteem and confidence (and even Ms. Hamill has updated her look). 

Unlike sex, you don't want to partake in anonymous stylist encounters. Do your research and talk to people who have good haircuts (if years of neglect have deadened your aesthetics to the point of atrophy, ask someone else. Don't look at fashion magazines because  you will end up looking like an extra from Blade Runner.)

Once you find someone, respect his or her professional expertise. If you go in with your pumpkin head and ask for a pixie cut and the stylist politely suggests something else, take her advice. It is fine to bring in photos to communicate what you have in mind, but remember that no haircut is going to make you look like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Accept constructive criticism. 

Finally, if you show your stylist respect, insist on the same for yourself. Don't agree to anything until you are comfortable that you understand what is going to happen to your head. Also, demand good service, because now you are paying for it. After spending triple-digits on a cut and color at a nice salon, where I had been going to the same stylist for several months, I was informed that the receptionist had not scheduled me for a blow-dry, even though my regular appointment was color/cut/style. Setting aside that a stylist should care enough about the final product to what to know what it looks like dry, it was also cold outside and I had plans later. Not only was the salon unable to find even an assistant or a student to blow out my hair, the solution that was offered to me was to sit in a corner and dry it myself. No apologies, no coupons, no complimentary espresso. Needless to say, I have never been back. 

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