Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Clogged Razors and Crying Girlfriends: A Memoir

My grandfather died last month. I tried blogging about it, but couldn't quite find the right angle that fits my style, and instead of finding a way to address it, I just put off blogging altogether. When I've got writer's block, I open up my folder of stupid little posts that I started writing but never bothered to finish, and today I figured I'd post one. It's a little goofy, but I enjoyed reading it, so please enjoy this bizarre piece of writing from two years ago:


Apologies are in due for the lack of updates lately, but you see, I’ve been doing some soul-searching these past two weeks or so. The source of all my neuroses, anger and aggression has been located and diffused. I’m a changed man.

On Saturday, the seventh of June 2008, something amazing happened. But first; some context.

I’m a hairy man. Always have been. My mother had the first inklings, as she reported “a strange tickling sensation” as she brought be into the world. Growing up as a child, the school bully would exclude me from the pink-belly sessions that the other children dreaded, as the thick coating over my abdomen made dealing out the punishment more of a chore than it was worth.

For years, my mother brought me to specialists in order to curb the rampant growth of hair on my body. The local priest would show up once a week to bless the bathtub so I could immerse myself in holy water, but it was to no avail. The parish bishop pulled some springs and arranged an exorcism, which succeeded only in making me wet the bed. Prayer vigils were held across the nation by good-natured nuns who spread the word of the hairy-lad in Limerick who was relying on the grace of God to remould him in His image, as per the scriptures.

Finally, my mother found solace from a kindly biologist who proffered that my condition was part of the evolutionary process – I was a prototype for extreme-cold enduring homo sapiens, and I had been honoured by my creator. I myself found this to be a huge comfort, and it enabled me to experience a normal childhood, one no longer marred by my mother’s constant appeals to higher powers to heal my accursed flesh.

During my primary-school years, my condition may have worked to my advantage, as it only took a few shears, some glue, and a willing 12 year old to create a rather convincing looking bearded-dwarf who could buy booze without much hassle.

On holidays, I would enjoy massive popularity, as young children would cling to my body-hair in the swimming pool, and have me ferry them into the deep end. I still remember the magical Summer of 2000, when I learned the only phrase I’ve ever needed in Spanish: “Por favor, sea amable en mis pezones” [“Please, be gentle on my nipples”].

Of course, once I became of age and decided I’d enjoy the company of a girlfriend, things got difficult yet again. Teenage discos were a particularly unhappy time for me. To compound the aesthetic problems that quiffs of hair clamouring around my shirt buttons caused, the insulation provided by the body hair also caused me to sweat profusely when dancing. As an evolutionary experiment, it seemed I was doomed to fail, as my genes would never be propagated.

I soldiered on valiantly, but the fears amplified as I became more clued in as to what exactly one is expected to do with a girlfriend – would I ever find one willing to put up with full-body beard-rash?

I developed a rather sophisticated strategy to get on in life, and I took to preying on drunken girls who majored in social-work, knowing that their charitable streak would likely compel them to put up with me for weeks after the first awkward, inebriated encounter. My relationships would stumble along in a begrudging fashion, where my girlfriends would speak plenty about how ‘looks aren’t important to me’ in an attempt to convince themselves, until the inevitable night that I’d be roused from my slumber by the familiar sounds of a sobbing girl and the spluttering of an electric razor bested by my dense locks.

In October 2006, when I was living in Pittsburgh, the cycle began anew with a social-work major from Wisconsin. Over the following weeks, I waited for the signs that her tolerance was cracking so I could begin building a new casefile and moving on, but curiously, she seemed to find my vulgar personality a more pressing matter than my overly follicled torso. In an attempt to distract her away from my hideousness, I let her invest her efforts into correcting the errors of my ways, knowing that the strenuousness of this impossible task would irreparably subvert one’s ability to relate to into mainstream conventions.

With some brilliant maneuvering, I spent almost two years hiding what I was from my girlfriend, by conspiring never to be seen with my shirt off in a well lit room, and convincing her that I was wearing a coarse woolly jumper whenever she brushed up against me in the dark. These efforts kept her from fully appreciating the dearth of bare skin on my body as she continued her project of rewiring my brain.

While this dastardly ‘relationship hack’ would work within our little bubble, I lived in fear of the day when her eyes would be opened to the monster she was consorting with.

That day finally came without warning.

I had agreed to go on a double date to Six Flags Great America, figuring that a loud theme park would be a great opportunity to hide in plain sight. The morning we were due to leave, I observed her packing a bag.

“What do you need your swimsuit for?” I asked nervously.

“We’re going to Six Flags!” she replied in her chipper fashion.

“Six Flags, where we go to ride rollercoasters and consume over-priced snacks?”

“Yeah. But there’s a great water park there too”.

I swallowed hard. There was a water park? The gig was up. There was no point trying to hide it now. I could imagine the horrified looks on her friends’ faces. The suppressed titters in the queues. The teasing chants of the kids. And the Mexicans. Oh God those Mexicans. “¡Dios mío! ¡El pelo diablo!”

Hours later, as we plodded through the amusement park, lining up for hours in the obscene heat to experience 60-second thrills, the banter kept coming back to the water park, and what a treat it would be when we finally got to go for a dip.

After hours of enduring the cruel heat, the time came to go for a swim. I gave my girlfriend a quick goodbye hug and walked towards the changing room. Just before disappearing into the doorway, I looked over my shoulder at her. She was looking at me, wearing a big, dumb, oblivious smile that was still directed at me.

I had been getting on quite well with my male counterpart over the course of our couples-date, right up to the point we walked into the changing area and went into our respective stalls. Little did I know it, but that would be the last time he would be able to look me in the eye. Once I came out the other side of that door, his gaze was constantly distracted, and his warmth and ease of conversation evaporated, and we continued with stilted spurts of small-talk for the rest of the evening. Offending the eyes of this new acquaintance was a mere dress rehearsal for what was to come: it was time to throw away another relationship and enjoy the awkward two hour drive home.

The colour drained out of my world with each step I took towards the meeting point, as my new-friend flanked me by a good six feet to avoid association. I trudged along, looking at the shadow that stretched out in front of me, observing the outlines of my fur rustling in the breeze. I could sense that my girlfriend was nearby, but I hesitated until I was a few paces away before I looked up at her. And there she was, still wearing that big, dumb, oblivious smile.

As it turns out, she doesn’t swim with her contact lenses in.

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