Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What Happens in Vegas...

It’s no secret people do crazy things when they go to Las Vegas.  For some it’s wearing a costume, like the dude we saw dressed up as Bumblebee from the Transformers movies in an incredibly detailed, perfectly scaled-down, complete-with-working-lights outfit that easily cost thousands, apparently all for the purpose of taking pictures with tourists for tips.  

For others, many of them women, it was wearing dresses that must have been as  painful to wear as they were to see being worn, along with heels that, if they were used on fur-bearing animals, would have PETA protesting their cruelty with a multi-million dollar advertising campaign.  Still others paid money to see Carrot Top perform.  

Yes, in Vegas it’s all too easy to end up doing something you would never do otherwise.    

We drove to Vegas recently, to meet and reconnect with some close friends who live in Idaho.  Elizabeth and I left the girls with my folks; this was to be 48 hours of pure adult concentrate, to be mixed only with alcohol, not juice boxes.  Upon our arrival at the Excalibur, we drank a little, ate, talked, laughed, and drank a little more.  Then, following the advice of shampoo bottles everywhere, we repeated the process as needed.  The first night we were there we absorbed the various sensations of unadulterated hedonism by walking the Strip, where the only apparent concession to restraint is the confinement of sex to business cards handed out by men dressed like Seattle fishmongers on both sides of every street corner. 

The next day, we ruled a domain that incorporated everything from the Excalibur to the Mandalay Bay.  We lived like royalty for a day:  we ate like royalty, we drank like royalty, we spent unconscionable gobs of cash like royalty.   The only difference was that, unlike royalty, we had no one we could oppress to replenish our monetary reserves.  That night, we were invited to cut the line and duck into a night club (the Cathouse at the Luxor) without paying a cover (Four middle-aged, middle-class, semi-fashion-conscious bourgeoisie – hmmm, what could they have been thinking?).  We thought we had pulled one over on them, until we got the $50 bar tab for four drinks.  Our response was to scoff at the exorbitant prices, drain those blankety-blank drinks, and then take our revenge on their dance floor, causing at least that much in damage to their prestige, if not the actual floor.   We danced the night away, more of it at any rate than Elizabeth and I have seen in years, finally keeling over in bed at 3:30 a.m. 

Much later that morning, true to the Las Vegas ethic, we left without saying goodbye.

Needless to say, we had a grand time.

But honestly, if that’s all that had happened, I probably wouldn’t have written about it.

Conveniently left out of the preceding description of events was a significant lapse in character.  My character.  While in Vegas this time, I discovered that I’m just as susceptible to Sin City’s temptations as the next guy.

I lost control of myself, and did something I never thought I’d do. 

Most people, when they lose control of themselves in Vegas, do something like get high on cocaine, run through the casino floor naked except for wearing a bed sheet as a cape, jump on someone’s craps table, and sing “Fly Me to the Moon” at the top of their lungs.  Others get so wasted that they end up hiring a taxi to drive them back to Kansas so they tell their boss in person to “stick it where the grass won’t grow.”  And, of course, we’ve all heard stories of people who go to Vegas and cheat on their spouses, or on their significant others, or on the people with whom they were cheating on their spouse or significant other. 
Oh, I cheated all right.  But not on Elizabeth.

I had a one-night stand.  Actually, it was more of a ten-o’clock-in-the-morning stand, which probably only makes it worse.

I am the only person I know who, when he goes crazy in Vegas, ends up having a fling with an anonymous hair stylist, and gets a hair cut.

Don’t laugh – I’m being serious; well, mostly serious. 

The problem is that I tend to bond emotionally with the person who cuts my hair.  Allowing someone to get within six inches of my eyeballs with sharp instruments requires a deep, fundamental bond of trust that can take years to cultivate.  I still won’t let Elizabeth near me with the nail clippers, although I claim it’s due to an involuntary vasovagal response.  Yet somehow I went to Vegas and let a random woman at a Paul Mitchell salon have her way with my hair.

And now I have to find a way to break it to Dee, the hair stylist I had been loyal to for the last ten years.  You can’t hide a haircut from a hair stylist, and certainly not the one I got.  I went from long, almost shoulder-length, to short, very short.   It turns out that despite what those geniuses in the marketing department say, what happens in Vegas can’t always stay in Vegas.  My haircut is as obvious as a Mike Tyson facial tattoo, or a Celine Dion solo.  I might as well just have painted a scarlet “A” on my head.

Dee is only the second hair stylist I’ve ever had.  Well, now the third.  Oh God, I feel like such a slut. 

Please don’t tell Rush Limbaugh.

Corrina was my first.  I had had many haircuts before I met her, but they were uniformly empty, unsatisfying experiences.  I was nineteen, and Corrina was even a few years younger than that.  I sat in her chair for the first time at a Great Clips across the street from Elizabeth’s parent’s house.  Corrina had dropped out of high school to take up a career as a stylist.  She was vivacious and free-spirited, a complete extrovert; in other words, the complete opposite of me.  She thought nothing of showing me the tiny little bumps on her forearm where the Norplant contraceptive device had been placed below her skin, with which she had many subsequent problems, all of which I heard about in great detail during appointments.  Somehow our relationship worked, not merely because she was a genuinely sweet, open person, but because she understood my hair.  She was no miracle worker, mind you, which is what my hair truly requires, but most of the time she made it look better than it deserved.  I came to trust her implicitly, and listened to her unfiltered, surprisingly blunt stories about the parties she went to, and who she was seeing, and the ups and downs of being a single mother, all the while flipping and flashing the scissors before my face in an endless series of casual, conversational, prototypically hair stylist gestures.  

Over the course of several years, she accumulated enough of a clientele to leave Great Clips and move to a nearby boutique salon.  Of course I followed her there.  As we grew older, the stories I heard changed as she settled down, got married and had more kids.  I truly believed we would grow old together.   

Then, after fourteen faithful years, Corrina and her husband decided to move to Florida.   After weeks of serious deliberation, I decided that Florida was just too far to go for a haircut.  I had to start all over.  It was a scary proposition.  I didn’t want to go back to the lonely way of life I had known before, seeking haircuts from strangers, having to guess at their proficiency, or what I would look and feel like when they were done, or if they really had any idea how to handle my deceptively difficult hair.  I didn’t want to go back to worrying about having part of an ear cut off by an inattentive, hurried, or simply inept stroke of the scissors.  No one I knew had a stylist they loved, and despite my concerns, I wasn’t about to shell out fifty bucks or more for a haircut (Corrina had always generously given me a substantial ‘preexisting customer’ discount) that would guarantee professional results.  Out of desperation, and a fundamental belief in the impossibility of replacing Corrina, I went to a new place in the same vicinity.  It was more of a Great Clips kind of joint than a salon – truthfully it was probably a step below Great Clips – but for some reason, I still went in.  That’s where I met Dee

I liked Dee immediately, which was surprising, as I usually approach unfamiliar hair stylists with the kind of caution most people reserve for the living dead, or for visiting Superfund sites.  It didn’t take long before we developed a friendly, easy rapport, and some time later, without consciously doing it, I bonded emotionally again.  Dee has been with me through most of my years as a mailman, and then my career as a teacher, and now starting over again as a writer.  She gets my hair, maybe not to the same extent that Corrina did, but close enough.  It’s been good therapy in a way.  It’s helped me to not take my hair so seriously.           

How am I ever going to explain why I cheated on her? 

Of course we have no contract.  There is no legal agreement that says I have to get every haircut from Dee.  No, this goes deeper than that.  By seeing her exclusively for all these years, I have implicitly acknowledged my commitment to our relationship.  For the past decade, I have evinced an attitude of total loyalty.  We have a common-law hair marriage. 

We have a hair bond. 

I’d like to blame Vegas for corrupting this relationship, for corrupting me.  But, if I’m perfectly honest with myself, Vegas is just an excuse, a cliché to cover my bad behavior.  Part of me wanted something different, and when the opportunity presented itself, lubricated by enough Stella Artois and the city’s infective, atmospheric fever of debauchery, I gave myself up to it.

So, why did I do it?  Why did I cheat on her?

Maybe we had gotten too comfortable with each other.  Sometimes, when you’ve been seeing the same hair stylist for a long time, it becomes difficult to change.  You may feel like you want a change, but you don’t really know what the change should look like, or how to explain it, or if it’s even possible.  And likewise, your stylist has come to know you and your hair in a certain way.  They have set expectations for what they think you want, and how to provide it.  It can make them uncomfortable when you ask for something different, but can’t precisely communicate the desired end product.   When seen from their point of view, it’s perfectly understandable why this would happen.  Their goal is to make you happy.  They already know one proven way to do that, and so they tend to want to stay with the safe, deeply-entrenched template.  The result is that you may go in asking for some kind of radical departure, but what you end up with is practically identical to every other haircut you’ve had.  And since you really wanted something different, you leave somewhat discontented, which is exactly what your hair stylist didn’t want for you. 

It is our vague, gnawing discontents that can be exploited in a moment of weakness, whether that moment is spontaneous, or manufactured.

Somehow, I don’t think any of this is going to help me explain myself to Dee.  It’s possible that I’m placing far too much significance on what I’ve done.  She may not look at the sacredness of the hair bond the same way I do.  After all, she’s a professional, right?  It’s entirely possible that she won’t react too negatively to my indiscretion.  It’s even possible that she will quietly welcome it, won’t she, as a way of breaking out of the roles we’ve accepted for ourselves, and each other? 

But it’s also possible that I will hurt her feelings.  On some level, I might upset her.  If not by my outright betrayal, then possibly by the fact that I really like the haircut I got from the anonymous hair stylist in Vegas.  It would be much easier if I hated the result, because apologizing would just be a matter of begging forgiveness, and promising never to do it again.  The situation has been complicated because I think I want to keep my hair this way.  However, I’m no more inclined to drive to Vegas every six weeks than I was to drive to Florida.  Besides, as I said, my hair and I are emotionally bonded to Dee.

How do I get myself into these situations?

I’m going to have to see Dee soon, before it grows out too much, so that I can ask her to have a look, and see if she can deconstruct the cut, so that hopefully it can be replicated the next time I come in.  I even kept the anonymous hair stylist’s card, thinking that maybe Dee could give her a call, and they could trade notes, or talk shop, or whatever it is that hair stylists do, about the intimate details of my hair.

I know, I’m a horrible human being.

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”  My ass.


  1. Isn't it scary to think that looking at that picture of Carrot Top, one has to question whether or not it is real or it is a wax figurine or if it is really "Mr. Top?" With most "normal" people, you would have no trouble telling the difference.
    One other note, why no pictures or video of you dancing in Vegas? I'm sure your fans would love to see that. :)

  2. I want to see dancing