So I was reading a post on Pound yesterday, in which Wendy linked to one of her old posts about Bad Times retail locations, which incidentally is hilarious and totally articulates something that I have always found disconcerting yet totally inarticulable and also I totally used to live near the Andersonville Bad Times Jewel and would go out of my way to hit up the Good Times Dominick’s on Broadway and Thorndale instead, that is how sensitive to Bad Times I am, and then she linked to another post about Hair Question Men.
I like to fancy myself a generally nice person. I smile, make eye contact, and politely say, “No thank you,” to people who want to save the children, people who want to know about my feelings on the environment, people who want to sell me a copy of Streetwise, give me menus, or give me literature on any number of social justice causes, whether well founded or totally fucking paranoid. But those awful, douchey, shitbag Hair Question Men really, really, really piss me off.
My first HQM encounter was actually with an Hair Question Woman. I had just moved to the city and was in the middle of my first year of law school. As I scurried along to class in the loop, exhausted, stressed out, wind blown, unkempt, make-up free and sans accoutrement and probably about eight months out from my last haircut, a nice lady stopped me at a light and said, “Can I ask you a question about your hair?” My ego, which law school had been systematically destroying, jumped up and said, “Really? My hair? Sure! Sure! Do you like it? Are you going to say something nice to me? Can you validate my existence as a human being? Please! Please ask me about my hair! ASK ME ABOUT MY HAIR!!!”
The HQW started in on her sales patter and, this is a genius move, really, extended the coupon book she was trying to sell toward me. I, being a total idiot plus also really not wanting to hurt this nice lady’s feelings, accepted it. And then? The HQW put her hands in her pockets, leaving me holding the item she was attempting to sell me in my hot little hands, with nowhere to put it. BRILLIANT. I forget how I extricated myself from the situation, but once I realized she wasn’t my new best friend but was actually selling me a product in which I had zero interest (not to mention zero time or money to use it), I started rambling about being late for class and being broke and haircuts being against my personal religious beliefs and being legally prohibited from being within thirty feet of all the stylists at the salon for which she worked and then I tucked the coupon between her arm and her coat and ran ran away as fast as my little legs could carry me.
And I’ve held a grudge against the whole endeavor ever since. But it’s not just a personal grudge. The enterprise feels eely and dishonest and really rankles me from a feminist standpoint, too. My first HQW was also the only woman I’ve ever seen working that particular gig. In ever other case, it’s opportunistic men exploiting gender hierarchy to sell a basically worthless coupon book by using women’s socially inculcated insecurities about their looks to get their foot in the door and employing a really distasteful “no means yes” hard sell, plus guilt, plus emotional manipulation, plus sometimes straight up physical intimidation to part women from their hard-earned 76 cents on the god damn dollar. And it makes me just furious.
I’ve basically made it my life’s work, or at least a hobby of mine, to be as unpleasant to HQM as humanly possible. Once, after a woman had declined to discuss her hair, I watched one of these slimy jerks flick a lit cigarette butt after her retreating form and call her a bitch. I asked the name of his employer, intending to call and report his actions and probably report the salon to the Better Business Bureau for putting assholes like him out on the street but can you believe it? He would not tell me unless I bought a coupon book. Another time I called building security on a HQM making the rounds in the food court of a public building where I was trying to eat lunch and read in peace. A few days ago, I responded to some shitheel’s entreaty to question me about my hair with an unimaginative but heartfelt, “No! Go fuck yourself!” Lately, perhaps because of the increased foot traffic in the summer, or because times are tough and the HQMs have been downsized from their regular douchebag day jobs, the HQMs, like summer’s ubiquitous piles of abandoned dog shit, are just everywhere.
I don’t know if it was the heat, or the fact that I was both hungry yet, due to the heat, disgusted by the thought of food, or because last night’s crazy mother fucking weather forced me to put on a bra after seven p.m. (in case I had to leave the house in a hurry; didn’t want to be running in a panic down the street with my melons a’bobbling) AND literally scared the pee out of our smallest cat (all over our bed), but today when I got hassled by a HQM, I totally lost my shit. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those stories where I talk about how awesomely witty and cutting I am, because I was really neither, but I think it does show exactly the kind of men who think accosting women on the street with a bullshit sales pitch would make a really rewarding career:
HQM: Can I ask you a question about your hair?
OTM wheels around to face the HQM, who launches immediately into his sales pitch.
HQM: I work for one of Chicago’s premiere salon’s and we are offering a fantastic deal on–
OTM: Shut up! Shut up! What is wrong with you? You have the most annoying job in this entire city, do you know that? Why don’t you quit this and do something that doesn’t totally fucking suck? (See? Not witty.)
HQM: This job is annoying? I bet I make more money than you do.
OTM: Seriously, you have the most bullshit job ever.
HQM: Well, I bet I make more money than you do.
OTM: You probably do, but you are still the most irritating person on this street right now. (walks away, throws her hands up in a gesture of frustration.) You all make me nuts with shit. Can I ask you about your hair. What a bunch of (yells over her shoulder) HORSESHIT!
HQM (yelling after me): You’d be surprised at how many girls I lay!
So there you have it. A little insight into the psyche of hair question men: they are better than me because they make more money than I do and they “lay” a lot of “girls.”