>>> Bang for Your Buck
By staff writer David Nelson
February 26, 2006

Essential New Word of the Week: squiply (definition hint: covering all the bases)

Somebody once said a man ought to be judged by the content of his character. I think it was someone important, like Moses, or Ryan Seacrest. And it’s a good philosophy in theory, but let’s face it: there isn’t a soul on earth who doesn’t make judgments based on appearance. As a result, humanity has been conditioned to be at least a little bit vain. Hell, even those awesome topless tribes of Africa make an effort to haul out their least-droopy boobs when National Geographic comes calling.

Whether you believe in divine physical gifts or the genetic lottery, chances are there some things you like about your appearance, and some things you don’t. Attractive people tend to complain about things no one cares about, like the shape of their nostrils. It’s hilarious, because society’s swamp monsters actually emphasize those same things with misguided pride.

I, too, have these hang-ups. It’s becoming clear that I’m never going to have the kind of pectoral muscles that I can alternately bounce up and down. And god damn it, I really wanted that. Also, my penis is not likely to grow to a size somewhere between a zucchini and some kind of oversize novelty zucchini. If it did, I can guarantee you I’d be too busy with baby-oil drenched threesomes, Japanese T.V. appearances, and “mirror time” to write this column. So maybe it’s for the best. But there is one area where neither God nor Charles Darwin short-changed me: I have a full, thick head of hair.

“Shaving my own back presented some difficulties. I did what I could with my own arms, but that was like clearing away a few saplings at the edge of the Amazon jungle.”

I’m not saying I have great hair by any means, only that I’m in no apparent danger of losing it. That may not sound important, but a lot of my friends are either bald or well on their way. I can only imagine what it must be like for them to dig clumps of hair out of the bathroom drain that were previously attached to their heads. Sure, we all joke about it, but for all I know, it might be a very troubling issue. Look at what it did to Lex Luthor. There are precious few ways to deal with the onset of baldness, none of them particularly satisfying.

You can do a combover, provided you’re a middle-aged Asian guy. If you’re really deluded, you can use a wig, but you won’t be fooling anybody. You can try all kinds of creams and ointments, but your money would be better spent on a Ukrainian mail-order bride, for all the good they will do. Finally, you can do the rational thing: just let it happen, safe in the knowledge that there are plenty of women out there who are attracted to bald guys. I’m glad I don’t have to make this decision. I’d probably just opt for some kind of Viking hat.

But the price one pays for baldness invulnerability is a high one. Maintenance can be a pain in the ass. I’m quite frankly sick of getting haircuts. They’re uncomfortable, expensive, and a waste of time. I know there are some fruitcakes who look at cutting hair like it’s some sort of art. In reality, it’s a job so mind-bogglingly undemanding that someone threatened to replace it entirely by gluing electric scissors to a vacuum and marketing his incredible invention on late-night TV.

There are almost too many haircut horror stories to count. Like many a redheaded child sitcom star, I have had the dreaded bowl treatment in my lifetime. I have had a guy cut himself with the scissors pretty bad, but persist with the haircut, dripping blood onto my head all the while. I’ve been given an honest-to-god afro by a Japanese barber who just couldn’t work around the language barrier. I’ve been burned, literally and metaphorically. And I’m wondering if it’s all worth it.

There are basically two options for today’s haircut-needing guy: a barbershop or a salon. Those words might appear to be synonyms, but the difference between them couldn’t be clearer. A salon is more upscale, and it caters mostly to women and idiot men who are still clinging on to the whole “metrosexual” thing. Guys that retarded really ought to have their hair cut by some kind of state-sponsored assistant, but they’ll cheerfully drop fifty bucks for hot oil hair enemas and other ridiculous things.

You generally need an appointment to visit a salon, and if you’re a fan of this website, chances are you can’t get one. The people who cut the hair will probably have some sort of degree in “Beautification Science,” but that’s about as meaningful as an award for remembering to flush. Salons also sell natural-sounding hair care products. Many of these products, such as Honey and Herb Shampoo or Avocado Rinse, sound like they belong on a slice of toast as opposed to a human head.

In my younger days, I actually preferred the salon. I can’t say exactly why, but I think I enjoyed the charade that I was wealthy and important. But the best thing about the salon was the potential it held. On any given visit, you might wind up being served by a hot female hairdresser. And let’s face it, any day a hot chick is obliged to lean over you and massage your scalp is a good day. Of course, there are plenty of hideous hairdressers too. And I’m led to understand that many gay men choose it as a profession. So, the whole salon thing is a crapshoot, at best.

Barbershops, while they don’t offer the same cleavage potential, are safer and more comfortable for most guys. I’m not sure what it’s like in the States, but in my town, the best old-school barbers are Greek. Maybe you know the kind of guy I’m talking about. They don’t have any degrees in hairology, but they’ve been doing their thing, probably in the same location, for thirty years or more. They know just enough English to make small talk at the beginning, but once they get going, they shut up and leave you in peace. They know how to deliver a good, close shave with a straight razor, something I wouldn’t trust to a salon artiste. They might be bald themselves, but they sure as hell know what they’re doing.

And the shops themselves are positively surreal. The red and white pole out front is a given, but walk inside, and you’ll swear you wandered into some bizarre time warp: combs in jars. Soccer posters covering cracked walls. Incomprehensible music blaring. And three old guys in the corner, arguing, every single day. There are dozens of charming places like this, where literally nothing has changed in decades, and the price of a haircut is around 10 bucks. Needless to say, I’m happiest at a place like this.

It’s not just the hair on my head that requires attention, either. Like so many members of my tribe, I am indeed somewhat of a hirsute individual. In other words: my ass hairy, yo. I’m comfortable enough with that, but I do have to endure a barrage of back-hair jokes when cottage season rolls around. Last summer, I resolved to do something about it.

Now, the local Greek barber might be friendly, but I’m pretty sure his responsibility to my needs ends at the neckline. And a spa or salon was right out of the question. I don’t need that particular mixture of pain and humiliation. I tried to trick a few friends into entering some kind of Faustian back-shaving deal with me, but no dice. This was a journey I would have to take alone.

First of all, I’m really not that flexible, so shaving my own back presented some formidable logistical difficulties. I did what I could with my own arms, but that was like clearing away a few saplings at the edge of the Amazon jungle. It was time to MacGyver up on that back hair. My first contraption, which I dubbed The Extendarazor, was a brilliant fusion of form and function. In other words, I duct-taped my trusty Gillette to a yellow school ruler. This enabled me to reach hitherto unreachable hair pockets, but between the way my arms bent and the angle of the razor blade, it was near impossible to apply enough pressure to actually remove hair. Who knew that the knowledge gleaned from geometry, physics and gym class would converge so ironically in my own bathroom?

My next attempt was even more creative. First, I “borrowed” my roommate’s electric shaver, but don’t feel too bad—he really had it coming. I then rigged up a complicated system of hooks, strings, levers, and pulleys, by which I could bring the shaver into contact with the most inaccessible sections of back. It was honestly the type of contraption the A-Team might whip up, if the success of their mission somehow depended on back-shaving. And I really think it would have worked too, if the damn thing hadn’t run out of power before I could use it. I hate it when a plan doesn’t come together.

With two strikes against me, I knew it was time to take drastic measures. These days, it’s fairly common to call up an ex-girlfriend for a booty call, or to have her bail you out of jail. However, it takes a special mixture of nerve and disdain to call up an ex and ask her come over and shave your back, and that’s precisely what I did. I know she’s not easily repulsed, and all I had to offer in return was a bit of my time and attention, in the form of listening to her bitch about her job for several hours. It was worth it, I guess, but just barely.

I guess the lesson here is that hair removal technicians may not be strictly necessary. A guy doesn’t need to spend his hard-earned money if he’s able to think outside the box. As far as women are concerned, when it comes to body hair, it’s always best to think outside the box.

Essential New Word of the Week:
squiply \skwIpli\ adv: In such a manner as to ensure success by systematically trying every possible solution. The origin of ‘squiply’ is an interesting one. One Sunday evening, I was drinking at home with a buddy, and for whatever reason, we decided to break out the Boggle. That’s right. Motherfucking Boggle. Now, I’ve always been fairly good at word games, but this guy was managing to kick my ass simply by writing down every feasible combination of letters that the board offered. While this produced a lot of nonsense words, it also yielded a surprisingly high number of Boggle-approved ones. One of the more ridiculous non-words was “squiply,” and from then on, I used it to apply to situations where actual skill is not as useful as sheer tenacity. For example, both telemarketers and guys looking to pick up sometimes employ a squiply approach. For every 100 “no’s” they receive, there are a few that say yes. And really, all that rejection can be worth it to a Boggle-playing loser with no prospects.