Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Loving (and Leaving) Characters

Ernie the cat is a character, and I love characters. Today while at the hair salon, I met another character -- an older gentleman -- who reminded me about the importance of being oneself, blemishes and all.

I didn't catch his name, but what I do know about him is that he is a 70-year-old man who has worked as a restaurant host for more than 20 years at the same restaurant. If this fact alone didn't make him interesting, when the hairdresser asked him what kind of haircut he wanted, he replied, "Well, I want to look sexy. So, I want you to cut my hair the way you would want your sexy, senior citizen boyfriend to look."

During his haircut, he regaled his stylist and all of the eavesdropping stylists and female customers with his other life philosophies, such as:
  • "If I was your boyfriend, I would take you shopping at the mall. And if you had a boyfriend already, we would buy him something too while we're shopping. I gave three new shirts to my current girlfriend's boyfriend for Father's Day last weekend. I treat them good too."
  • "I'm a player and always have been. My brother was a player too. It runs in our family. When my brother died, his three wives and girlfriend attended his funeral. Now, that was a funeral! Can you imagine that?!"
  • "I know you young ladies are looking for young men. But, it's us older men who have the money and we're willing to give it to you, because we appreciate you. Those young guys are too stupid to know what's right in front of them. I'm old enough to know better."
Wow. That's honesty. We all sat transfixed as shared countless stories and viewpoints on relationships. We learned that he is married and his wife is allergic to perfume ("So, make sure not to put anything on me that smells nice. She'll kick me out of the bed if she smells anything!") and that he is the father of three and already has several grandchildren.

There was nothing about this character that would make you think he was grandfatherly, except his difficulty getting in and out of the salon chair. While the stylist cut his hair, he kept his eyes closed so that he wouldn't see his own reflection in the mirror. "I don't want to look at myself, because when I do, all I see is my father, my uncle, my grandfather looking back at me," he explained. "They're all old men. That's not me. I'm not old."

Now, I'm not condoning his playboy ways or even the way he made his female hairdresser uncomfortable with his romantic declarations. But, I have to admit that I admired his brutal honesty and lack of apology for who he is. As he said at one point during his hair salon soliloquy, "I am who I am. I don't hide it. I just lay it all out there. Women know the score before they get involved with me. I'm a player and always will be."

While I enjoyed his entertaining conversation, I was happy when his haircut was finished and he left the salon. The truth is that the best part about characters is that you can enjoy them during brief interludes and then you can send them home somewhere else. Due to my cat allergy, the same truth can be applied to Ernie the cat as well, even though in true character fashion, he was also very entertaining.

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