“For the most part, I like people. But I know that sometimes I might come off like I’m judging people. I am. But I’m not. The perception that I might be at all critical is because I feel that I am a student of life. I like to know how people tic. I do people’s hair and we talk and I collect the data in my head and compare them with other people. Or me. Add that to the fact that I’m well traveled. And I have a moderate sense of fashion. (At least I can tell what is in and what’s out.) I’ve practically memorized all of Miss Manners’ books on etiquette. And, if you were to ask me, Florence verses Venice, Tappas versus Sushi, Grade 7 leather versus 5, or Cuisinart versus Calphalon, I would have an opinion because I am educated. It’s natural to compare things. And people. Some are just better than others.
I know. I know. This sounds a little snotty. But, fundamentally, I own up to this. I’m a hairdresser.
To further explain my snotty, I was not spoiled and I didn’t come from well-to-do’s. My parents taught me not to reach for the stars and that I will never be one. Yes, I was loved and was told that I was special, but no more special than anyone else. I didn’t think it was my divine right to receive a car on my sixteenth birthday but I was taught to work on any engine (pre-electronics), should I ever own one. My parents were strapped for money when it was my time for college and that’s how, thankfully, I ended up in beauty school. I painted my own apartments. I helped friends move. I wouldn’t care if there was sand in my shorts at the beach. I wouldn’t complain if a roommate used up the hot water.
Alas, I was not raised to be, or have, or do the things that I have had or done since I became a hairdresser. But, because I hung around people who loved traveling and spending money and people who partied around town and different cities, I began adopting and learning what they knew.
But there is a group of people that exists, in another spectrum of living, that I simply do not like. They might have money. They might be any color. They might be religious or spiritual. But this particular group of people are non-learners, small-minded, less-traveled, and definitely out-of-fashion people. And they all have bad manners. I call them hicks. I judge them harshly because that is one of the things I adopted from people whom I have hung around with. Harsh judgeing and hick-hating are snotty-people pastimes.
Hicks are those people who live in small towns in states that start with the letters M, W, I, or K. These people are nothing like city people in dress, education, manner, or attitude. Hicks look like Jerry Springer guests and are proud of what they don’t know. They spout bastardized Bible versus as defense of their lack of experiential expansion and fear of anyone different from them.
I have always been leery of hicks, especially in their own environment. I think that hicks want to kill us city people. I would see it in their eyes if I wore my Diesel shredded faux leather Daniel Boone shirt, my low-rise True Religion jeans and Frye boots while walking down one of their local town streets. I know if I wasn’t on my guard, I’d have a pillowcase thrown over my head and be tossed into the back of a ’58 Ford and driven to an old abandoned barn and beaten up and left to die. The last thing that I would hear is, “You will die faggot. Because you had the nerve to show your devil gayness with your pretty little muscles poppin’ out of your fancy tank top.”
I had an aunt who retired and moved to a small golfing community in Kentucky. In this town they still used words like “nigger,” “faggots” and “Kikes,” as well as phrases like, “I think they’re Jewish,” “Those people,” “The colored girl,” and, yes, “that way.”
I am me. I have a high voice. And I am really gay sometimes. On my first impression to drunk guys in sports bars, or a few of the faith-based Green Groups I belong to, I know I do not blend in. But I do expect people to like me after a while because I’m fun to be around and I like them. And I have amusing friends and I’m polite. But when I used to drive the seven hours to Kentucky to visit my aunt (when she was still alive), I felt unsafe in that small Kentucky community. The townspeople weren’t used to me or “my kind.”
I have to admit that, just like hicks, sometimes I used my own words and phrases and labels without thinking which might make hicks uncomfortable with me. Trashy. Tacky. Trannie. Slutty. Whorey. Fab-boo and Fabulous! Words like that slipped out of my mouth just shopping with my Aunt. You can imagine what I’d say if I was provoked.
And I’ve alway resented hicks in my city, just as much as I think they resented my kind in their smaller towns. But I am not afraid of the hicks that are in my city. This is my jungle and they are the minority here. I don’t even mind the hicks that move here, because then they are forced to get to know me, or a Jew, or an African American, or Polish American, or Mexican, or any other type of big-city person that they previously feared and might have beaten up in their small towns. In the city, they have to grow. They have to learn. They have to get with the program. Sooner or later, they will become like us, open-minded people in the concrete jungle. It’s the nature of the city and probably one of the reasons I only like to travel to other cities or places where only city people go. I have always felt safe in my own jungle and with other jungle people.
But it might be time to raise the white-flag, or maybe even a paisley one. Both big city people and hicks should call a truce. Because one of us might have to venture to each others’ territories to visit a family member or, yes, even take a vacation. Or, we just might want to explore and see what things are like on the other side or experience another spectrum. The following handy guide is to help hicks have a better time in the big city. This is my olive brach.
- The number one thing hicks have to know about the city is everything is more expensive than in your small towns. That’s because of supply and demand. There are more people squished into a smaller space. We are taxed for the pleasure of being squished on top of each other, and there is a heavy duty we pay just to bring goods into the city. So get used to it. It will be worth it. Then you can go home and brag that you paid $14 for French Fries that had parmesan cheese on them with a truffle mayo dipping sauce. You can conversate that your beer is only $1.70 at your hometown bar, and that same beer in the city is $7. Just don’t make the mistake and think that you can flask-it or bring your own. We are a very proud civilization. And, even though many of us have no savings and rent a peapod of an apartment (because it has a view that makes us feel like we have space), we don’t like looking like we don’t have money ourselves. So we distrust cheap people and we will do anything to ridicule or avoid them.
- When in Chicago, please refrain from shopping only at The Disney Store, Bed Bath and Beyond, The Gap, Nike Town, Macy’s or Filene’s Basement. I believe you have these stores in or near your own hometowns. They are all the same. That’s like going to Paris or Rome and eating only at McDonalds. There is the Ralph Lauren store — a fabulous shopping experience — and Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdales’ Home. Even if you don’t buy anything in these stores, you might rub elbows with Michael and Juanita Jordan, Oprah, or even Jerry Springer — whom you also might know. And, by the way, unless you have children, don’t just eat at The Rain Forrest Café, the Rock ‘N’ Roll McDonalds, and The Cheesecake Factory. There’s Le Colonial, Adobo Grill, Pizzano’s and more, more, more!
- And forget about pick-pocketers! It’s not the people with green hair and pierced noses that you have to watch out for. It’s the friendly, normal-looking people who ask you where you got your gaucho pants and bedazzled sweatshirt from that you have to worry about. Ignore anyone who invades your personal space and anyone to whom you have not been personally introduced. They are the bad people. Nice people in big cities don’t talk to each other and we don’t like to touch each other. We’d never get anywhere if we stopped to talk to people and we’d be creating new strains of viruses.
- Don’t give money to the homeless! If someone is saying, “hey, excuse me…,” he’s going to ask you for money, or set you up for a real pick-pocketer. And never believe that anyone has “just run out of gas…” or says, “I’m a vet,” or “my wife and I have just enough to make it home if …” These people will be on the same corner the next day saying the same thing to the next off-the-bus sucker. After ten or twenty times of taking the time to dig through your change purse, you’ll get it. But you are a chump if you give anyone a dime the first time. De-chump yourself ahead of time and just give your money directly to a homeless shelter in your own hometown or whichever city you are visiting.
- Men: who cares if you have everything in your wallet? One credit card and a driver’s license in the back pocket is enough. If your pants or overalls are too loose and someone can reach in and get at your big target of a thick wallet, then you need a man-purse. No big bulges except for the good one in front.
- Women: don’t clutch your stupid old ugly purses so tight. And don’t carry one of those huge reach-inside types of beach totes that hold everything your fearful of leaving in the motel. You don’t need to take all of your plastic jewelry, free bathroom amenities and Handywipes. In fact, just blend in and buy a Coach bag that will last forever, the kind that has many buckles and pockets to put your new Wallgreens glasses and traveler’s cheques in. Believe me, when you pay $1000 for a purse, that purse will grow nerve endings and you’ll know if a gnat lands on the strap.
- Please don’t clog the sidewalks by looking up at the tall buildings. There is a people-traffic flow and we are trying to get to our favorite Starbucks for our thrice-daily caffeine injections. Move to the side, near the pretty planters, to take your pictures so we won’t have to run into you or sneer. Better yet, just look up at the buildings when you are crossing the street. People driving in cars in the city are used to people in crosswalks taking their time and texting, long past the don’t-walk light coming on. This is for your own good and safety.
- Do not wear traffic-stopping inappropriate fashions and seasonally-wrong outerwear. Sometimes it is impossible to believe that hicks show current films in their hometown theaters or even have television sets in their homes. Do your post offices deliver your Vogues and Cosmos twenty years too late? How else can you explain the fact that the women and young-girl hicks from these small towns are still getting 1978 frizz-perms and cap-frosted, bleach-burned streaks in their hair? And why are you wearing bedazzled Flash Dance sweatshirts in forty-degree weather or ever?! Hint: before you come to the city, rent a contemporary (means current) movie that was made in the current year that you are going to visit the city. (All Friends reruns are fine as well.) No one in current films and television are sporting white-girl cornrows, wear baggy sweatshirts, Birkenstocks or windbreakers tied over tank-tops. A good rule of thumb is, that if the characters in the movie have great apartments and a lot of money, that’s who you want to look like.
- Keep walking once you get to the top of an escalator “ride.” Use your brain. There are people right behind you! Revolving doors: two people should not go through a revolving door in the same section of a revolving door – it just makes sense.
Snotty? Nooo. I’m just a person with common sense who has learned the hard way too. When I first moved to Chicago from L.A., I took the ground-floor escalator in the Saks building at Christmas time. I wasn’t used to one store haveing seven floors. And everything was decorated so pretty, for tourists and newcomers like me, that I was stunned at the top and I froze, my eyes glazed over by shiny expensive trinkets in the windows. I caused a six-person dog-pile on myself and a security person had to dig me out of shoppers and shopping bags. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t go back to that building till I had a new hairstyle and new coat and sunglasses from the New Years’ sales. And in California, where I grew up, you didn’t need to keep the temperate air out or in, so I wasn’t very used to revolving doors. It took me a couple of times of practicing my timing — and practically dry humping a few complete strangers — till I finally learned to breathe and calm down and just go through them as singularly and fast as the city experts. The point is, that I learned, and so can you.”
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