I’ve been having manicures and pedicures for several years now, eyebrow waxing too. God bless you ladies who pluck–I’m sure waterboarding is less painful. Try that on a jihadi. “My God!!! I tell you everything, everything now. Please my friend, please put down the tweezers. I beg of you. Allah have mercy!”

Back in New York, lots of guys make regular manscaping appointments at their local salon. Yes, straight guys too. What “dude” wants to look like Oscar the Grouch when he’s scamming on a lady? You can always spot the straight guy who is there for the first time too. They look down sheepishly at their glistening toes and smile like they just farted, their beaming girlfriends by their side.

Here in Hong Kong, it’s a bit different. True, when I first arrived, I had my mani/pedis at a place called Queeny Nails. I shit you not. It took a man with real cojones and/or no sense of shame to march up those steps and schedule a mani/pedi. The ladies behind the counter had to confer before they agreed. I wanted to plea my case and say, “I pre-clean before my housekeeper arrives and won’t have sex unless my privates are neatly groomed. How bad do you think my digits can be?”

Since those uncomfortable moments, I’ve been a regular at Iyara Day Spa. And while there are several locations in town, the one on Ship Street near my apartment sits on a tranquil, hidden corner far away from prying eyes, sirens and screaming children.

The mostly Nepalese women who tend to the customers at my Iyara are a cheerful and efficient bunch, like the Japanese but with souls. Of course, I mistook their glee for a complete understanding of my American sense of humor, so when I said to my eyebrow sculptor, “Just clean me up, please. Not too much though, I don’t want to look like a Drag Queen.” she just stared at me blankly.

Now that I’m a regular, I bring my own magazine or book to read while I’m being worked on. I’ll be damned if I’m going to read Marie Claire or Cosmo, not publicly anyway. And I can’t read People Magazine even when I’m alone. It’s just too pathetic. It’s like your brain starts saying, “C’mon!! You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Put that shit down!”

I have a sailor’s brain.

Most of my fellow customers are women. And since I don’t wear my gayness on my sleeve (not that that’s a bad thing), I assume they think I’m straight. So I get the smiling “good for you” nods or the quizzical “huh?” looks. I don’t smile back or make eye contact anymore. I sip my tea, open my New Yorker and remember to breathe.

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