The other day, I was close to making a scene in a department store. Mom and I entered a home store; and as we were checking out the merchandise, I couldn’t help but notice the male merchandisers beginning to gather in a corner. Smiling and jostling, they kept staring at me. At once, I knew that I was their topic of conversation. No, I am not being bigheaded. Well, I have to admit, at first I was. In my round head I was reveling in the fantasy that I was some curious novelty: a good-looking, well-dressed city boy visiting the province. Right. There were dirty thoughts too, but that’s another story. As their stares and smiles drew on, I realized that I was being made fun at.
Beneath their hushed conversations, I could hear the word “DJ” followed by mocking beat effects, actions aping my shaved head, their eyes bright and wide with ridicule. One of them even tried inconspicuously closing in from behind me to get a closer look at my shining glory, the others prodding him on.
Their chiding continued as my mom and I made our way through the plastic ware aisle. While my mom was busy prodding, I stood straighter and kept my chin up a little higher. As much as I tried to relax, I couldn’t help but sweat. Stealing glances, I tried to make sure that maybe it were all just in my head. It wasn’t.
Anxiety rose from my gut and I felt terribly naked. Trying my best to ignore them, I imagined scenes in my head instead. I wanted to approach them with a tepid smile, and ask them to call the manager. So their superior could witness what I had to say, I’d ask the group if they would like to take a picture. If not, to stare at my face and take a real good, long look. I’d ask them to have their fill with my bald head; to remember and get used to the idea that, yes, young, bald men do exist. Yes, one day you will be lucky enough to be bald yourselves.
The other movie was more violent. Still in front of their manager, I imagined grabbing some by their collars, asking them what the fuck their problem was; letting go with a aggressive push. I would modulate my voice to a boom, flare up like a temperamental thespian, and make the entire home store stop and bear witness to the wrath of a bald man scorned.
My heart beat quickly, my temples began to hurt, and the tips of my ears felt sickly warm. I had the devil and angel on each shoulder; one telling me to make my imagined movie a reality, the other to simply back away. Riddled in thought, my aching back still feeling the weight of their gawking, I decided to give up my rage.
While my mom decided to do some grocery, I asked permission to step out and smoke. Exhausted, I sent out messages to several friends sharing my ordeal. Some felt similarly irked and pitied that such asininity still existed, and tried to raise my spirits. Kind words and two cigarettes after, I felt much better.
What really got me was what a dear friend said: “Choose your battles.” Indeed. As satisfying as the movie was in my head, I was glad that I did not charge like a Neanderthal with a club. Or else, that would have made me just like them.