Sometimes I wonder what will happen to our erotic brains now that the part that hunts with impulsive instinct has less to do.
The idea perpetuated by online consumerism is that we are owed all the details about everything in advance. We need to be apprised of and experts on everything before we've even imagined it.
What is that doing to us?
I met Bob the Barber the way you used to meet people who groom people's pubic hair for a living and give them sexy daddy baths: in the back pages of my local weekly.
When I called to book an appointment for an intimate shave, Bob was congenial but harried. He was apparently doing a brisk business.
His studio was in an apartment in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce in Montreal's west end. This was what surprised me most at the time. NDG was really tête carrée (that's Québecois for square-head/anglophone), but I've begun to understand that people do sex work and sex services all over the place, even in English-speaking quarters.
I walked up a few flights of stairs and was greeted at the half-open door by a snarling one-eyed Yorkie whose name, as I learned from Bob's rebuking calls, was Peggy.
Bob himself was an older gentleman with thinning grey hair. He was wearing thick glasses, a loose 80s-style tank top and shorts. He welcomed me into the apartment, your standard NDG abode with creaking floors, high ceilings, endless rooms, stuff piled here and there. He then led me, as Peggy yipped and snapped at our heels, to a room whose main features were a massage table and stacks of cassettes.
He encouraged me to pick the music that would enhance our encounter. Tom Jones, obviously. The room wasn't immaculate or particularly sexy, but since I'd never had my pubic hair professionally groomed, I didn't have anything to compare it to other than the time I accompanied my best friend to an esthetician in Vancouver who reused her depilatory wax. It's a mental image that will stick in my mind to my dying moments.
Bob and I discussed styles. I just wanted a little "off the sides" and Bob quickly went to work, grandly cracking open a new disposable razor and placing a heating pad and a vibrator over my bare crotch. I realized, perhaps a little late, that Bob wasn't just shaving women - he was giving them orgasms. I declined this part of the package, instead launching into a series of questions about his unique line of work.
It turned out that Bob had a couple of sidelines, the aforementioned daddy baths being just one. Being a new sex columnist, I was curious about this, and though I was also a sex worker, I wasn't aware of the myriad fetishes that could be worked into a living. Bob said people would request that he bathe them like a father figure, fussing over them and patting them dry. I was convinced he was lying, so naive was I about the vast and varied terrain of the lizard brain.
I checked in on Bob over the next few years, sometimes asking his advice on a quote.
"I'm perming a Chinese woman's pubic hair for her wedding night!" he yelled during one such phone call. "Did you know that Chinese women have straight pubic hair?"
Bob was a good sex businessman in that he always made it seem like something wild was going on over at his place. He knew the key to running a good business: always sound busy, desired and optimistic.
Around 1998, the internet took off as a vehicle for promoting sex services. I've wondered if Bob enriched his business by building a website, but nothing comes up if you google "Bob the Barber in Montreal."
His business likely wouldn't have survived the economy of entitlement that the internet fosters anyway. One or two flip reviews on Yelp about the dishevelled state of his apartment or his baggy old tank top and it would be curtains for him.
As for me, a few years ago I decided to leave Facebook. It's not healthy for me, a person who wrestles with depression and anxiety, to construct my life around a social network model built by someone who clearly has poor interpersonal skills himself.
More important, and almost unfathomable to people 20 years younger than me, is that I missed finding stuff on my own. It has always been my pleasure as a sex columnist to ferret out secret spaces. I've been to topless hairdressers, tiny strip clubs in small towns, and brothels in Scarborough, and I found all of them through ads, flyers, specialty publications and word of mouth.
More than half the adventure used to be sitting on public transit, holding a notepad with an address, ringing the bell on a nondescript building, walking up a flight of stairs and taking a deep breath.
See Sasha's column every week.