Ever since gays have come out of the closet, it seems it’s no longer considered a mortal sin to live an alternative lifestyle. San Francisco and Cape Town vie for the status of gay capital of the world. When Elton John married his longtime partner, the floodgates opened, with same-sex couples openly flaunting their relationships with gay abandon. Homophobia has become less prevalent, particularly in cities where gay-pride marchers demand laws be changed in recognition of their unions. But not (yet) in rural villages like ours.
So when hairstylist André brazenly announced his forthcoming marriage to his live-in companion, hair stood on end. Young poppies giggled, the blue-rinse set were scandalised, males got their wives to cut their hair to avoid contact with André, in case his sexual proclivity was contagious. “You going to André’s wedding?” I asked neighbour Jan over morning coffee on my stoep. Jan being an arch-homophobe, I thought already knew what his answer would be. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world!” took me completely by surprise. Was Jan becoming more tolerant of human behaviour? After all, every farmer in the district had solemnly declared they wouldn’t be seen dead at the wedding. “Aren’t you scared you’ll be tarred by the same brush if you were to go?” I asked. M y question touched a raw nerve. Not because I was implying Jan was a closet queen, but more out of a sense of his being ostracised by his male friends.
The skinner gripped our village. Who would marry them? Certainly not our dominee, nor our local magistrate. Perhaps an imported cleric with liberal views or similar persuasions. Where would the wedding be? Would they go on honeymoon, and dare relay the question on everyone’s lips, share a double bed? André’s salon was booked solid with ladies from the community, hoping for some snippet of scandalous behaviour. Under-the-hairdrier whispers kept the flames of hell burning brightly. André was oblivious of all dissent, and not so subtle interrogations, as he added a little blue rinse here and a few blonde highlights there.
Came the day. Hettie and Wifey Dear in their new frocks, Jan and I in our best suits, with a few other males from the village brave enough to attend. Every one of André’s customers had come out of curiosity, not wanting to miss history in the making in our village. “So what really persuaded you to come, Jan?” I asked when we were all seated in André’s garden, as the strains of Here Comes the Bride were played. “I wanted to see who wears the wedding dress,” he chuckled. – Derek Christopher