Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Done and Done

I woke up this morning and gamely trekked down to this street in Pasay that's supposed to be lined with beauty parlors where a ton of gay or bakla parloristas work. I didn't have an interpreter for the day, but since I've only got two days left to do this research, I decided I'd do it myself. I had visions of collecting a dozen interviews, nudging my sample size just short of 100 and generally wowing everyone, not least of whom would be myself.

The trip took longer than I expected. The sun was oppressively hot and I made the mistake of wearing a form-fitting shirt that quickly became damp and clingy. The LRT was packed, and when I arrived on Vito Cruz Street, the construction meant that I got lost periodically along the way, and my sun-bleached Rocket Dogs (and toes) were very quickly covered in a blanket of dust and grit. I was exhausted and a little woozy when I finally arrived on the strip, which had a few parlors, but not the pilgrim's Mecca that I'd imagined when I set out.

I walked into the furthest parlor and launched into an explanation of the project as the hairdresser lounged back in one of the stylist's chairs.

"I'm not the owner," she said.
"Oh, that's okay!" I chirped, consciously marshalling all the cheeriness I could muster. "I'd love to talk to you too!"
"No," she said, flatly.
"It'll only take twenty minutes," I said, with a tone that suggested that it could be fun, but was also clearly requesting mercy.
"No," she said. It was almost amazing how the pitch of her voice had changed absolutely not at all.
"Well, thanks!" I responded with a wholly inappropriate exuberance, and waved goodbye.

One down, five to go.

As I walked up the street, I mentally discounted each place. One was a barbershop. One was packed with customers. One appeared to be empty. One wasn't empty, but the only person I could see was laying in a shampoo chair, unconscious. I got to the last parlor, which was part of a chain of salons that I'd seen around the city. I walked inside.

"Can I help you?" the parlorista asked, looking up from the register.

I paused. In a slow, hesitant voice, I said, "Yes. I would like a haircut." Except I said it with something between a question mark and a period at the end. So that's what Joan gave me. And as the scissors and the clippers and the razor worked their magic, the question that hit me when I walked into the parlor seemed more and more reasonable.

At the considerable expense of my physical, emotional, and mental health, why am I driving myself crazy about getting more interviews?

At this point, I've talked to 78 people. Probably 70 of those are usable, in that the people were over 18, the interpreter was either unnecessary or so good that it was virtually one-on-one, and the interviewee was engaged in the conversation. I managed to get 30 respondents from the neighborhood I targeted, plus 48 more from other parts of Manila or other cities across the Philippines. I haven't even begun to work with the sixteen hours of audio that I have from activists in the Philippines, or the knee-high stack of books I haven't cracked open, or the pages and pages of notes I took at forums, discussions, meetings, and parties that I attended. (You know what's actually pressing? I have to present my findings to a bunch of researchers on Friday, and I haven't written them up. Oops!)

So I got my hair cut. And then I went to the mall and got a dressing room, where I hid in my underwear for twenty minutes as all the staff in the otherwise empty store decided they'd just keep bringing me jeans in the hope that I would buy all of them. I got two pairs. I bought a bunch of fruits, both within and (thanks, mangosteen) in excess of my budget. I walked home, peeled a bunch of the fruit, and watched Gossip Girl. I guess I'll start analyzing the data that I've gotten for the presentation on Friday, and maybe another essay on the L Word that I agreed to write. That's it, and the the weird thing is that there was no deadline that passed or thing I accomplished, I just sort of decided that I'm done. And it's weirdly liberating.

1 comment:

Marcel said...

Congratulations, and good call! Someone once told me that dissertations are never finished, they are only abandoned. Perhaps the trick is knowing when to head for the lifeboats.