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4 min

Religion in the haircare aisle

Shoppers' foists Christian rock on unsuspecting customers

A lot of ink has been spilled in the ongoing culture struggle between queers and fundamentalist Christians, but we all have a pretty firm handle on the basics: they want us erased from existence; we protest; they protest in turn that we’re oppressing them by asking them to stop oppressing us. It ain’t pretty but, aside from the occasional political skirmish, we have our respective territories and we stick to them.

Or so I thought.

It happened during a recent Shoppers Drug Mart binge. You know what I’m talking about — those spending orgies on peppermint-scented dish soap, eyebrow-dye kits and chocolate bars that could choke a horse. Not to mention the gajillions of bonus member points that will entice you to do the whole thing over again next month.

There I was, wrestling with that age-old dilemma of Life Brand teeth whitening strips versus Crest’s shiny new packaging, when an oddly familiar sound wafted past my ears.

“We’re all sinners,” cooed the affable male voice. “Let us kneel and beg forgiveness from our Lord.”

Huh? Did I accidentally catch some crazy while walking past the Xenu supplicants administering stress tests next door? Could I be having a weird flashback to my brief foray into religious fervour in Grade 10?

Nope, it wasn’t Scientology and it was no flashback. Shoppers Drug Mart was broadcasting Christian pop rock over their sound system.

Call me nutty but I just don’t want to be proselytized to while shopping for a residue-free conditioning shampoo. I don’t want to hear that I’m a sinner who needs to worship a specific kind of Jesus in order to avoid permanent split ends in hell. Firstly, I don’t believe that being gay is a sin, as the affable male voice almost certainly does, and secondly, Shoppers’ cheap-ass conditioners can’t ameliorate the August frizzies, nevermind eternal hellfire.

Am I being intolerant of the intolerant? Don’t these fine folks have a right to express themselves artistically in a public forum? Honestly I don’t know where that line should be drawn, but it sure as shit shouldn’t be in the foot-relief aisle, which is where I stopped the store manager and asked why he was playing music that was condemning a good chunk of his shoppers to torturous damnation.

His response, delivered amidst flop sweat and darting eyes, was that music was chosen by head office and he had nothing to do with it. I asked the same thing of the pharmacist and received a similar answer, coupled with a simpering, “Aw, but it’s such a sweet song!”

So why is Shoppers’ head office dictating the broadcast of this propaganda? And are they also planning to introduce how-to ditties on converting to a Muslim lifestyle or a gay lifestyle? I’m pretty sure I could come up with a jazzy adult contemporary treatise on the wonders of loving another man. Come to think of it, I already did, and CBC and a bunch of other radio stations around the world played it. Does that mean Shoppers will be adding it to the playlist?

We all know the answer. It’s as old and tired as the platitudes spouted by politicians and clergymen who actively strive to rid the world of our fabulous selves through a substantial and influential campaign. Yes, madame, it may seem like a “sweet song” but overproduced synthesizer violins and breathy vocals can’t cover up the bilious agenda of exclusion and suppression.

I know whereof I speak, having been the victim of a high school membership drive for Jesus back in the ’80s. Some of the best handjobs of my life were given to a boy named Todd, who introduced me to both semen and the Saviour out behind our local Pentecostal Church. I was lonely, vulnerable and terrified of life — the ideal candidate for the organized army of converters. These folks are mercenary when it comes to administering shame and forgiveness in alternating doses, swelling their flocks with lemmings who are grateful to fit in somewhere, anywhere.

Am I just bitter? Sure as shit I am. I’m angry that millions of bigots have co-opted the life of a gentle man who told us all just to love each other and turned it into a murderous crusade. And I’m pissed off beyond all reason that the latest battleground for my right to exist is the only place I can redeem the hitherto mentioned gajillion bonus member points for a box of decent eyebrow dye.

I’m not generally a letter writer. I’m also inherently a very lazy person. But I was convinced that a message could be sent to Shoppers Drug Mart on behalf of traumatized drama queens, impressionable youths and, possibly, emotionally fragile gay people picking up their meds from a trusted healthcare provider.

“Shoppers Drug Mart receives a tremendous amount of advice from a wide spectrum of advocates, each with their own value systems, about the many products and services that our stores provide,” responded customer service rep Trevor, to my electronically conveyed concerns. “Their assumption is that consumers need to be protected from themselves. Shoppers Drug Mart’s position is that it will not allow itself to become the cultural or moral censor for any legal product or service. The music that we play does not constitute any endorsement on our part.”

Well, Trevor, please let me assure you that we don’t need to be protected from ourselves, any more than we need messages about how wrong we are to exist. But we deserve to be able to shop without being subjected to messages from assholes who want to protect our nether regions from any same-sex incursions. We don’t want or deserve to feel judged while buying tampons or condoms or eyelash curlers.

It is in the spirit of brotherly love and reasonably priced hair-care products that I respectfully request you just give me my fucking bonus points and leave me alone.