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Julio - Teacher Learns a Lesson by Manny


As I left the secured area of the terminal I saw a young man holding my name on a small placard and quickly approached him to identify myself as his new summer language student. I had been looking forward to the month-long Spanish immersion course at a picturesque town in Costa Rica's up-country for a long time. Introducing myself to Julio gave me yet another reason to be excited about my new adventure.... He was strikingly handsome, tall and slender, with green eyes, white teeth and a thick, full mane of cascading brown hair which hung just past the base of his collar. It was styled into a very tidy, yet natural look and had so much body in it that it seemingly stayed in place without the need for the slightest bit of gel or hair spray.

As we were standing at the luggage carousel, I noticed an advertisement for a rental car company that caught my eye. I took a second look at the young man waving from the driver's seat. It looked like Julio -- the long silken locks were undeniably his!

Julio perceived me looking back and forth between him and the oversized poster for TicAuto. "No, you're not seeing double. That's me! I have a sideline modeling. I've done a good number of products and advertising campaigns here in Limon. Still waiting for my big break, though, to hit the national and international scene!"

We instantly hit it off as we rode into town and Julio outlined for me how our weekly sessions would be conducted. We would learn by doing and get in a big dose of sightseeing, as well. One day would be spent in a classroom environment talking about vocabulary and play acting scenarios and the following day we would actually go out and conduct the activity that had been rehearsed the day before.

For the first unit, Julio decided we would visit a bakery and make a purchase. He had the full list of vocabulary to go over -- bread, crust, fresh, wheat, rye, etc. Then we took turns -- one being the client and the other the baker. Julio had several loafs of bread on hand to make the practice seem more realistic. The following day we visited an actual bakery and I was able to ask questions and purchase a wonderful piece of bread all by myself! During the following days we did several other similar experiences -- buying a shirt, checking out rental properties and visiting a volcano.

After the first wonderful week had ended, Julio asked me to come up with a scenario for the following learning adventure. I was more than happy to comply!

"I saw a traditional barbershop just off the main square the day we visited the bakery. I'd like to get my hair cut," I said.

Julio smiled with a bit of a surprised look. "Well, that'll be a new experience for me. None of my former students have ever suggested a visit to a barber shop! But that's good. I like new experiences. What kind of haircut did you have in mind? A bit of a trim?"

"Actually, this humidity is killing me. I wouldn't mind having it all buzzed off," I said, thinking about how fun it would be to lose my floppy business cut for the summer.

"Like a military style?" Julio asked.

"Yes, something really practical. I'll need to know vocabulary like clippers, short, cape, barber, crewcut, etc." I said. "Oh, and I brought my bedsheet and a clothespin with me today so that we can make it seem more realistic when we play-act. Don't you think this will make a perfect barber's cape?"

Julio got into the scenario and enthusiastically came up with a list of vocabulary. Periodically, during the morning session he would run his fingers through his long hair in a semi-nervous way that I hadn't noticed before.

After lunch we did the play acting and Julio allowed me to choose whether I wanted to play barber or client first. I chose to be on the giving side first, caping up Julio and giving him a hard time about his long hair.

As I grasped the thick locks for the first time, I adopted the stern voice for a no-nonsense barber. "How long has it been since you're had a haircut, young man? I thought you were a lady when you first walked in here!" I brushed through the shimmering brown hair.

Julio squirmed, "Oh, a while, sir. But we will make up for that. I can't you to give me a crewcut!" His voice sounded quite animated.

"Shave it all off down to the scull, or leave a little on top?" I asked.

Julio was a good sport in stretching out our role play for quite a while. It seemed he enjoyed being under the cape and suffering the offensive cracks of the stern barber. I doubly enjoyed the sensation of running my hand up through his long hair as I simulated a clippers taking him down to the wood.

At the end of the mock haircut, I held up a pretend mirror and stated, "There! Now you look like a real man! Come back every Saturday and I'll keep you clipped down tight and tidy."

"You did great as the barber, David!" he told me. "Are you sure you don't have cutting men's hair as a profession in your future? You seem like a natural, the way you gripped my head and moved it back and forth while 'clipping off' my locks." Without allowing me to answer, he added, "The irony is that my modeling career could get a big advance if I would get the haircut you just pretended to give me."

"What?!" I asked incredulously. I thought that his long hair was a key to getting gigs -- that sexy look of a stud with long, flowing hair was something women craved.

"Remember how I told you that I wanted to get national exposure? Well, two weeks ago, I received a proposal from the largest maker of glasses in Costa Rica. One of their executives had been on vacation up here and they saw the same TicAuto ad in the airport that you noticed. They asked me to go to their local outlet and be photographed using different frames. The amount that they proposed to pay me for the photo shoot -- provided they decided to offer me a contract -- was more than I have made in all my other gigs put together. I was super excited, until I got contacted by phone. The fellow said that they were definitely interested in me but the marketing experts decided that my hair was too much of a distraction. When they held up the photos to sample groups, most people commented on the hair and guessed that it was propaganda for shampoo -- not eye wear. They asked for another set of pictures wearing the glasses frames, this time with my hair pulled back tightly into a ponytail that didn't show -- so that it appeared that I had a clipped head. When I got the written contract, with the qualifier that I needed to buzz my head before the professional photo shoot, I didn't know how to respond. It's been sitting on my desk. If I don't send it back, signed, in a week, the offer is rescinded."

"So you can't bare the thought of being shorn of your glorious hair?" I asked.

"Actually, quite the reverse. I would love to be rid of this! It's such a hassle. Oh, I know, it's great hair and it's the key to getting many modeling jobs. But, I'm tired of it," he replied.

"So, sign the contract and be done with it!" I chirped.

"I'm tired of the long hair, but, unfortunately, my partner is not. I didn't even tell him about LuxOptica's offer. He absolutely insists that I keep my hair long. Poor guy is suffering from severe male baldness pattern himself and enjoys playing with my hair -- brushing and styling it. Last year, in a fit of frustration, I told my stylist to chop off three inches, so that it hung to mid-collar length, and he had a major melt down when I got home."

"Poor you," I said, shaking my hair. "I would not want someone controlling me like that."

"Jorge is a bit on the dramatic side. He's got his good qualities, for sure, but sometime I get so tired of the emotional outbursts. Why can't we just have a good time together -- like you and I have had this week! Fun, laughter?" He paused. "Hey, it's time for me to play barber!" he said, quickly putting the focus back onto me. "Come on, you're next! In the chair!" he barked while snapping open the cape.

While Julio played barber my mind raced about what I could do to make him submit to the clippers at the shop the following day. Perhaps he'd get inspired or provoked into by the barbers....

As the role play was coming to an end and Julio was holding up the pretend mirror, I asked him straight out, "So, are you going to do it? Tomorrow?"

"Have the real barber shave off my hair?" he asked.

I nodded.

He paused for a bit, "Yes! I'm going to do it!" He beamed, then plunged his fingers into his hair. "Shaved all this off -- it'll take a load off my mind, if you get what I mean!" he said with a laugh. "You'll go first and then when I'm in the chair I'll say, 'just like his'!" With the decision confirmed, Julio broke into a euphoric smile.

"Bravo!" I exclaimed, clapping a big hear hug on him.

He hugged me back even more tightly, "And if Jorge storms out on me....perhaps the two new baldies will become much....." his voice trailed.

He pulled back from me, and I reached over and smoothed his beautiful long hair back into place. The barbershop floor would be blanketed with an exquisite covering if he went through with his decision. My fingers were crossed!

When I showed up in the morning to the rendez-vous place on the main square, Julio looked very subdued and downcast.

"Ready to get the big chop, lover boy?!" I called out, cheerfully.

His hair looked wonderful, shining in the morning sun. He shook his head and murmured, "It's not going to happen, David...."

"You told Jorge about your intention and he freaked out?" I asked.

Julio paused a bit. "Nope. When I got home he already was spun up -- his mom had a slight stroke and is hospitalized. I'm going to go to the hospital with him right after our lesson ends."

"And so you don't want to put added pressure on him now?" I guessed.

"Right," he admitted.

"And, on top of that, you had second thoughts about the makeover and got cold feet. What it would be like to watch your lovely hair fall to the cape and emerge from the shop bald?!" he said.

He smiled sheepishly. "Yes, that too. Maybe I should go shorter gradually."

"And give up the eye glasses contract? You are such a handsome man -- your eyes, teeth, jaw, cheek bones. I totally understand what the folk in San Jose are getting out. People instinctively look at your hair and the rest of your assets are sort of unnoticed."

Julio blushed. "Oh....stop bull-s**tting. It's time we got you to the barber shop! I want to see you with a baldy cut! Will it be your first?"

"No, not at all. I buzz it down tight periodically. Love the sensation of a freshly clipped head," I said. "I feel so free and bold when the cape comes off."

When the two of us entered the traditional barbershop, it was like a major scene. All four barbers paused and looked our way -- mainly at Julio!

"We don't do women's styles here!" the oldest one snapped.

"He's the one here for the haircut," Julio explained, pointing at me.

"Well, you're the one who really needs one," another barber quipped. The other three barbers laughed on cue and then turned back to their work.

At that point, my eye was caught by a curious site -- Julio had a little woodie! He shifted nervously trying to hide it.

I leaned over and whispered, "See all those clippers over there -- any of them could make short work of your mop -- take you down to the wood in seconds! Having you looking like an army recruit. Come on -- make a statement, that your lover boy can't control you."

Julio crossed his legs awkward and answered back, "I have a confession to make, David. Remember the two reasons for not going through with the big chop? Well, only the second one was true...."

"You mean Jorge's mother didn't have a stroke?!" I exclaimed.

"No, he's not even at home -- he's in the capital visiting his parents. I just am a chicken, I guess," he said with a tinge of embarrassment. "I got cold feet this morning when I was drying my hair after showering. The long damp locks being towel dried....and then combing through my hair. It's a routine I'm used to. And finally, the shiny, bouncy hair in the mirror looking like a shampoo commercial.... What if I look terrible without it?"

"Next!" the barber called, looking straight at me.

"Tell him you've decided to get your hair cut!" I urged Julio. He sat frozen. "Get over there, now!" I insisted.

"Are you coming?" the barber asked with a more irritated voice, staring directly at me.

Julio stood. My heart jump. Then he explained to the barber that I was an American who didn't understand Spanish that well. Could he speak more slowly. Julio motioned for me to go get in the chair.

I stood to my feet, defeated....and then looked at myself in the mirror. My floppy business cut would not be around much longer. That gave me something to look forward to! The dark blond hair, parted on the side, with it's bulky waves would be clipped off by the grumpy barber.

Once the cape was around me, I asked for my "rapada" with a "numero uno". The barber looked a bit surprised and asked Julio for a confirmation.

"Does he really want a baldy cut?" the barber asked Julio in Spanish, "Or, are you playing a mean trick on him -- telling him 'rapada' means 'trim'?!"

I interrupted with my halting Spanish and said, "No, I really want the rapada -- like I'm in the army!"

The barber was quick to oblige, and the first run of the clippers set the tone. He was taking me down tight, tight, tight!

I sat there enjoying every phase of the mow down -- it was exhilarating to see my business cut falling away and watching a bolder, clipped look emerge. The one thing I wasn't prepared for was the set of very exaggerated arches the barber carved out around my ears! He used shaving cream and a straight edge to make them look quite dramatic.

I got up from the chair, rubbing the stubble. "How do I look, Julio?"

"Fantastic!" he said. "And you did a great job interacting with the barber in Spanish too. Now, go pay. He's at the cash register waiting for you, see?"

I walked over to the register with Julio close behind and handed him a bill, "Charge me for two haircuts. Mine and his!"

Julio looked at me, totally surprised by my move?

"But, David!" he stammered.

The barber looked sternly at Julio, "Take a seat there. I don't have all day!"

Julio looked at me, pleading for a reprieve. I reinforced the barber's message. "I want to see you with a 'rapada', my friend! Do it for me, if for nothing else....."

Julio stared at himself in the mirror. He gulped, then crept meekly over to the chair and took a seat. The barber quickly caped him up.

"We don't do ladies' styles in this shop, remember!" the barber laughed.

"Give me the same haircut you gave me friend, a 'rapada'," Julio stated flatly.

Julio looked petrified as he sat in the chair. The old barber snagged the heavy forelock with a comb and raised it off his face so that the huge set of clippers could get access to the hairline. I jumped up and snapped a few pictures of the barber pushing the clippers back through the dense mane. In almost slow motion, the first shank of long, dark hair tumbled from Julio's head to his shoulder before it slid down the cape into his lap. I got a great shot of Julio grimacing with his eyes shut as the machine moved across the top of his head.

Julio was tense throughout the whole process. Despite the cape, I could tell that his hands were clenched firmly to the arm rest. The piles of shorn hair -- some as long as ten inches -- grew at the feet of the old barber who seemed to be deriving a bit of pleasure from the makeover he was inflicting on the once-playboy.

When the barber cleared away the long hair from over Julio's left ear, I spotted a wonderful problem. The large ear stuck out very awkwardly! Oh my, without the mane there was no disguising that he looked a bit like Dumbo! If Julio ended up with the same exaggerated arches the barber had given me it would accentuate the problem even more. How could the eye glasses company ever extended him a contract with huge ears like that, I wondered.

The other thing that became increasingly evident as the huge padding of hair was stripped away was the Julio's head was actually quite small -- and shaped like a pinhead! The dear boy -- tiny pinhead and huge ears. Suddenly it occurred to me that he did not look anything like the handsome male model image he'd projected upon entering the barber shop. I decided to rub it in a bit. "Those are quite some ears that were hiding under all that hair, Julio!" I remarked.

He glared at me, conveying, 'It was you that got me into this mess!'

The barber clipped his head relentlessly, over and over, buzzing it all down to a #1. And then came the arches! Even more exaggerated than mine. A good half-inch of pristine white skin outlined each huge ear.

Julio seemed weak and totally humiliated as he emerged from the chair.

"A haircut your father can be proud of," the barber remarked.

Julio looked forlornly at the remnants of his once-proud mane that littered the floor of the shop.

I handed the barber an additional tip and stated, "He looks much better now. Thank you for your work. We'll be back again soon, Senor!"

When we stepped out of the shop, I grabbed Julio's arm and exclaimed, "You did it! Now the LuxOptica contract is yours! It's good that they saw photos in advance of how your ears stick out or they might not have offered you a handsome contract!"

Julio rubbed his shorn head, then smiled slightly. "This feels a whole lot better than it looks! There's not denying it, I look like s**t without my hair...."

"Oh, no you don't," I said without much conviction.

"And, for your information, there is no contract with LuxOptica! I made up that story!" Julio exclaimed.

"What?!" I gasped. "Then why did you have your head shaved? Jorge will be so...."

"There is no Jorge either! I made that story up too!" laughed Julio.

"But why?" I stammered.

"So that I could manipulate you into making me go through with a long time desire I've had," explained Julio. "About the only thing I've told you that's true is that I was sick of the long hair and wanted to know what it felt like to have it clipped off to the scalp. It's just that so many people praise my hair it seemed like I was doomed to never have it cut like I wanted it. Plus my ears have always been an obstacle. But I've fantasized about this day for years."

"You knew those huge ears of yours stuck out.... What about the small pin-shaped head? Did you know about that?" I asked.

"No, no....and it looks bad?" Julio asked.
'
"Oh, it looks so strange.... You might adapt and enjoy looking so vulnerable and awkward with your little clipped pinhead, as well as the exaggerated arches that show off your Dumbo-like ears!" I rubbed my hand across Julio's bristles and then flicked his big ear lightly. "You'll keep it like this. I know you'll get used it to," I said tenderly.

"Since it pleases you, I will," said Julio with a tinge of resignation in his voice.

I showed Julio the pictures I'd taken of him 'during' the haircut. "Come, let's post these to your Facebook page so that all your friends and family can see you've ditched the pretty boy look. Hey, let me snap an 'after' shot right here -- I love the way the sun is shining through your big ears making them look almost red!"

"Okay," he whimpered, "I'll feel so humiliated when people see me...."

"It'll build character, my friend. And, humility is a virtue! Who wants to hang out with a self-absorbed pretty boy -- fussing with his lush locks? I prefer you with the awkward pinhead with big ears any day. And since there is no Jorge, and since I'm probably the only one that will find you more attractive with your new look, and since I could save a lot on hotel bills....."

"....and since I only have one bedroom," Julio giggled.

"Let's swing by my hotel so that I can pack up my stuff and move in with you, Baldly! I think next week I'll have the barber scrape your sides clean, so that the ears can be even more prominent....just a little patch of stubble left on top."



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