Conversations, Dec 1978 Part 1 by Archon 2
Author's Note: Please read the earlier stories in this Series first, "Conversation in a Back Yard, Oct 1978," all parts, and "Conversations Nov 1978," all parts.
We pick up Dave's story in the first week of December, as he is once again in his backyard, doing his usual chores on an overcast and cold day. He had just negotiated Thanksgiving, when he was required to be on his best behavior as he went with his family to visit relatives who lived up the coast.
His aunt had taken a picture of his family, as they posed by the fireplace. There he was, in his slacks, dress shirt and wool sweater, looking like the typical young man who was well dressed for a day out with his family: His father, mother and younger brother, who were dressed just as well. Strangers who may happen upon the picture might well have assumed that the picture was taken in the 50's or 60's if the haircuts on the father and his sons were the only clues available. Well, certainly from the father's haircut, with was a beautifully combed short taper cut, and the youngest son's flattop, which, though a lot shorter than the boxy flattops worn by most boys his age, fit in nonetheless with that era. What might give them pause would be the older son, with his haircut that at first glance might make onlookers think he was bald, but on closer inspection they would see that his head was indeed covered with stubble—but he was too young to be just out of boot camp, so they would just put it off to him having a shorter haircut than most others of his era, nothing too out of place. But this full-color Polaroid photograph was from the 70's, "Thanksgiving 1978” to be exact, as the hastily written note on the bottom edge proved. Perhaps then the younger son might be thought to be out of place, but the older son would be seen as an unfortunate kid with a forced ‘baldie haircut' that really looked out of place, even though he had a wide smile that suggested otherwise. So maybe that's what made the picture a contradiction, the kid looked comfortable, and certainly not out of place. It couldn't possibly be our Dave, who was always so conscious about his haircuts.
But it was our Dave, looking straight at the camera, and indeed smiling like there wasn't a thing wrong at that time. And he did have an induction cut, just like the ones that recruits get in boot camp. Everyone knows what a boot camp haircut looks like, and Dave's was no different: Just a uniform bit of stubble all over his head against a white scalp that made him stand out. But while we know that Dave always felt out of place, during these last 6 weeks since he got his first induction cut (It happened in the last week of October) he was actually on a mission to finally ‘fit in' and not look out of place, and by adhering to the ‘haircut deal' he had made with his father which would eventually lead to his being allowed to choose his own haircuts. So maybe the picture with his wide smile was a reflection of his growing confidence that he would win a favorable ‘deal' with his dad.
And he was ready to talk to his dad…very soon. But till then, he wanted to show that he was serious, so he had kept his end of the bargain by keeping up his ‘clipper shave' (as he now referred to his induction cut) according to the terms of his agreement. First, he was careful never to complain about his haircut to anyone in any way, especially his younger brother Matt—who would have squealed on him in no time. In fact, each time he went to the barbershop he insisted to Matt that he go first into the chair—and he made a point of telling Matt as he rubbed his head afterwards, ‘pretty cool, love it this way.' During those 6 weeks, he had the chance to do this 3 times, as he and Matt were on a two-week haircut schedule. But Dave wanted to show his father how grown-up he was, and was determined to show that he cared about keeping his haircut looking fresh, that just a couple of days after he and Matt had been to the barbershop, as he was shopping with his dad for things to take to their Thanksgiving dinner at his Uncle's house, he asked his dad to excuse him for 30 minutes, and he slipped away to the barbershop for a quick ‘shave.'
Imagine that! Well, his dad saw him, he only suggested that Dave should have spent his money on something that he really wanted; but Dave thought that he made some points by doing it. After all, he went in all by himself, didn't he? And he did look sharp again, at least that's what his aunt and uncle thought when they saw him. In fact, their ‘don't you look so handsome, especially with your short haircut,' and other compliments about Dave in front of his father were welcomed by Dave, since he thought they would help with the perception that he was keeping his end of the bargain, and he genuinely liked being praised, even for his haircuts. That had happened often on this trip, actually, because their families went out to the movies after their early dinner. Dave, being well-dressed and sporting a short haircut, was such a contrast to the somewhat sloppy appearance presented by his long-haired contemporaries that he gathered a lot of compliments from all the parents whose families knew each other. But those compliments lost some of their luster when other boys who might have been around at the time were told that they should get their haircut like his, as they invariably laughed or said something like ‘no way' (his long-haired cousin did just that, which also made Dave once again keenly aware that unlike his cousin, he couldn't choose how he wore his hair), and any good feeling that he got from a compliment that he received from another parent about his haircut turned to outright disgust if those same parents then turned to their own sons and threatened them with the same haircut that Dave had if they didn't shape up. Simply put, he was tired of his haircuts being used as a threat to others, or even as a good example that was to be emulated, such as when some twins that he used to see in the barbershops were given crewcuts because their father had liked how Dave had looked with a crewcut. He just wanted to be a good example to his father of how a son could honor his father's wishes on the kind of haircut that he wore…but, as he was to find out, there was yet another casualty that suffered the imposition of a short haircut because of Dave.
Dave's backyard, 2pm
Dave turned down the radio even though Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty,” his favorite new song, was playing because he had heard his best friend Steve Somers yell out to him from the gate. Dave had not seen Steve for a week, as school had been out for the holiday, and each went their separate ways. Turning in the direction of the back gate, Dave yelled somewhat sarcastically "Back here Steve, by the apple tree…and don't worry, I'm nearly done with my chores, so you came at the right time.”
As Steve rounded the corner, Dave noticed that Steve was wearing a beanie; in fact, a matching beanie to the one that Dave was wearing, as both featured the Golden State Warrior's logo. And he also noticed that Steve was walking with his affected, cocky ‘I'm better than you' walk that told Dave something was up, and he was about to find out what it was.
Steve issued his usual greeting when he came up to Dave, a simple "what's up, dude?' said in his usual cocky way. Steve looked Dave over and commented to Dave that "it's too warm to wear a beanie, unless you're now bald!”
"Well I might be bald…so how much will you give me to take off my beanie so that you can find out?” asked Dave, as he played along with Steve. Then just to rattle him some more, Dave added "and I see I might not be the only one that is bald.”
"Me?” asked Steve, who then continued his swagger with "This is called being in style, not that you would know, of course…and even if it wasn't in style to wear a beanie, it is now thanks to me!” "Plus,” he continued, "It would be like me to get a clipper shave just so that you wouldn't be too lonely…and that, of course, would mean that you would owe me.”
"Ok Steve,” responded Dave as he turned around to pick up his radio to carry it back to the patio area where he could rest, and carry on with Steve, who most likely setting up some elaborate way to tease Dave yet again over his clipper shaved head. But, Steve did mention just a few weeks ago that his dad was ‘making noise' about him getting a short haircut again, so who knows…best to just wait and let Steve be Steve.
The two friends walked quietly to the patio area near the garage as they listened to the radio. Dave noticed that Steve was unusually quiet, which meant he was just bursting at the seams. And boy was he! Steve had a few stories of his own to tell Dave.
Dave walked quickly ahead of Steve, going into the garage so that he could grab a few Cokes for them. As he walked back out to the patio, Steve was there in the middle of the patio, blocking Dave's way…with a mischievous twinkle in his eye and his hand up, signaling that he was about to make a big announcement. "Put the Cokes down, dude. Your best bud has something to show you.” Putting his hand dramatically up to the edge of his beanie…he stopped just short of ripping it off, when he looked at Dave's beanie covered head, and said "hold on…just in case you're bald—which is the only different haircut you could get at this point—I don't want you to steal my thunder, so if your dad made you get a baldie haircut, take off your beanie first.”
"I don't consider a baldie a ‘haircut,' Steve,” answered Dave. "But,” he continued, I might have something to show you…but you're right, I shouldn't steal your thunder, so go ahead and show me your baldie.”
"Who said I had a baldie,” replied Steve, as he quickly pulled the back of his beanie up, showing an enticing preview of his haircut.
Dave had indeed caught a glimpse of Steve's nape, and it was clipped short, but he wasn't bald…but how short? Oh well, he thought, just play along. "Let's just take off our beanies on the count of three,” suggested Dave. As Steve had signaled his acceptance, Dave started to count: "One, two…,” and then that's where he stopped, because each friend, not waiting till three, both took their beanies off and fixed their gazes on each other's haircuts. After a few moments, Steve was the first to comment.
"Well, I am underwhelmed. You kind of had me, I was expecting a baldie,” said Steve in a disappointed voice, which suddenly became much more animated when he continued "but of course, even you having a baldie could not compare with my new haircut!” As he concluded, he pointed at his head, which sported a stunning ‘new' haircut that looked like both a longish crewcut that had just enough length on the top to comb over, and an extremely short crewcut on the sides and back, as evidenced by the skin taper at the edges of the sides and back gradually getting longer—but not much longer towards the top. Steve had never had such a short haircut, though it was beautifully executed, no doubt about it…something definitely ‘new,' but also something very much familiar about it, especially to Dave…who was still stunned by how…well, how good it looked on Steve.
After a bit, Dave put his finger on it…”except for not having a quiff, your new haircut looks like a ‘long' boot cut. I wouldn't mind having that haircut…what's it called? Where did you get it? Is your dad OK with it??”
Steve chuckled a bit, then started in his ‘I'm better than you' voice, "Yeah, no quiff because I wanted it to look more like a crew cut; and it would look like your old boot cut because all short tapered haircuts have pretty much the same ‘look' to them, you just have to have the barber shape it the way you want, like I did. Sure, my dad had been making noise about me getting a short haircut again, so this morning I got tired of it and had him take me to that barbershop where you got the boot cut…he's ok with my haircut, says I look great, wants me to keep it. I'm still not sure if I'm going to keep it, though…but if I do, since it's a kind of crew cut, I'm going to call it the Stevie crew.”
Though he had sat there quietly, Dave had entertained some doubts as to Steve's assertion that this haircut had been all his idea; but Steve was Dave's friend, and so to some extent he was glad for Steve, having a short haircut that he thought looked great on Steve. Dave, putting aside his doubts, told Steve that he "wanted a Stevie crew, it would fit in with his plan to get his father to allow him to choose his own haircuts, and…”
"Calm down, dude,” Steve interrupted in a reflective voice that now had a tinge of melancholy in it; and as it was out of character for Steve, and certainly a tone of voice that signaled something was wrong, it brought Dave's excitement to a halt, and he listened as Steve continued, "like I said, just calm down, I mean only you would get so worked up over a haircut that no one else our age has, or would want…Yeah, I guess I came over to brag and make you jealous that I ‘got away with a relatively decent haircut' so that I would feel better about it. But the truth still sucks—my dad just wasn't on my back to get just a short haircut again—my dad was going to have me clipper shaved, but I managed to beg him, while I was in the chair, to let me get this haircut. Of course, I don't have to tell you, it sucks that I have this haircut—not looking forward to Monday…even though I heard about it all the time from you, now I know how it feels. Man…I also guess my advice of acting like you don't care what others think was as crappy as you said it was…I can't even convince you.”
"Damn, Steve,” responded Dave, "that's too bad…and you can feel better about it, or at least you can lord it over me that that at least you were able to talk your dad out of a clipper shave. Look at me, like you said, I'm a loser…I actually went to the barbers by myself to get my head clipper shaved again, just before we went to Thanksgiving at my aunt's.” Dave then took some time to tell Steve about his lone trip to the barbershop, and his recent realization that during this holiday season—just like at Thanksgiving—when he was out with his parents and dressed in his best clothes along with his short haircut, would gather too much attention; and though he might have the admiration of parents, their sons would hate and make fun of him. And now, his best friend Steve might just hate him as well. Hoping that was not the case, Dave offered his apology, "I'm so sorry, Steve, if my being clipper shaved made your dad want you to look the same…I'd be really upset, and I…”
Before he could finish, Steve stopped him, and somewhat recovering his earlier swagger, replied "Ah, get over yourself, dude! Might have happened to others…well, it actually has happened to others, but there's NO WAY I would let myself look like you.” He then broke off laughing, and grabbed his can of Coke to take a long drink from it.
"Okay, whatever Steve,” replied Dave, who was now genuinely relieved, but still cautious of Steve's feelings. He was going to ask Steve about what happened at the barbershop, but Steve started up first.
"Don't think you're off the hook just yet, dude,” said Steve with a sly grin on his face. I mean, my Stevie crew—though it's much better than anything you've ever had—is kind of a result of all of your moaning to me about your clipper shave, and that damn ‘haircut' deal that you still haven't talked to your dad about.”
"What the hell are you talking about,” asked Dave, genuinely puzzled—and intrigued.
Steve explained that "though you don't come to my house very often, my dad asks about your haircuts every now and then. I didn't think much about it…and I told him about your clipper shave, and your plan to get your dad to let you choose your haircuts when you get to high school. He was intrigued, and threw me for a loop when he told me he thought it was a good idea to make me get good grades…or else. So yeah, it's kind of your fault.” Then after some reflection, Steve continued, "well, I guess I did kind of laughed about it to my dad, and I really didn't think anything like this would happen. I guess I shouldn't have said much to him.”
"You never told me you talked to your dad about my haircut…or my plan. So your dad gave you a punishment haircut because of your grades?” asked Dave.
Actually, report cards had come out for the first quarter of the school year, and based on his report card—all A's & B's, Dave was going to at least start the conversation with his dad. Steve, though, got a couple of D's on his report card, and was now feeling the consequences…or at least he was when the barber was finished and he instinctively felt the back of his head. Strangely enough, that's what he was doing as he pondered about how to respond to Dave's question.
Turning to Dave as he was still running his hand up the back of his head to the front, again and again, Steve made an observation, "I know how your boot cut felt, it's amazing…going to skin, to sandpaper, then short fuzz at the top. But no quiff to comb over. So it feels like your old boot cut, but it looks so different. Still, I'm lucky, I guess. It was supposed to be a clipper shave, which is what my dad first said when he saw my two D's on the report card.”
"Sorry, Steve...and yeah, thanks for reminding me that my clipper shave is a whole lot worse than my boot cut…well, I guess it is better that I don't have to worry about my quiff not being combed properly.”
"Were you afraid that your dad was going to have the barber cut off your quiff…you, now, if you didn't comb it properly,” asked Steve, in his mocking voice.
"HA HA, so funny for someone who's going to get a lot of laughs come Monday,” replied Dave, who then continued "and when you make up a story, don't tell them that you felt sorry for me, so you got a haircut…”
"A Stevie crew,” interjected Steve.
Dave shook his head at Steve, but the smile was still on his face when he continued, "Yeah, you invented the Stevie crew so that I wouldn't feel so lonely…DO NOT say that…or, for that matter, that it was my fault. Just tell them you got bad grades, and got a punishment haircut…might make you cool…eh, cooler than you are now.”
Reflecting for a bit, Steve then said "Well, I guess it's my turn now to run the gauntlet…strange too, I know exactly how you feel…about having the haircut, and knowing that others have short haircuts as well, but they're on base—and we're here! Sucks big time…especially since it was so embarrassing in the barbershop shop, for me…and—this might make you smile, it was also really embarrassing for those two twins who wanted to kick your ass? Well, they were there as well, getting a clipper shave. They've sort of caught on—the clipper shave—for the boys on base, and these two twins were the latest to get them.”
"How do you know that,” asked Dave.
"Ah, from the scene at the base barbershop,” answered Steve, who then continued, "So there I was, being led into the barbershop by my dad, thinking that losing my taper cut wasn't going to be all that bad, as I thought my hair was pretty short already. Not that I didn't think I'd look a lot different, but I had deluded myself into thinking that I wasn't going to look a lot different afterwards. Well, remember those twins? They were actually ahead of me, they were there with their father, and I overheard them begging him not to have the barbers ‘shave their heads.' At first I didn't recognize them, because their hair had actually grown out a lot, with their ears almost halfway covered with hair…and they had such thick hair…remember when they had their short crew cuts, it would have to be cut with at least a #1 blade to make it look really short, with scalp showing. So here I was with my dad, who had already decided that I was going to get a clipper shave, along with the twins whose father had also decided they were going to get clipper shaved as well.”
"I've actually seen some of the boys who got clipper shaved at that fair in the barbershop getting it cut again, so I knew that there were some who had to keep it…but I never knew that it had ‘caught on,” remarked Dave, who was amazed that this was the case.
Steve then corrected his first statement, somewhat, by saying that "well, maybe not ‘caught on' as it hasn't become a ‘fad' or whatever. Just fathers and mothers, I suppose, who want their sons to have short haircuts. Mainly, I suppose, it's just that there are a lot more boys our ages at the barbershop. And these twins were there, arguing with…no, begging their father, not to make them get their heads shaved.” Then Steve recounted the conversation between the twins and their father:
"Twin: ‘Please, please don't make us…'”
"Their dad: ‘What did I tell you before we stepped in here? If you start up with your crying and begging, it will be an induction cut from now on, no matter if I don't think you look good with it…so stop it!'”
"Twin: ‘Why can't we wait for Christmas break…and besides, we won't look good with our heads shaved. We'll go back to our crew cuts again, and never ask you to let us grow our hair long.”
"Their dad: ‘You should have said that from the beginning, when I told you two that you weren't going to be allowed to have long hair, and when I suggested that you simply get a trim. But no, you wanted to have long hair, and made a big deal about it. So now its short haircuts again for the two of you; and to get things started since you didn't want a crew cut again, you're getting induction cuts. You'll be army boys again!'”
"Twin: ‘How about a short crew cut now, and then an induction cut for the Christmas Break?'”
"Their dad: ‘No, and that's it.'”
"Well,” concluded Steve, "there I was with my dad, listening to all of this, and me thinking ‘great, my dad will now start talking to their dad…and then who knows what will happen,' but it didn't happen, as it was their turn in the barber chairs, almost simultaneously. Their father ordered a short induction cut for them both, and the barber commented that there have been a few other boys now with induction cuts, ‘might be a trend,' and then I watched as the twins got their heads peeled.
"I always wonder how the barber feels, knowing that the person in chair doesn't want the haircut that he or she is giving them,” asked Dave, who continued "especially when they cry…if they do. Maybe then its good that they're doing induction cuts, goes quickly.”
Steve, with a pensive look on his face, related that "It doesn't seem like the barbers were too put off by the twins…I mean, I saw that they both had tears in their eyes, but they weren't actively crying their heads off. On the other hand, I was having a fit, as I suddenly realized that I was just like the others at boot camp, waiting in line for the chair, and having to watch the transformation in front of them. So I watched the barbers do their work on the twins, first one started, and then the other. Maybe the scene was just like being at boot camp…both barbers took their clippers to front of each twin's head, and then began making swipes, front to back. You should have seen that thick hair of theirs being taken off, strip by strip…all that white scalp being uncovered. After a couple of swipes on the top, both twins looked like MPB old men, with the hair at the sides really standing out. Then the barbers moved to their sides, and the same thing happened, strip after strip of hair just fell off, down to their capes, and in no time each ear was exposed, and then the back. Then almost on cue, both barbers went over each twin's head again, making sure their heads were uniformly clippered. I have to admit it was an amazing transformation…but then I suddenly realized it was nearly my turn.
End of part 1.