Conversations, September 1979, Pt 3 by Archon 2
Note: As always, please read the earlier parts. This is the last of the planned "Conversations." Thanks for reading them, I hope you have enjoyed them. Though only semi-autobiographical, the stories accurately represent the struggles that I encountered in the 70's while having to wear not only regular short haircuts, but later on the even shorter 'military style' haircuts. Just like Dave, I actually liked how I looked, especially when I had a flattop, but due to the times I could never admit it, until the very end when I 'grew up" with some help from my brother. As for the question of would I make my sons have short haircuts if I had any...my answer is NO. But, I sure wouldn't let them have long unkempt hair. But enough of the present, it's time to visit the past:
Conversations, September 1979, Pt. 3, around 4 pm in Dave's back yard.
"By the way,” began Dave, "my ears were freezing this morning. And to me, that was a legitimate reason to wear my beanie. In fact, the first person who came up to me—a teacher—said ‘aren't your ears cold,' not as a statement about me having an unwanted shaved head, but as a general statement that my ears must be cold. That was a good first sign, and I just smiled at him, then rubbed my head and responded with ‘well, the rest of my head is cold as well, but I forgot my beanie as I was in a rush to get to school…I should have told my brother that he could give me a haircut when I got home…but I really wanted to come to school this morning shaved.”
Dave and Steve were then startled to hear "So you started off at school with a lie about your haircut,” from Mike, Dave's older brother, in a disapproving voice. Apparently Dave and Steve were so engrossed with the story of how Dave ended up with a baldie in the morning that they didn't hear Mike come around the corner. They both nodded to him as he came up to the patio area, and as he pulled up a chair to sit down, he put Steve in a headlock and rubbed his head forcefully until Steve begged him to stop. As he did so, he looked at Dave and said "No noogies for you, since it seems you haven't learned your lesson…still lying about why you get your head is shaved.”
Dave looked down, averting his eyes from Mike's gaze. Sure they were brothers, but Dave didn't like Mike's disapproval; well, he always looked up to his older brother…and now, perhaps, he should tell Mike the truth, that he was somewhat upset that his brother kept the right to get whatever haircut he chose to have from him. Even if he actually wanted a high and tight now, just like Mike! Yes, how weird it was to him as he thought about it…he liked how much attention and time Mike was giving to him, and he secretly liked that Mike gave him a baldie, though he had to act like he didn't. So he admitted that "Yeah Mike, I like the baldie and want to get a high and tight, you know that…but it's still that I want to be the one to decide. And if I lied a little about my haircut, well, at least I'm trying to be comfortable with having it.”
Mike took that in, and studied both his brother Dave and his friend Steve. Here they were, all three of them with ‘military haircuts,' though with different perspectives on wearing them. So Mike parsed it out, first with the obvious similarities, "Well guys, we all grew up as army brats. And while that doesn't automatically mean short haircuts for us growing up, well that was just what happened. You know very well, because we also lived on base, that most other army brats didn't get dragged to the barbershop all the time; in fact, most of them never went to the barbershop at all. But, for whatever reason, our parents made sure we got our hair cut. You know the list, crew cut, contours, flat tops and butches.”
"Regular haircuts, apparently for most boys till our time,” offered Dave, who had interrupted Mike to relate what was so bad about his—their current situation. "But,” he added, we also got ‘military style' extremely short haircuts too, which were a big contrast to the long feathered hair that some other boys had. So I'm saying that these military style haircuts for teenage boys is something new, and was probably a reaction to seeing long-haired boys from our parents. At least that's my view, and that's what really sucked. We had to suffer because our parents were so shocked at long-haired boys that they basically wanted us nearly bald. And yes, I know dad really liked how my boot cut looked on me, and Matt who was younger didn't get one because he was too young…but still, I think fathers who make their sons get military style haircuts do it as a reaction to seeing long hair on other boys.”
Feeling a little tension between the brothers, Steve just listened for Mike to reply, and when he didn't for a bit, Steve offered his vote for Dave's explanation, "Yeah, I agree. Even though I have the ‘Stevie Crew' now because of bad grades, my dad keeps my hair short because it's a reaction to long hair on other teens. Well, at least that's one reason.”
Mike then replied, stating that "Ok, Dave, you're right…at least for our area, and even though we were army brats growing up, if anything we should have just had regular haircuts at the barbershop, not the super-short military style that you had to get recently. Maybe it's a reaction to seeing long hair. But that doesn't matter. What I'm trying to get through to your head is that we all have rules to follow. Take me. As a Marine, I'm expected to look a certain way. But I'll let you know that high and tights are not mandatory, there are no regulations for shaved sides and back like some people think. ‘Regulation cuts' are fine as well. It's my fellow Marines that dictate a high and tight haircut, it's something that makes them feel like they belong in their group.”
"But you like your high and tight, and you're making me earn having one,” interrupted Dave.”
"Nope, not really,” replied Mike. After he let that sink in with Dave and Steve, he continued "Well, I don't dislike looking like a Marine, or at least what others think a Marine should look like. But, I would rather have a regulation cut, or that short butch with a flat top that I had in my senior year…”
"Yeah we all like that haircut on you,” interrupted Dave.
"I know, "replied Mike, "but, just so that you know, I only get the high and tight because I'm expected to wear it. And just like I'm telling you two now, I tell others who ask me about my haircut—don't necessarily like it, but I'm expected to wear it so I do; I want to fit in, much like you wanted to get a high and tight as well, Dave…to fit in with the rest of us. And that's why I can—or rather the haircut deal that you had with dad—make you shave your head in expectation of being allowed to get a high and tight after three months, you want to belong.”
Dave was stunned when he heard this, but he knew it was true. He was actually counting the days till he could get a high and tight—a high and tight haircut which never really looked good to him before—so that he could fit in with his brother and his friends. Hoping to soften Mike's criticism, Dave said that "Well then, you know how I feel, having to wear a haircut because someone else expects it, or in my case tells you that you have to wear one. So I was just trying to respond to that teacher in the same way—he wasn't making a big deal about my head being shaved bald, just that my ears must be cold—and so I was just trying to say that perhaps he was right, would have been better to have been shaved later on in the day, and have enough time to find my beanie in the morning.”
"Hey, that reminds me,” said Steve, suddenly becoming animated, "you were going to tell me about your day full of interesting comments from others.”
"Not helping, Steve…as usual,” said Dave, somewhat dejected again.
Picking up on this, Mike said in a disappointed voice, "So does that mean you went the whole day lying about your haircut? Just like that first teacher, where you should said ‘yes my ears are cold' if they were, instead of lying to him and stating that you wanted to come to school with your head shaved that morning. What's the truth?”
Now uneasy in his chair, Dave avoided Mike's gaze for a little bit, while he composed himself and finally said "like I said earlier, the truth is that I liked that you are spending time with me, and took me shopping with your buddies. I also like how I look with the short haircuts, and dammit, I liked my boot cut, and having to comb my quiff and look ‘sharp.' I'm really ok with the shaved head, I've been rubbing it all day, and loved letting others rub it. And I am kind of sad that it's not as smooth now as it was in the morning. But, I still am angry that it's not my choice, and I would like the chance to see myself with longer hair, that's all! So if I have to lie about being OK with it, then fine, let me have that.”
"Dave!” said Mike forcefully, "did you just hear yourself? You said you like how you look with the short haircuts; ok, go with that. You can tell your schoolmates and teachers that, but don't lie that you actually want them. Ok, you probably don't have to tell them anything, but at least be true to yourself. But I say, if they ask ‘why,' then tell them why. And you can tell them that you like how you look.”
"But that's the problem,” said Dave suddenly and with bitterness, "I used to tell them I like how I looked, but they didn't believe me. They always just laughed and said how could I like my haircut when my dad made me get it. You remember, it happened to you as well.”
Steve again offered his view, stating that "I can honestly say that you brothers actually looked good with whatever short haircut you had. But others don't. Let's face it, there are some kids that look awful with butches and clipper shaves. Crew cuts always look good, though, in my opinion. Now that I think about it, my sons are getting crew cuts! Anyone else with me? Mike, maybe high and tights for your sons?
Relieved at the comedic break that Steve provided, Dave tried to steer the conversation away from him, responding that as a father he would "probably allow my sons to have whatever haircut they wanted, within reason. Except for permed hair, which looks ridiculous.”
At that, everyone laughed. But then things became serious again when Mike started with "Ok Dave, let's hear about some of your conversations at school today. But first, let me get us some Coke's…be right back.”
As Steve watched Mike go around the corner into the garage to get their sodas, he turned to Dave and asked "Hey, can we ask Mike to show me his technique for shaving your head?”
"Like I said, Steve, if you let him shave your head first, I'll let you watch him shave mine.”
"Oh come on,” teased Steve, "you're still what everyone considers ‘bald,' it's not like he has much to cut off.”
Mike had come back in time to hear Steve, and so he asked Steve "what's this all about, you want me to give Dave another haircut? Two baldies in one day…it's not like he's in the Marines.”
"You had two baldies in one day?” both Steve and Dave asked simultaneously.
"Well, a little bit after we got out of boot camp and were in SOI-Infantry school, we had already bought our clippers and would shave our heads Monday morning so that we were fresh for the first class on Monday, and then if we had guard duty or some other kind of detail that night we would shave our heads again. So yes, sometimes two baldies in one day. You'd be surprised at how much different Dave will look after we shave him…just a minute, let me get my clippers and shaver.”
Glaring at Steve, but not saying anything until Mike was inside the house and out of earshot, Dave almost shouted at Steve, who was laughing and pointing at Dave—"Shut up Steve…dammit, there you go again, getting a laugh at my expense. You know I don't want to get shaved now…”
Barely containing his laughter, Steve blurted out "Don't worry dude, and it's not like it's something that is not going to happen tomorrow morning.”
Just then Mike walked out again, throwing a towel to Dave, telling hat "you know what to do with that,” while he set out his clipper set and electric shaver on the table.
Steve looked over the equipment, and picked up a blade marked "00000,” which he offered to Mike, saying "here's the one for Dave's shave!” Mike chuckled as he thanked Steve for his help, then grabbed Steve suddenly in a headlock and menacingly put the clippers to Steve's head…and then laughing as Steve struggled, let him go, adding "don't worry, I wouldn't help you look better…”
Feigning insult, Steve replied "Hey, my Stevie Crew is tops! Everyone wishes they had one.”
By then, Dave had regained his composure and insisted to Mike that he didn't need to get his head re-shaved now. "My skin barely survived the first encounter this morning, with you digging so hard into it with the clippers. Plus, you're going to shave it again tomorrow morning, so…”
"Relax, Dave,” intoned Mike, who then told Dave that "I was going to have you shave the sides and back of my head actually; and when I heard Steve, well I thought it would be a good idea to let you practice using the clippers and electric shaver. It's up to you…maybe you can have Steve practice with the clippers and give you a clipper shave, and then you can use the electric shaver afterwards…maybe it will still be short enough to just use the electric shaver in the morning. But you decide. Anyway, you can still help give me a haircut, and I still want to hear about your day at school.”
Steve, of course, was beside himself with anticipation, and gave his best friend Dave that ‘please let me' look on his face, along with his plea to "let me shave your head!” Well, how could Dave refuse?
"What I do for my friends,” Dave muttered as he threw the towel around his shoulders and draped it as a barber's cape. While he acted like he didn't want to get shaved, in actuality he was looking forward to being bald again. And then it hit him; he was not being truthful—with his best friend and older brother that he admired even—so he suddenly smiled at Steve and Mike, then said "Ok, I'm actually looking forward to this…take you time and don't take off my skin. Can't wait to be bald again!”
Steve, who had been excitedly waving about the clippers with the 5-Zero attachment near Dave's head, unfortunately had to wait as Mike gave him some instructions:
"You don't have to press the clippers to the head with a lot of pressure. Just let them glide over his head, it's easy. A five-zero blade will take him almost bald, and the length it leaves, while not much shorter than the 3-zero blade that was used for Dave's recent clipper shave, will look quite a bit different.”
Dave then piped up, remembering what he wanted to tell Mike after he announced that a 3-zero blade was the shortest that had been used on Dave, "that reminds me, when I was getting the boot cut, the barber said he used a four-zero blade to start the taper. Just saying, I've had a four-zero taper, but the five-zero taper looks so much shorter, it's amazing, even though it cut's the hair just a micron shorter!
"Okay, enough already, time to start,” replied Steve, who then took an ominous step towards Dave's head, but had to stop as Mike put up his hand to stop him, and then continued with his instructions.
"I would hold his head in the back as you start at the front, moving the clippers to the back. So do all of the top, taking your time, then move to the sides where you start at the bottom of the hairline, moving up from the bottom of his ears, taking off the sideburns and working your way around his ears, moving them out of the way, you know fold them down as you work your way up to the crown.
"Okay, Okay,” said Steve impatiently, who didn't wait any longer as he deftly and swiftly moved towards Dave's back, planted his hand near the crown area, and then proceeded to take his first swipe at the front of Dave's head, moving it towards the back.
"OUCH! Dammit Steve, ease up on the clippers,” directed Dave, as he flung Steve's hand and clippers away from his head and turned towards Steve and said "that really hurt…geez, ease up or else!”
"Sorry buddy…let me try again.” So Steve once again took up his position behind Dave, and under Mike's watchful eye began to deftly take the clippers to Dave's head, carefully exposing his scalp with each swipe. "Man, you weren't kidding,” observed Steve as he watched the clippers expose another strip of scalp "it's only half a day or so, and already his hair has grown enough so that while it still looked bald, using these clippers actually makes a difference.”
"I'm glad you're amused,” replied Dave, who was actually interested as well. I never went in to look at myself in the mirror when we got home from school…so I don't know if I look a lot different.”
"You do, trust me” replied Mike.
By that time, Steve, who had become amazing adept at the use of the clippers, now went to work on Dave's left side. He was having fun, commenting that "well, there goes the shadow of your left sideburns…moving towards the ears, we see nothing but skin…”
"HA HA, Steve.” "Keep it up, and I'm not going to let you cut my hair again” threatened Dave in a mocking voice.
"Sure, sure…you know you need your good bud Steve.” Then he moved to Dave's back, and was peeling away the stubble from the back, when he suddenly asked, "Hey Dave, can I tell everyone that I shaved your head?”
Before Dave could answer, Mike chimed in with "Well, it's the truth, and Dave, you could say—truthfully—that you let Steve do it…I think they'd believe it. What do you think?”
Dave, who had some time to think about his answer, said "I guess it's ok; hell, if you can shave your friend's head in the Marines, why not when you're in high school? Sure, go ahead Steve…but tell them I don't think you did a good job.”
"Oh yeah, just wait till Mike lets me use the straight razor on you…there's one there in his bag,” Steve said as he pointed with his free hand. "Right there, all shiny and sharp, just waiting for one of your ears…muahahahaha.”
"We sometimes use a straight razor to shave in a part,” said Mike, and then continued with "Maybe later we can practice on Dave, give him a #1 or #0 clipper shave so that it's still long enough to see the part. Maybe a couple of lines at the sides, like they did during WWII, to denote a special unit.”
Dave now piped up, saying "Let's stop thinking about ways to decorate my shaved head. Are you almost done, Steve?”
"Yeah, but let me go over it again,” replied Steve as he diligently started the process all over again, taking pleasure in using the clippers all over Dave's head.
Then Mike moved towards his equipment, and unbundled the electric shaver, plugging it into the extension cord that he had run from the house. As he turned it and oiled it, it made the loud whining sound that seemed to ask for a head to shave. Then he gave them to Steve as he took his clippers back, and Steve then went to work, shaving off the last bits of Dave's hair, taking the time to sweep Dave's head with his free hand as he went, stating every so often "yes, nice and smooth…”
"Why don't you give Dave the shaver so he can practice,” advised Mike.
Surrendering the shaver to Dave, Steve rubbed the areas that he thought needed to be re-done, helping to guide Dave's hand to the appropriate areas. "I guess it will be easier tomorrow if I did this in the bathroom, in front of the mirror” remarked Dave.
"Hold on, you asked me to shave your head tomorrow,” reminded Steve…”and I plan to be here!”
Both brothers laughed at that; and Dave, always the good friend who didn't want to disappoint Steve, said "OK, you'll be here to help. But in the bathroom in front of the mirror, so I can watch.”
"You got a deal!” Steve replied enthusiastically. Steve then continued to guide Dave to where he needed to use the electric shaver, then let him go over his head once again. When Dave was done, he allowed Steve to wipe his head down with the towel and asked for a verdict on the job.
"Looks great,” both Steve and Mike said.
The feeling his head all over, Dave pronounced that since his haircut—or shaved head—was back to what it was in the morning, he was now ‘in the right mood' to tell them what transpired throughout the day. "The things I do to recreate my day for you two…”
"Just tell us the truth about what happened,” Mike admonished Dave.
"Alright, geez already Mike,” replied Dave, somewhat flustered. But then he gained his composure when he saw that Mike meant business, so Dave started with "Remember, I did tell you ‘thanks for the haircut,' when you escorted me to the front steps so that I wouldn't chicken out… so at least everyone who heard me, heard the truth. And I did tell the teacher that you gave me my haircut.” Then breaking off for a bit, Dave looked straight at Mike as he proudly stated that "I told everyone that asked me, that you gave me my ‘haircut,' but then stopped to admit that he told most of them that "I also like by saying that I asked you to shave me bald, just like other recruits, since that was the only way I could hang out with you and your buddies.” Then after a brief silence, Dave, with a sincere tone to this voice, asked Mike "What's so bad about me saying that I wanted to get my head shaved to look like you? Well, not exactly like you, since you wouldn't allow me to get a high and tight, but everyone—for the first time—seemed satisfied that I actually wanted a shaved head. And, that most likely I also wanted the crew cut that I came to school with…and that whatever haircut I had from then on would be one that I wanted, and not forced upon me? Even the kids who grew up with me, and who knew that I was always forced to get short ‘military' cuts didn't bother me, and acted like it was cool that my head was shaved…by my brother! You wanted to help me, and you have, I'm actually ok with going to school now with not only a short military haircut, or with this shaved head…can't you let it go at that?”
"I understand,” added Steve, who then tried to help his best friend Dave, continued with "After all, you didn't want to say, on one hand, ‘I really like this haircut that my brother gave me,' and then right afterwards say that his brother did it because ‘it was to carry out a punishment from my father for not living up to my haircut deal.' Then Dave might have to go into all the messy haircut deal business, and then he's back to being a little boy who can't choose his haircuts…oh, and by the way, his big brother is now in charge of his haircuts, and Dave has to wear basically a shaved head for three months so that he can get a Marine High and Tight. Cut him some slack, Mike.”
Mike thought about what he heard from Dave and Steve; and after mulling on it for a while, he decided that they just might be right. Perhaps he was expecting too much from Dave. After all, he used to tell such lies, until he found out that he didn't need to any more. Maybe it was that Mike just showed that he didn't care anymore what others thought; maybe it was because he became a leader and others looked up to him, and maybe it was because he went to high school and it became less of an issue with schoolmates. But he didn't lie about his high and tights, or the fact that there were decisions—like his haircuts—that weren't up to him, but that he wore his high and tight proudly. So he looked at the two friends and said "Ok, maybe it's just me wanting Dave to get over the fact that he doesn't decide on his haircuts by facing up to the situation and letting people know what's what, instead of lying about it. But I think it's a part of growing up that you face up to the facts. Ok, your father still decides how you get your haircut…but guess what, you're OK with it, and you're wearing your haircut proudly. And it's not as strange as you think, as many of your classmates wear their long hair proudly, and take such good care of it. You shouldn't be embarrassed by also getting your hair cut into a ‘military' style or whatever, because it takes just as much care to look good.” Stopping for a while to let what he said sink in, Mike then looked at Dave, and ended with "I just want you to stop making up stories about why you got your haircut, and start honoring dad's wishes.”
With a solemn voice, Dave responded with "I will.” And then, Dave recounted that it had actually kind of went that way throughout the day. He passed the teacher first, and then went in through the front doors, noticing everyone staring at him as he walked down the hallways to his locker. Some girls stopped by and mentioned how different he looked with a shaved head, and he invited them to rub it—which they did and giggled. Others came up, and he let them rub his head. Some knew that his brother had given him his haircut, so they asked him various questions like ‘so you want to be a Marine,' or ‘want to look like your brother,' or they just made comments like ‘guess you'll be going into the Marines when you graduate.' There were no teasing like usual, or snide comments, though there was some snickering from some others who knew me from Jr. High. It was just people interested in my new haircut—a shaved head—and how it felt, and how brave I was to come to school with it. Oh, I did tell them if it was this cold again tomorrow I was going to be sure to wear my beanie, since I think I'm going to keep it shaved at least till Thanksgiving. But yeah, Mike, I won't tell them anymore that I asked you to shave my head…but I won't stop telling them that I like having a shaved head, because that's the truth.” Then he added, "Oh, by the way, that doesn't mean I want to keep it forever, or that I won't try to grow my hair out again to at least a taper cut. After I earn the right to get a high and tight, of course!”
With that, Steve laughed and stated the obvious, "But you and I think high and tights look, well, silly…um, no offense meant to you and your buddies, Mike.”
Now they were all laughing in agreement. "But,” Mike was the first to start, "doesn't matter that I don't want a high and tight, it's a requirement that I have to meet. And Dave just wants to look like a Marine…so how silly is the high and tight if having one makes you look like a Marine, and a kid brother who was scared of going to school with a short haircut wants the quintessential Marine haircut so that he can look like one? You see, we all have to assume, well in our cases, ‘wear' our responsibilities.” With a twinkle in his eye, Mike then looked at both Steve and Dave, and asked, "Now, who wants to help me shave my head? Yes, that's right, after watching Dave get shaved, I'm getting rid of the high and tight, and letting you shave me.”
Just then, Matt came out, and seeing Dave shaved bald, and Mike about to become bald, asked with enthusiasm, "Hey can I get my head shaved so I look like you two?”
"No way,” answered Mike…”but Matt, you can help me shave my head along with Dave and Steve. Someday, though, dad might let you. But for now, he…well, we all think you look your best now with your short flattop.”
Dave, touched by his little brothers desire to look like him and get his head shaved, as well as Mike's desire to shave his head after seeing his shave, finally felt good about his haircuts; and he understood how proud his father felt when others complimented his sons' haircuts, and the reason why his father seemed to be so much prouder when other boys were given haircuts to match his sons. Dave was going to be ok after all, no matter what haircut his father chose for him.
Well, if there's interest, I might write more about Dave's three months with a shaved head, and if he got the high and tight. And what about Matt? Did Dave's little brother get a ‘haircut deal' at a younger age than Dave? And what about Steve…did he secretly want a high and tight? And if so, did his father let him, as it would basically reward Steve when he was supposed to be wearing a short haircut as punishment for bad grades? Let me know if you want more stories in this series. Otherwise, I hope to write more specifically about some of Matt and Mike's adventures with their haircuts.