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Just Like His (extended) by Paraoh/Tim
I still don`t know what motivated me to sit here in this old fashioned barber shop waiting for one of these old men to call me up to their chair. I was in dire need of a haircut, but I usually always went to a salon. The price was double what this place charged, but I knew what I was getting and trusted the lady who cut my hair.
And it was quite a challenge with my hair. It is quite thick and extremely wavy, almost to the point of being curly. I gave up long ago trying to fight it, never parting it or such. I just gently brush it straight back and add a little gel each day so it doesn`t get too unmanageable. When gel and hairspray quite working, then I`ll use a blow dryer to tame the curls a bit before using gel and hairspray. When all three fail, it`s time for a cut. Well, it`s been that long for a while, well past my collar in back, covering most of my ears and bangs that (if they weren`t combed straight back) would be hanging in front of my eyes. I had been intentionally trying to grow it longer, wondering if that would make it easier to tame. Wrong! It just looks worse and worse each day. And to make matters worse, my regular salon is closed today for renovations (it won`t be open for weeks), and so for some reason I find myself sitting here rather than hunt down another salon.
And I`m nervous! Nervous because I won`t be looking in a mirror here, but instead facing a blank side wall. And because everyone here is getting such short haircuts. And because these barbers work so fast. And because I have no idea how to ask for my `usual` cut.
I watch the barber in front of me work on an older man (probably early 60`s) with a fair length of thin, very straight hair. He comes in with it parted harshly on the side, looking almost like it is slicked in place (something out of an old black and white television show). The barber doesn`t wash or even wet his hair, or even muss with the part. He just cuts it in place, drastically shortening the back and sides yet basically leaving the top alone. I`ve only seen layered cuts on men for years, where the length all over is basically the same. His hair is so much longer on top than anywhere else it is…, well, fascinating to me. I even find myself wondering what I would look like with such a haircut, though I know that would never be possible with my hair. It would have to be straight, very straight, and much thinner to work in such a style. Plus the sides and what I can see of the back are so much shorter than I usually get (I usually end up with about ½ of my ears still covered) that it would be very out of character for me to request such a thing. I haven`t had hair that short since kindergarten!
I lost all train of thought while watching this whole cut, and by the time the man is done and reaching for his wallet I am immediately struck that I am next in line. The barber looks at me with a slight smile and taps his big chair. `I believe you`re next.`
I get up casually and take a seat, trying to mask the qualms I have and make it look like I`m a regular of this shop. Just before I sit I take a last look at my shaggy, curly mane. I definitely need this haircut. It has been so long since my last cut I need to remember not to get nervous when I see a bit more length than usual fall to my lap.
I stare at the last customer as he walks away from me out the door. I thought the sides of his hair was short, but the back was far worse. It was, as I had learned from sitting here and watching the past 45 minutes, tapered in back. Yet his seemed much shorter than the other tapers I had witnessed thus far. And yet for seem reason I couldn`t get the look out of my mind. I stared at the blank wall as the barber cinched my neck with a tissue and put the robe around me. Once my hands were covered I gripped the arms tightly as I could feel my nerves really reaching a high.
`How would you like your hair cut today?` the barber (the name Paul was embroidered into his uniform) asked as he stood just in my line of vision. `I guess I`m looking to get it cut just like that last customer you had.` I can`t believe I actually said that for real! It just kind of snuck out of my mouth. I wasn`t too worried though because of course the barber would quickly tell me such a cut was impossible.
Paul lightly touched my hair, and I`m sure was learning what an impossible task I had just asked for. `You want it parted like his?`
That wasn`t what I had expected to hear. Was he serious?
`Yes,` I stated confidently. Again I don`t know how that just slipped out. Perhaps I just wanted to know if such a thing was possible and then would quickly set things straight so I didn`t end up with the wrong haircut. I was waiting for him to respond that such a style would not work, yet I just saw him disappear behind me to his tools.
For some reason I said nothing, and when he returned with a water bottle and a big toothed comb and started spraying and combing through my hair quite briskly I just let him. It felt odd to have my bangs combed forward instead of straight back, and despite all the water could see them maintaining a good portion of their waves and curls. Even still they completely covered my eyes. I bet if they were straight they`d even reach past my nose. Wow, it had been a long time since I`d had a cut! Looking at my bangs I was now confident that my request couldn`t be honored, yet he just continued along wetting everything down.
Then he put away the water bottle and took a different comb with much shorter, finer teeth (from a big jar full of blue liquid) and started combing it all very deliberately, almost liking his was trying to yank it straight. It didn`t make much of a difference, as I expected. Yet he said nothing and I felt the odd sensation of a hard straight part being made on the right side, and then a substantial amount of hair being combed hard across the top, including all of my bangs being swept out of my line of vision. Even though I couldn`t see anything, I could tell from the feel of it as he harshly patted and pressed on it that it wasn`t cooperating in the slightest, and I found myself grinning a satisfied grin for some reason. Yet I still said nothing, waiting for him to talk first. I was glad I couldn`t see myself in the mirror right now as I`m sure I looked quite hilarious.
He wasn`t going to tell me it was impossible! He was going to try and grant my impossible request! But….I didn`t really want this! But rather than concede defeat, the barber just retreated to his tool bench, leaving me in silence. And then his clippers snapped to life.
Before I could say a word he was at my left side, plowing his clippers back from my cheek, and I saw a huge clump of hair fall forward onto my left. I stared at it in disbelief, only to see it joined by another pile, and another, and another. And then I felt the clipper run clear around my ear, ensuring it was completely untouched by any of my length.
I sat quietly, wondering what I could possibly say or do now to walk out of here with my `usual` style. But I couldn`t, as my ear was already exposed. So what could I escape with, as I certainly didn`t want to match that old guy who left.
I don`t know how long I was debating to myself, but it was obviously too long, because by the time I focused on what was happening to my hair he was already attacking the back, and I could feel the clippers running tight and hard on the back, extending way too far up the back.
It was too late! The damage felt irreversible. And as I sat, saying and doing nothing, I felt more and more being peeled off. I remembered how short the back was, the incredibly short taper, of the customer before me. And now I was being made to match! And it felt like it too. In fact it felt like he was taking everything off, as it was running higher and higher up the back, almost to the top of my head..
And then all too quickly the right side was being ravaged, with the ear quickly outlined and exposed, and shorn right up the side. Right then I realized anything I said or did made no difference. I sat still wondering how, or if, Paul could do what I asked. Would he cut it all off only to find out it wouldn`t work, and then tell me, only to go even shorter still to end up with any kind of style?
It was odd feeling the now very short sides and back, yet the obvious huge mound of hair still drawn over from the left side on top. It probably looked even more ridiculous now.
The barber went over the sides and back some more, reducing them even further. I knew I had less hair there than at any time I could remember.
Suddenly, the clippers fell silent, and were returned to their shelf. Paul was in front of me with comb and scissors, and combed my bangs straight down. Then he harshly sliced into them well above my eyes, and a great wall of hair fell forward onto my lap. Then he combed the top hair up like my former stylist did and sliced into them with his scissors, repeating the process over and over as he steadily worked to the back of my head. Now it felt MUCH shorter.
He combed it over once more, and then spritzed it down. I saw him shake his head and he headed back to his tool rack. Had he conceded defeat now. Then he was back with another strange looking pair of scissors, and he attacked the top very close to my scalp, seemingly taking it all off. I saw more and more hair fall forward onto my lap. Yet every time I was about to protest I felt him comb over the top once more and could still feel some length up there. Where was it coming from?
The clippers came to life once more, redoing the sides, the back, and seemingly blending in the top once more. My hair felt much lighter and so much different. I still couldn`t believe my hair was going to end up looking like the style I had requested though.
Next shaving cream was applied to my hairline on the sides and back, insuring that no hair would cover my ear for quite some time to come. I gulped but focused on not trembling so as not to be cut. The barber never flinched and did a great job on this.
Then he deposited some strange pleasant smelling pomade into my hair, massaging it in vigorously. Then I felt him reform the part on the right side, and comb it all in place.
`There you go sir,` he said as he turned the chair to face the mirror. I did not recognize the person sitting in the chair. My hair was mostly all gone now, and what remained was stick straight, thin, and plastered to my head. It looked exactly like the man before me. It also made me look much older, and much….homelier. I couldn`t believe he had actually done it. I also hated it.
He turned the chair, handed me a mirror and showed me the back. To no surprise it was exactly like the taper of his previous customer, far, far too short. My scalp was shorn very very high clearly showed through on most of the back by now.
Stunned, I stood up and paid him, even giving him a tip. I stared at the mass on the floor that was my former mane, and walked out of the shop. I instantly touched what was left of my hair. It was basically nothing more than stubble now. The top, thanks to the thinning shears, was only a fraction of what it used to be. I looked up and saw a man coming out of the shop next door, recognizing him as the customer who had been in front of me. He looked at me and grinned.
`Nice haircut,` he said, and then went on his way.
Of course he would say something like that. After all, mine was now just like his.
End of Orginal As I walked down the street, super self conscious of my butchered hair, and to be honest it was my own fault, I kept peering at my reflection in shop windows. It began to occur to me that instead of hating this new haircut, I began to like it. Every now and again I had to feel the shorn bristles at the back, and each time I did I liked it more.
There was no work at the office today, so I went straight home to survey the damage. Half an hour in the bathroom with two mirrors I examined this new haircut from every angle. True, it was not what I expected, and the extreme thinning process was too drastic even though it did have the effect of straightening the hair and allowed it to lay flat to the scalp. So the verdict was that I somehow I liked the change – after all I had asked for it. Maybe I would keep it. Maybe.
At least I had determined that I would not be embarrassed to show myself to family, friends and office. I would just say that I wanted a change, and that I did like it for the time being.
A month passed and the hair started to grow. Back and sides filled out and the top began to thicken again. This was the cross roads. Did I let it go back to the former moptop style, or should I go back to Paul the barber and have him attack it again – or none of the above?
So I let it grow, mainly because I couldn’t make a decision. The part disappeared.
About six months later I was passing the same barber shop. Haircut, or not to haircut. I was kidding myself. Suddenly I remembered that for a moment in history I had really liked that shown look, but just couldn’t make a decision about it. Now was the time. Into the barber shop I went. But it was all changed. Sure the old fashioned chairs and bench were there, but the place had been painted, new track lights had been installed and generally the place looked smart and modern, with a nostalgic feel. Most of all there was another change. The two old barbers had gone and in there place were two young guys, one with neatly trimmed, and the other shaven bald.
The shop was empty and the bald barber waved me into his chair. I sat and thought.
“Welcome to the Clip Joint. I’m Nathan and that my partner Jordon. We’ve just moved in, after Paul and Johnny retired. Been here before?”
“Yes just the once – “
“OK. What can I do for you? Looks like you have style problems. What was your last cut – months ago I suspect – the lengths are all over the place. Tell me the story. I’m a good listener, and I want you to have the best stylecut you’ve ever had.”
I told him how my hair was usually very thick, wavy and unruly, and how it had been kind of mutilated to give me the flat, parted short-back-and-sides. “Yeah. I can see all that. So do you want to shape up what you’ve now got, or is it back to the short-back-and-sides?’
“I know this is crazy, but I’d like to have the flatter, parted shorn style just once more.”
“You’re right, advised Barber Nathan. “But this time we’ll do it completely differently. I suggest we straighten the hair so it will lay flat of it’s own accord, a substantial razor cut, shave the part in, and high taper short-back-and-sides. It won’t be just an old fashioned haircut, but exclusively styled just for you. What do you think? Have you got a couple of hours?”
“Sure. Sounds good to me.” I was enthusiastic.
So Nathan worked the straightening solution well into my hair, and again parted it on the right side, this time a little higher than normal. While the straightener was curing I sat in another chair, enjoying an excellent coffee and glancing over men’s hairstyle magazines. A couple of guys about my age came in for haircuts while I was waiting, each of them exchanging long hair for short. Nathan’s customer was impressed with Nathan’s shaved bald head, and assured the barber that he would be back for a headshave after some family commitments. Both barbers told their clients and myself that short hair was becoming alsolutely the top fashion. And was likely to remain so. By now I was cooked and Nathan shampooed the straightener out of my hair. Back in his barber chair, he blow dried what was my unruly mop. I couldn’t believe it. My hair was not totally without kink, and was soft and pliable. This was good. The part seemed to fall into place, and with the straightened hair, it looked it should always have been there. Better.
Clippers were next. Short-back-and-sides in no time. On this occasion I quite enjoyed the experience – not quite as close, but tapered higher. Nathan showed me the back as he progressed. This I really liked - a completely seamless taper from the neck right up the sides and back.
The top was razorcut-undercut so that the hair was shorter than a thumb length, thinned and very smooth, but still with quite a bit of body – no sheering in clumps to the scalp this time. While Nathan still had the straight razor in his hand, he shaved a very narrow channel into the part – hardly noticeable, but looking good.
I thought this must be all there was, and that the barber would comb it all into place, and I would be on my way. But no.
Blond streaks? Yes?” Barber Nathan asked.
Now that surprised me and I was just about to laugh it off. But I didn’t. “Sure. Why not?”
I couldn’t have been more pleased with the result. What had been a mad spur of the moment decision to have a short haircut for the first time in my life, and had turned out to be a semi-disaster, had now become a SuperStyle. It was fantastic. The hair was soft and straight. The part was exactly in place. The back and sides were shorn, the color was lightened, semi-gloss gelled – all excellent. This was to be the haircut for me, and it has been, and will be. At least once every two weeks, sometimes weekly, I am in Nathan’s chair while he works his magic. All the people I know have now forgotten what a terrible wiry mop I had. I haven’t, so that’s why I am fanatical about keeping it like this – forevermore.