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At Gate C-17 - Gavin's Father Gets It by Manny


It was a really irritating scene which I would rather not have had to witness. A father and his teenage son were sniping at each other over a variety of issues.

Finally, the father pulled out his trump card, "I hope the military academy will teach you how to respect your elders. I'm getting tired of your lip, Gavin! I know you're not exactly thrilled about it, but look on the bright side."

"There is no bright side!" the lad exclaimed. "I won't know anyone there, and I don't want some geezer shaving my head bald as soon as I step into the place!"

Yikes! There would be a huge pile of blond hair on the floor, I thought to myself, as I watched the lad flick his moptop away from his sparkling blue eyes. The thick, silken hair was a trait he shared with his father. The father's mane was a darker shade of blond, but still quite glossy and full of body. It was styled into a well-groomed executive cut, parted on the side and full on top.

"It's just hair, Gavin. It'll grow out quickly. And the other new guys will all have their heads shaved too on the first day. It'll be a bonding experience -- you'll actually have a lot of fun going through the initiation together."

"Fun? Fun! If getting your head shaved is so much fun, be my guest! There's a barbershop right over there," the lad said as he stormed away from gate C-17 at DFW where we were awaiting a flight to St. Louis.

The father glanced at me with a 'sorry we're creating such an unpleasant scene here' look.

"Kids," he sighed.

"It's a trying age." I paused for a few seconds, torn between minding my own business and possibly helping out. Finally, I got the courage to continue the discussion. "In my opinion, your son is right," I said with a bit of hesitation about wandering into a family fight.

"About what?" he stammered.

"You're minimizing his anxiety and trying to pretend what he's worried about is meaningless," I replied.

"The silly haircut?" the father scoffed. "It'll do him good. He's such a little pretty boy when it comes to his hair. Hours in front of the mirror getting it just right -- meaning, for him, blocking most of his line of sight. The military haircuts were a huge selling point in our decision to send him off to MMA."

"Sorry to disagree," I continued. "I'm a trained family counselor. He's at an age where he wants control over his own life. Yes, even letting his hair growing long and constantly in his face like that -- he just wants to express himself."

Then I decided to up the ante, "Why not take him up on his suggestion?"

"What suggestion?!" the father asked.

I pointed to the barbershop. "If it's not such a big deal, like you said, show some solidarity with your son."

The man struggled to not show complete astonishment at the suggestion. "I'm a corporate executive. I don't think an induction head shave will help project that image when I return to work next week," he stammered uncomfortably.

"I'm sure your employees would be delighted with your show of solidarity for your son. And it could help reduce your social distance from them. Make you seem more vulnerable and approachable. Let them feel your stubble!" I realized I was going down a tangent. I should stay focused on the father-son relationship. "More importantly, it could re-set your relationship with your son. You have a choice -- a rather dramatic act to show you care which will help you two bond before your son goes off to military academy for a year....or parting on a very bitter, angry note marked by exercising a power relationship. Trust me, I'm a professional. This is a moment of opportunity for you. Or a chance to blow your father-son dynamic for life...."

"You're serious!" he exclaimed, still totally blown away by my comments. Then he added, "Well, thanks for the advice...." The father grew silent and withdrawn. Periodically he smoothed his wavy hair down with his hand.

When the son returned to the gate area, the father grew somewhat restless. He squirmed in the chair and almost began speaking on several occasions. Finally he spit out this thoughts, "Uh, sorry about minimizing your feelings about going to MMA. You know that we're doing this because we think it's best for you."

The son just sat frozen, not responding to the father's initiative. The father's eyes darted over the barbershop. Then I saw him gulp nervously. His eyes met mine and there was a flash of grimace in his micro-expression.

"And, I'm sorry about suggesting that getting your head shaved would be fun. That was the wrong thing to say. You have such nice hair," he said softly. The father glanced at me again. My eyes darted to the barbershop, as if to encourage him to take the line of conversation a step farther. "You know the barbershop there, that you pointed out....I, was, uh, thinking, well, since we have time, um, that....uh, I want to show solidarity with you. How will I look with an induction cut?"

The teen broke out into a huge smile. "Are you serious?!" He laughed out loud.

The father smiled and laughed along. "What do you say? Walking into work on Monday with this all shaved off, down to the wood....a scrub haircut! Just to show I care about you."

"You'd do that for me?" the boy asked incredulously. "Can I record it on my phone and post it to my site?"

"I'd feel hurt if you didn't," the father said. "Maybe we can ask this man here to watch out things while we go over to those barbers and have one of them take a set of clippers to this!" He toyed nervously with his glossy locks.

"You don't have to do this," the lad suddenly declared. "I'll be all right. And, like you pointed out, everyone will else will be in the same boat."

"Son, I want to do this for you!" the father stated, as he rose from the chair. "Come on, quick, before I lose my nerve! I've always wondered what it would feel like to get a baldy." He looked back nervously at me and I flashed him a double thumbs up.

I watched the pair scamper over to the barbershop. The teen almost pushed his father in through the door. Within seconds, the corporate executive was firmly in the chair -- caped, cowed and looking quite uncomfortable. The boy had his phone out, recording the event. The geezer hammed it up. In a flash, the clippers sailed down the center of his head from forehead to crown. Lush locks hit the cape. The father made a variety of mock-tortuous looks as his fussy, tidy style was stripped away. Then the barber shoved his head forward so that his chin almost hit his chest. The grip held him firmly in the 'penitent' position while the barber plowed the clippers up the back through the nice, full locks of shiny blondish brown hair. He was quickly being taken down to the wood!

Finally, there was nothing left to clip. The barber swirled the chair around and the exec saw himself for the first time looking like a scrub recruit! He let out a gasp and his hand shot out from under the cape to feel his shorn head. Finally, he was uncaped and emerged from the chair, still feeling his clipped pate. The father looked quite manly and handsome.

Just as he reached for the door and opened it to leave, the teen caught his arm. The two talked briefly and then the father let the door close, with them remaining in the shop. Seconds later, the teen was climbing into the barber's chair recently vacated by his father. The cape sailed through the air! The father tussled the teen's moptop and playfully pulled the hair away from his eyes. Then, he pulled out his phone to record the transformation from sheep dog to hairless chihuahua!

The barber snagged the heavy forelock with a comb and lifted the mass of hair away from the face. Then, in a quick maneuver the clippers moved up through the dense blond locks, provoking a major cascade of severed locks falling to the cape. The first chunk of the magnificent mane was history! The lad reached from under the cape and held up the severed forelock for his father to film. Then the barber resumed the divestiture with full force. The skill of a Parris Island boot camp barber could not have matched the old geezer's zeal. He was determined to reduce the moptop to stubble in mere minutes.

From time to time, the father's gaze broke away from the ongoing induction cut to observing himself in the mirror. It was clear he was still trying to adjust to his new visual, sans executive cut. His fingers gingerly explored his stubbly pate.

When the lad's scrub haircut was finally completed, father and son exchanged some moments of playfully rubbing each other's heads. They posed for a series of selfies together.

The duo was still carrying on almost giddy with excitement as they returned to the gate. "I can't get used to seeing your face again, Gavin!" the father laughed.

"I'm thinking you'll grow used to your baldy cut, Dad, and keep it clipped down to the bone like this!" Gavin chortled. "Let's videochat with Mom and show her our new look!"

After the call, in which the misses was predictably shocked that her husband would do such a thing as shave his head to bond with Gavin, the two seemed extremely close.

"I'm going to miss you when you're away at MMA, son," the father said tenderly as he gave him a big hug.

Gavin stroked his father's stubble. "I was wondering something, Dad," he began as he continued caressing the clipped pate.

"You're not going to ask me to keep the baldy all year till you return, I hope!" the father replied.

"Kind of, actually," Gavin stammered.

The father suppressed a look of terror.

Gavin continued, "Actually, not the baldy. But, we do have to keep our hair cut to military length after the induction cut grows out. I was looking through MMA's website and noticed how sharp same of the more senior cadets looked with a certain haircut. I was thinking about that cut for myself. And....here's where you come in....I was hoping maybe we both could...."

"Spit it out, son, what are you getting at?" the father sputtered.

"A flattop, Dad! You and me both -- flattops, with just a touch of a landing strip right in the middle! How about it?" Gavin said, with pleading eyes.

The father glanced at me nervously. I nodded encouragingly. "Let's ask this man here what he thinks," he said. "How would I look with a flattop?"

"Like a wonderful, caring, loving father!" I exclaimed. "That was really something special you did for you son."

"Okay, I'll do it! A flattop for me, all year, just like yours, Gavin. I just hope the folk at the company understand....."

Just then, the pilot and co-pilot for the flight arrived at the gate looking very smart in their blue uniforms and caps. The older man casually removed his cap to reveal an incredibly spectacular flattop -- a dense thick pile on top with a hint of landing strip in the middle and skinned sides.

The father's eyes bulged. "If that's how I'll look, Gavin, I can't wait for the next phase of our father-son superior bonding experience!"





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