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Joe gets a new client by Manny


I sat in the car for a few minutes after parking near the barber shop, giving myself the final pep talk that this was the visit to go through with it, to finally take the plunge. I rehearsed the lines out loud, so that when the moment came, the words would roll off my tongue effortlessly.

"I'm ready for something different today. I want it cut very short. Tapered close around the ears and up the sides and back."

I peeked at myself in the mirror and saw my glimmering chestnut colored hair -- so thick and luxuriant. Full and shiny. The forelock was swept to the side in an elegant style. A charge of excitement coursed through me as I contemplated how I was about to have it butchered!

And it was all going to happen when my normal barber Jerry was on vacation. He was a wonderful older man of experience who was so gentle when he trimmed my locks. He tended to be very careful, gingerly snipping and layering my hair so that it look quite sophisticated, like a true executive. He always told me how fortunate I was to have such healthy, attractive hair. My normal barber's cautious manner was one of the main reasons I first had settled on him after I first moved to my new location. I was quite vain about my hair and generally favored salons over barber shops. But on my first visit, when I'd been in a bind and the shop was conveniently located to the hotel I was staying in, I was impressed with the way he trimmed my hair. "A fine executive cut," Jerry would announce as he proudly showed off his work to me at the end of a trim, holding up the hand mirror so I could see it all. The full back, full but tidy, just brushing the top of my collar.

Over the years I had been going to the Rosewood Barber Shop, my hair had gotten gradually longer and fuller. The forelock, in particular, was so heavy and long, I found it frequently slipping below the brow and hanging in front of my eye. While this looked quite sexy and youthful, it was rather bothersome. Several times I had suggested to my barber thinning it out a bit and reducing the length. He would do as instructed, but then gradually let it get long again.

Then, I began noticing the younger fellows at work were wearing their hair extremely short -- almost to military lengths. My longer locks were actually becoming dated.... Some of the latest hires actually sported shaved heads -- like escaped convicts. Very edgy, macho haircuts. One of my own assistants, a young Hispanic fellow, wore nothing more than a five o'clock shadow up on top. He looked so virile and together.

When I saw the sign next to the cash register notifying clients of Jerry's upcoming three-week vacation, I decided to act. The other barber, Joe, was more the standard type, usually going shorter than requested. Most of the men leaving his chair had that traditional "very barbered" look.

I had been charting my own path to shorter hair for over a year. At first, I had fantasized in a bit of a cruel way about accidentally ending up in his chair and helplessly watching my pampered hair getting whacked by Joe. Over time, the fantasy developed into Joe, on his own, deciding I needed a taper and moving the clippers up through my hair in a surprise assault on my coif. And finally, I was keen about my present fantasy of instructing Joe to take the clippers to me. I would order the deed done -- I would leave the Rosewood Barber Shop scalped! Staggering away, stomach churning over what I'd done, desperately wondering how long it would take to grow back.

"I'm ready for something different today. I want it cut very short. Tapered close around the ears and up the sides and back. Oh, and take a few inches off the top."

As I sat there, convincing myself I would go through with it, I watched a client leave the shop. No other clients were inside. Joe would be ready for me.

I pushed the door open. "Afternoon, Joe, are you managing to hold down the fort with Jerry being on vacation?"

"Sure am! It's been a rather light week so far. Have a seat, here," he said, patting his big overstuffed barber chair.

My knees wobbled a bit as I climbed up the sturdy iron footrest. I glanced at myself in the mirror. The hair was quite long, but absolutely shimmered in the neon that bathed the shop.

Joe cast the cape and fastened it snuggly. "I don't believe I've ever cut your hair before, John." He began combing through it, trying to get a feel for the task at hand. "What'll it be for you today? A regular trim?"

My heart beat furiously. My throat and lips felt dry. My tongue was stuck to my mouth. I reached out from under the cape to stall for time and put my fingers through my hair a bit, like I was trying to decide. "No, uh, not the usual for me today. I was thinking, um, of something shorter."

I was on the right track, but I still wasn't able to spit out my rehearsed line and felt put out with myself. What a little sissy! You need to get toughened up with a real manly haircut, I told myself.

Joe's face light up. "Yes, shorter definitely is something I can handle. A bit shorter or a lot shorter?"

My, he seemed eager! Now I was feeling a bit hunted. His eagerness, though, seemed to goad me push the envelope.

"What would you recommend?" I asked, curious about his thought on the matter.

He took a comb and swept the massive forelock straight back from my face. Eyeing me with a critical look, he pronounced, "How about a #3 on top and a #2 on the sides."

His suggestion sent an electric jolt through me. "OMG, like a crewcut?!" I gasped.

"You said 'short', didn't you?" Joe replied.

"I said 'shorter' meaning I was thinking about tapered close around the ears and up the sides and back. Oh, and take a few inches off the top," I said, recalling my rehearsed instruction, which now did not sound at all daring.

Joe let his lack of enthusiasm show, "That's a regular haircut for a boy or a middle aged man. I thought you were wanting something edgier like the young men are sporting. You know, I've often thought to myself, when I've watched Jerry give you his 'executive trim' how much I'd like to take the clippers to you and peel about ten years off your look."

By this time, my forelock was flopping down under its weight. Again, Joe took the comb and pulled the massive lock straight up from the scalp. "You have perfect hair for a flattop. I could leave it nice and long on top, skin the sides. What do you say?"

I couldn't believe Joe was persisting in trying to talk me into a very short haircut. I assumed it was his only chance with Jerry being on vacation. To think, he'd been eyeing my mane for years, itching to take a clippers to it.

I squirmed at the fleeting thought....why not give him a thrill....why not let him do it? But not a flattop....no....something even shorter than any haircut mentioned so far in our little pre-cut chat.

The barber began swiveling the chair away from the mirror. "I see I'm not going to persuade you to let me take too much of his mane of yours," he said with a tone of disappointment. "One medium taper, coming up," he announced as he nudged my head down.

Just as he did, my eye caught the chart of "official haircuts" that hung above the chairs in the waiting area. Right in the bottom corner was the cut my assistant, Pablo, sported. It was labeled "induction".

My long forelock dangled precariously down past my eyes, above the white cape. I wanted it and all the rest of my hair gone. I would give Joe a treat....and myself a stomach-churning dramatic makeover.

"Wait!" I said. "Turn me back toward the mirror."

Joe complied, obviously curious.

I saw a middle-aged man with too long hair. In the mirror's reflection I saw the official haircuts chart....induction! "That cut in the bottom right corner, would it work for me?" I asked Joe.

He glanced up at the chart....a puzzled look spread across his face. "You mean the bottom left corner, the 'ivy league' haircut....yes, that would be a fine look for you," Joe replied.

"No, Joe, I mean the bottom right corner, the 'induction' haircut."

"You're pulling my leg, John! Be careful, I might pretend I thought you were serious," he warned brandishing his clippers.

"I am serious, Joe! There's this guy who works for me, Pedro. Totally handsome. Just a 5 o'clock stubble on top...."

Joe cracked a huge grin. "Let's start your transformation, but getting rid of this!" he said, combing my massive forelock down past my eyes. He took a pair of shears and snapping them open a few times. "Won't Jerry be surprised!"

CRUNCH, CRUNCH CRUNCH. CRUNCH!

He hacked my bangs of right at the root! The whole veil of hair crashed to my lap! I stood staring at my white forehead. "Oh, Joe!" I gasped.

"Now that I've got great access, the balding clippers. Ah, here they are! Saved from my time as a boot camp barber! These will peel you down to dear Pedro's length."

He snapped the machine on and I gripped the handles of the chair.

The clippers plowed through my dense mane, almost effortlessly. Joe was a master and stripping off all the length. Mounds of my treasured glossy hair fell to the cape. "Am I going to regret this, Joe?" I asked.

"Probably!" he laughed. "You did have nice hair for a man your age...."

Then he forced my head down and began drive the clippers up through the nape, all the way up the back of the head to the crown. Hair was totally covering the cape now.

I felt numb. The regret was already hitting me quite hard. I sat still and submissive while Joe clipped away all my hair.

Finally, he snapped off the machine. I heard him chuckle. He brushed my head lightly. "Ready to see the new you?" he announced, barely disguising his glee.

I felt nauseous as the chair swiveled around. The sight in the mirror made me gasp. "Oh my goodness! Oh s**t!"

My ears stuck out horribly!

Joe took the duster and folded them down carefully, dusting away snippets. "Well, is that all you're going to say? Oh, s**t!"

"I look like a convict!" I murmured. "How long will this take to grow out?" I asked with a tone of desperation.

Joe picked up the severed forelock from the caudron of hair on my lap. "Hmmm, six inches. About a year."

"A year!" I exclaimed.

"This is just going to take a bit of time to get used to, John. Think of Pedro stroking your stubble behind closed doors in your office," he laughed as he ran his head across the top of my head.

Joe pulled of the cape.

My legs felt wobbly as I stood to pay. Then I noticed all my hair on the floor. "A year.....?"

I looked at the mirror again and got a little closer. I ran my own hand overit and loved the feel of the stubble. "Maybe I will get used to it, Joe."

I handed him a $20 to pay and told him to keep the change.

"I'll be interested to see if you keep it at this length. And, um, let's not upset Jerry when he gets back from vacation. I'm here along in the shops on Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. Some by for your touch up then," Joe suggested.

I watched him sweep my beautiful hair into a dustpan. He held it up and laughed, "Good riddance?"

I touched my head lightly, "Not sure, Joe. Not sure...." I mumbled as I left the shop feeling lightheaded.

At least I had the courage to go through with it.....but, I wasn't sure about the result. I felt naked without my hair and very self conscious about my ears sticking out.... What if Pedro and the others snickered behind my back at work tomorrow. 'Have you seen the boss? Someone gave him an induction cut....looks like a marine recruit....or a convict!'



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