Cut It Real Short Carney! by John Nelson
"Your son's hair is just too long! He needs a haircut mamm," the lady at the YMCA said.
"Yeah, John needs a haircut mom!" exclaims my brother Eric.
"John, your hair does need to be cut. It's never gotten that long," my mom says.
"It's summer and it's gonna get hot. He'd be much better off with his hair short," the lady says.
"Mom, I don't want a haircut," I say.
"You need to cut that kid's hair," the lady said again.
"Yeah, we'll do that. Now I just want to finish enrolling my sons in summer camp," my mom says.
I couldn't believe this lady. What business was it of her's how long my hair was? It was 1976 and I was 13. My hair had gotten down to the tip of my shoulders. I really liked it this way and it hadn't been cut in a long time. My mom was enrolling us in the YMCA youth summer day camp program. Now this lady had given my mom the idea my hair was too long!
Paper after paper she signs to get us into this camp. I liked it last summer. We got to go on all kinds of outings and fun stuff. There were games and they even had a pool there. It was a great way to spend the summer. This year I kinda didn't wanna go now. This grouchy old lady here at the desk is making me mad. I mean saying I needed a haircut. My brother was eleven and his hair was just slighty shorter than mine. It was over his ears, but not as long in the back. Lots of kids had long hair, why couldn't I?
"Mom, is John getting a haircut today?" Eric asks.
"Well I don't know, maybe your dad can take him the weekend before camp starts next week," my mom says.
"Shut up, quit talking about my hair Eric!" I yell.
"John told me to shut up mom," Eric says.
"You boys quit fighting I'm almost done with the paperwork here," my mom says.
What had she said about my dad taking me to get a haircut? This could be bad. If he took me it would for sure get cut, real short! My dad hated my long hair. I had managed to get my mom to take us to the barbers for years now. She was a softy and let us pick how we wanted our hair. My dad did all the talking at the barbershop when he took us.
"Alright thank you for signing up your boys for day camp. I'd get him a shorter haircut for camp next Monday," the lady says.
Finally we are out of there. I planned to just not mention the haircut and hoped my mom would forget about it. My little brother was gonna bring the haircut thing up again, I knew it.
That night at dinner I was on pins and needles. We sat at the dinner table eating my mom's meatloaf with salad and garlic bread. I tried not to say much at dinner. My mom talked on and on about a neighbor she didn't like. One little slip from my mom or brother about that lady and the haircut thing today and I was dead! It was nearly the end of dinner and not one word came up about a haircut.
"Mom, remember what the lady said at the Y today about John's hair," Eric says.
"Shh, you little ...," I mutter.
"Oh yeah I almost forgot. John needs a haircut before Monday," my mom says.
"Mom, I don't need a haircut," I say.
"Did the lady at the Y really say John needs a haircut!" yells my dad.
"See people besides me think his hair is too long," he continues.
"Can you take him tomorrow or Sunday?" asks my mom.
"Oh, man," I say.
"We'll go over to the barbershop early tomorrow morning when they open. I'll take him to Carney's," says my dad.
This was exactly what I dreaded would happen. I know my dad would just tell the barber, "Cut his hair clipper short up over the ears."
That's what he'd always say. I hated it that short! Carney was some old style barber my dad had gone to for years. I searched my mind for a way out of this. I could think of nothing.
That night I could barely sleep. I dreaded what tomorrow would bring. That night I put on my shorts and t-shirt and got ready for bed. I brushed my teeth and starred in the mirror at my longer hair. I tried to imagine what it would look like tomorrow night after that haircut. I decided to try not to think about it. I tossed and turned and couldn't sleep much.
I looked out my bedroom window and saw the first light of day. It was around 6:30 a.m.
I'd somehow wished morning would never come. I didn't feel like even eating breakfast. I knew it was just hours before my hair would get all cut off. My neighbors and friends would laugh. I hadn't had short hair since I was little. No one had short hair. Why did this have to happen to me? It just wasn't fair. I shouldn't have let my hair get this long.
Before I knew it that dreaded moment came. It was around 9:30.
"John it's time to go to Carney's now!" my dad yells.
"I'm coming," I say.
I got into the car with him. I'm feeling that worst dread of all. It's that "real haircut" dread. I would give it one more shot in the barbershop. I was going to plead to have him leave it over the ears, like Eric's hair. I didn't want to mention it now. I thought it might anger my dad.
We drove the roughly 15 minute drive to Carney's Barbershop. We pulled up to the shop. There was a spot right in front. It was the last shop in a small strip mall. I could see Carney in there and some other barber cutting a young man's hair. My heart was beating crazy like. I had wished this moment would never have come! I was just footsteps away from doom. I had somehow gotten used to the idea. But it wasn't going to be pleasant.
Buzz, buzz goes that little door sensor as we opened the glass plate door of the barbershop. I smell the talcum power and some sort of Brute Cologne or something. The young man getting a haircut eyeballs me and smiles weakly. The shop is small. It's been there since the late 50's and looks kinda dated. It's clean and well kept. The walls are off white and the bottom half of them have dark wood paneling. The two barber chairs are slightly pitted chrome and have brown leather. Bright long flouresant bulbs fill the place with tons of light.
"Morning Aron, how is it going?" asks Carney.
"Good, good can't complain," my dad says.
"John needs a haircut for day camp. It starts on Monday," says my dad.
"Well John hop on up here," Carney says.
I reluctantly get into that brown leather barber chair. I awkwardly step up onto the little chrome footstool. I rest my two arms on the chair's two massive armrests. I can feel the tension in my neck. I'm scared as heck. Pump, pump,pump up I lift as he pulls a lever on the side of the barber chair. Carney puts an off white barber cape around my chest. I feel his hands fiddle with something around my neck. It's on real tightly now. I know it's coming any second now. What will my dad say my haircut is going to be?
"Carney, cut it real short. He is going to day camp and this haircut needs to last all summer," my dad says.
"Aron, do you want a crewcut or butch for him?" asks Carney.
"That would be good. Maybe just leave a little on top to part though Carney," says my dad.
"Oh dad, can't I just get it trimmed shorter and leave it over the ears?" I ask.
"No John, it's gotta last all summer. Cut it real short on the back and sides Carney," my dad says.
"No dad please, I don't want it that short," I beg.
"Sit still now John and I've got some lolly pops over there for you when you're done," Carney says.
"I'll take it way down on the back and sides Aron," Carney continues.
I sit there hating these two right now. What are my friends going to say when they see this? My little brother is gonna laugh at this. I sit helpless as my hair is about to be cut clipper short up over the ears.
Carney sprays my hair with a misting bottle and gets it wet. He combs it straight down on the front, back, and sides. Then he digs in with scissors and snips my long bangs nearly all off. I see the wet ringlets of brown hair on the barber cape. My dad sits reading the newspaper and briefly talks on and off with Carney.
Carney's scissors move from my bangs to the left side. I hear them snipping away the hair covering my ear. More wet ringlets of hair fall. I filp the hair onto the floor by lifting up the cape a little. The scissors snip away the hair on the back of my head. Carney spins the barber chair slightly to the other side. I can now feel the hair is off my neck. I look down to see three or four inch pieces of hair on the floor!
Carney tilts my head to the left and then begins snip, snip, snipping away the hair around my right ear. Then he stops. I only wish it was over. I know the clippers must be next. He reaches a huge set of black cylinder shaped clippers from a hook nearby. They have a real heavy duty cord. I watch him flick on a small toggle switch. Humm mm, humm mm goes a little motor in those awful things. Carney pushes my head forward and sinks those things into the back of my head. My heart skips a beat as I feel the clipper's metal blades bite into my scalp. I realized then it was going to be cut shorter than I thought!
The clippers run smoothly up the back of my head. I have the horrible feeling when he said short he wasn't kidding. There is a slight vibrating sensation. The other barber is done with the man's haircut now. He sweeps up some hair and takes a look as Carney shears me like a poor sheep.
"Carney, we're really cuttin that kid to the nub," he says.
"Dad wants it short for summer camp," Carney says.
Just then my dad looks up from his newspaper and eyes my haircut in progress.
"Remember Carney, cut it so we don't have to come back all summer," my dad says.
I start to cry now. I feel a few hot tears well up. Carney suddenly noticed them.
"Oh, come on John it just a haircut," Carney says.
"Remember the lolly pops at the end it you don't cry," he continues.
I feel the clippers slide around my ears. They cut the hair way up around them. The back and sides are now shaved way down nearly zero now I figured. When Carney hooks the clippers back on the hook I sneak a hand out from under the cape and feel my right sideburn. It's nothing but stubble! It's gone!
Snap, biizzz biizzz like a little bee comes another set of clippers up the back of my head. Then they buzz around my ears. Carney bends down my ears and zips those little things close to each ear. Then off they go.
He takes some scissors and cuts more hair off the top of my head. This haircut seems to last an eternity. Finally he finishes one more time with the loud buzzing bee clippers. Vooomm, shhhh, shhhh wind wips around my ears and on the back of my neck.
A wooden brush brushes something onto my head and scalp. It smells good.
"Take a look John," Carney says.
I look in the mirror and cringe. My hair is gone. There's just a little left on top. The sides and back are skinned. It turned out shorter than I felt it was going to be. I felt embarrassed and awkard. I hated seeing my ears exposed on the sides of my head. There were white walls way up around them. In the 1970s this was the worst thing that could happen to any boy!
"Here we go, pick out a couple of lolly pops John," Carney says.
"That looks perfect," my dad says.
He pays and we drive home in silence. When we get home my brother and his friend see my hair and burst out laughing uncontrollably.
"Haw, ha ha ... look at John's hair," they say.
"Shut up, shut up," I wail.
I start to cry now.
"Oh it looks nice!" my mom exclaims.
"You guys leave John alone," my mom says.
I go into my room and don't want to come out. I realize I'd have more laughs at my clipper short hair to deal with from my friends next.