A little parental control by Snipped Sam
Initially I was looking forward to having a stepfather, the year is 1972 and I am fourteen years old. It had been just over a year since I first met Mr Yardley, later to become Uncle David, and now at his suggestion Papa. The pronunciation of this would be the tradional English way as in Pur-pah. He was in his mid-forties balding, very modern in his dress for a man of his age, he especially liked 70s style leather sports jackets and had some rather flash clothes. He always smelled very strongly of aftershave too. He had been married previously and had two older daughters both in their early-twenties but they did not live with him. He had moved into our home, having purchased it from the landlord. After breakfast one morning, he sat there chatting to me, it was just the two of us.
"So young Chris, a couple of people have said it’s going to be a challenge taking you on, especially as I’ve only had daughters before"
"Have they Papa?"
"I’m quite sure you have already realised that it’s going to be different now with a man in the house, I will of course need to begin asserting my authority as we start a stepfather and stepson relationship"
"As you know Chris, I am a trendy chap, so I will be a having an input into your appearance for instance what clothes you have, what you wear when we have visitors or when we are all going out"
I was not too pleased to hear this but just nodded.
"Of course, we both know that I have lost some of my hair, but I like to keep it very tidy, especially these sideburns which I am rather proud of, and of course Chris having daughters I never had a son to take to the barbers"
"I would see fathers giving instructions on how they wanted their son’s hair to be cut and I remembered the very short haircuts I had when I was a boy. Now Chris I have you, and I think it’s fair comment that you have been used to having your hair on the long side for quite some time"
I nodded again feeling uneasy where this conversation was leading.
"It’s going to be slightly different for you from now on, we haven’t been going to the same place to have our haircuts, but from now on we will have the same barber. Which of course Chris will be my barber, we get on well and I like the way he cuts my hair, and I want someone who will cut your hair the way I like it done. So, from now on Chris I will be deciding when you are going to have your haircut, and the length that you have it. Now I heard you say to your friend Simon about meeting up this afternoon"
"Yes, Papa we are going to the cinema"
"Did you ask me if you could?"
"No, Papa, but I thought it would be alright"
"No Chris, we are going to the barbers this afternoon and I really don’t know how long we will be, and your haircut must take priority"
I started to argue with him, shouting and swearing at him, he remained calm, sending me to my room and to stay there until I had calmed down. After an hour or so Papa knocked, then came into my room he sat down on the bed.
"Our first falling out Chris, it was never going to be an easy subject for me to broach, and I knew you wouldn’t be happy with the changes. I will have my way Chris, there will be no negotiation on it, is that understood?"
"Anything else you need to say?"
"There are a lot of adjustments to be made Chris, and you need to learn respect and manners"
He stood up, and gestured for me to stand up too, he then started to unbuckle his belt.
"Just so we understand each other Chris, I would be much happier if my belt was just to keep my trousers up, but I cannot allow you to shout and swear like you did, you have to be punished"
That afternoon I accompanied Papa to the barbers, it was a one-man operation, the barber himself was most likely in his early thirties, he was tall and thin, with short dark hair and a very neat trimmed beard. There were about four ahead of us in the queue, I sat next to papa on a red vinyl bench, after what seemed forever it would soon be our turn.
Papa went first and I carried on reading a magazine, he was very jovial, speaking really nicely to the barber and introducing me to him. I was feeling very subdued, I was adjusting to Papa finding his feet with me, my own father had left when I was very young. I had to accept that he would be taking full control of the length of my hair, a couple of my friends at school also had fathers who were really strict about their hair. Papa came off the chair, I thought it best to stand up. At this point there were no other customers waiting.
"What do you think Chris? very smart heh"
"Yes, Papa, very smart"
"Right Young Chris" The barber said in a friendly tone, So I walked towards them.
"He isn’t very tall David, so I am going to get the wooden chair for him"
He went behind a curtain and came out with a higher wooden chair; the seat part was probably metre or so high. He placed it behind the main barbers and motioned me to sit on it.
"A special seat just for you Chris"
"Thank-you Mr Curtis"
What else could I say really, this whole thing was just awful.He soon had the navy-blue nylon cape around my shoulders and all tucked in. I was still able to see myself in the mirror, I looked at my light fair hair all lovely and wavy. It fell below my collar and just covered my ears, I had it lightly parted in the middle, I felt really anxious as the barber combed my hair.
"How would you like his hair done David?"
"We will have it short Philip, off his ears and above his collar, short all over ,but we won’t go too mad this time"
"I get your drift, David"
I watched him go to the shelf and he picked up a plastic thing, which I would later discover was called a flat topper, taking his clippers, he placed the flat topper through my hair and smoothly clipped off my hair, I could see large pieces of hair come away with one movement. Papa went and sat down once he saw my haircut was underway, after a good session with this my hair looked much closer to my head. He put down the flat topper and took scissors and a comb and started to cut my hair.
"Do you want him to have his parting on the side?"
"Definitely, and I’d like the front to be quite short"
He carried on cutting away at my hair, brushing my face regularly with the soft nylon brush,
"So, David, it’s fairly short all over now, if you are happy with that, I just have to shape the back, check the sides"
"Looking good from here"
He selected some clippers, tilting my head down, he started shaping my hair at the back with the edge of blade of the clippers, it felt a little uncomfortable as he pressed quite hard. After this he took a comb and lifted my hair at the back and smoothed the clippers across. After a brush down he edged above my ears then checked and adjusted the length of my sideburns which of course were just hair and not the fine specimens Papa had. After a little brushing down, he used his flat razor to remove the loose hairs on my neck.
"Would you like to have a closer look David?"
Papa stood up and walked over,
"I like how you have done the back, the length is just right, yes I really like it……what do you think Chris?"
"It looks very smart Papa"
"I’m not too sure about the sides though Philip, they are longer than I would have liked"
"Would you like them shorter David"
"I think so"
He took a small battery-operated clipper and shortened my sides to literally nothing.
At this point someone came in and sat down, I felt really embarrassed.
"We aim to please David"
"I know what you’re thinking Chris, why did I have to do that when I have full sideburns? had to be done Champ"
"Excellent first haircut Philip, up till now Chris has more or less had a freehand with his hair, now it’s time for a little parental control."
I felt really self-conscious when the cape was removed and I stepped down from the wooden chair, he brushed me down then Papa paid for the haircuts. I saw the customer waiting was one of the prefects from School, oh no, I thought.
"Now, we can go and get your photo taken for your passport now Chris"
"Planning to go somewhere nice David"
"Were off to see my sister in Spain at the end of July, two weeks in the sun"
"Bet you are looking forward to it Chris"
"Yes, Mr Curtis, it will be great, we are staying close to the beach"
"I think with all that swimming and sunshine Chris is looking forward to, I’ll need to get you to give him a very short crewcut just before we go"
"I think it will really suit him, I shall look forward to it, Sir"