Dennis Learns Discipline by Deke Cutter
“Dennis, this is your last chance. You are 18 years old now. You’re a man. You ‘re mother has given up on you. It is either life under dear old dad’s rules or you are out."
Still acting the part of a surly sulking 15-year-old, Dennis tossed back his shoulder-length light brown hair, rolled his eyes and mumbled something under his breath.
His father grabbed him by his sloppy tee shirt and said, that better have been ‘Yes sir, I understand.’
The next morning, Dennis’s father woke him early and showed him a neat pair of gray slacks, a button-down blue shirt, and a pair of new black loafers. “There are your school clothes, and make sure you tie that hair back. This school has standards, unlike your old one. I have an early meeting, but I will trust you to get there on time on your own. I’ve left your schedule by the front door"
Dennis took his time showering, washing, conditioning, and drying his hair. He brushed it until it shined. Not completely disregarding his father (in his mind), he chose his favorite un-shredded jeans and his newest tee shirt and his favorite comfortable converse old school “sneakers." He made it to the school with just seconds to spare. He was greeted with stares and whispers. Everyone was dressed very neatly, boys and girls. None of the boys seemed to have hair that even touched their collars and the girls with long hair had it tied back or wore it up in a bun. In his first class, the teacher, a stern looking woman called him by name and told him to stand. Then she had random students recite the ways he was in breach of the school’s dress and personal appearance code. When it came to his hair, he was particularly humiliated to have it pointed out that he was in violation of both male and female grooming standards. His face was burning and he was thoroughly chagrined when the teacher ordered him to report to the Assistant Principal for Compliance and Non-Academic Achievement.
Dennis did not know that Dr. Richard Evans, PhD, was well acquainted with Dennis’s background. Nor did Dennis know that Evans “took no prisoners." Students came to his school to turn heir lives around and their parents gave him permission to issue whatever punishment or “guidance" was needed. Dennis arrived at the office door, knocked and was told to come in. He saw a tall man with short blonde hair in a white shirt and tie. A suit jacket was on a hanger, behind the door, his trousers were sharply creased. “Dennis, you are off to a very bad start. Your father assured me that he provided appropriate attire, he even sent me a picture of what you were to wear today. I see that you could not even comply with the exception I reluctantly made to our grooming requirements…(this made Dennis look up uncertainly)…oh yes, your father asked, and I agreed to give you a few days to adjust before you had to comply with our male grooming standards."
Dennis knew he was in trouble. He had no doubt now that his father was serious and he was in great fear of the consequences he faced. He looked at Dr. Evans and said “I will go home and change sir, and return with my hair tied back. No need to involve my father, I’ve learned my lesson."
Dr. Evans had a grim smile on his face and he moved a wooden visitors chair to the middle of his office. “Its too late for that option Dennis, you involved your father the moment you chose to disregard his instructions this morning. Now sit!" Dennis sat in the chair and Dr. Evans produced a barber cape from a drawer in his desk. “I got this with my first home haircutting kit. I’ve upgraded at home since then." He then caped up Dennis, and produced a pair of scissors and a long comb.
“You’re not cutting my hair, you can’t do that."
“You will find that I can and I will. Didn’t you read your admission statement that you and your parents both signed and had notarized? With that statement Evans combed down Dennis’s bangs and cut them in a straight line across the middle of his forehead. Dennis almost wet his pant. The haircut continued with all the long locks being cut from above his ears and neckline. The educator was a competent amateur barber. He tapered the sides and used thinning sears on the top to produce a very juvenile haircut, designed to knock the arrogant young man don a few pegs. When Dennis was given a mirror, his look of shock was almost comical. Dr. Evans said to him, “this puts you into compliance with our grooming code, I’ve put some gym clothes in my bathroom, go in and change into them so that Coach Kreeger can provide you with some disciplinary guidance while we wait for your father to deliver your clothes. I think you will find shorter hair to be much better for your athletic endeavors."
Coach Kreeger had checked with the school nurse and knew that Dennis had no health issues. Kreeger was the soccer coach, but had also coached basketball and track. He was in Dr. Evans office when Dennis came out wearing the school gym clothes. With his neat short haircut, Kreeger thought he could be a sophomore trying out for one of the school’s teams. “Come on young man, you and I have some work to do. Dennis looked at Coach Kreeger’s brush cut and internally shuddered. His hair was now only a little longer than that. He kept reaching for his long hair too, and just grabbed air. That jerk Evans had ruined his looks, now this “GI Jerk" was going to torture him. It turned out to be more like a personal training session. Coach Kreegan was tough, but also encouraging. At the end, Dennis had to admit to himself, that he could see why most jocks preferred short hair. Especially when he showered and didn’t need the blow dryer. When he got out of the shower, Coach Kreeger had left the clothes his father had brought for him, with a fresh pocket comb laying on top. Dennis dressed and combed his short hair (he still hated) and met the coach outside the locker room. “Dennis, your father will pick you up after school today. You are required to participate in extra curricular activities. I would like you to consider trying out for a sport of your choice. You showed real athletic ability. You are to go to your classes now and return to Dr. Evans office at the end of the day to meet with him and your father."
At 3:45 PM Dennis returned to Dr. Evans office to a surprisingly effusive welcome. “Dennis, well, now that I how I expect my students to dress. Coach Kreeger gave me a very positive report."
“Thank you, sir. Coach and you have given a lot to consider today"
“Dennis, our approach here is holistic, so do not want you to be upset or disappointed when your father may provide his guidance and discipline to you too. Remember, everything that happened today happened because of choices you made before you arrived here." With that there was a knock on the office door.
Dennis’s father walked into the office. “Well, Dennis, T warned you this school had standards." Dennis had the grace to look embarrassed. Dr. Evans I’m sorry if today was a rocky start.
“Not at all. In fact, Dennis has been fairly gracious in accepting our guidance and I believe you will see that he is coming to understand that there are consequences for his choices and actions."
“Come on Dennis, we have much do." When they got into the car, Dennis turned to his father and said that he wanted to apologize for his disobedience that morning. He took a deep breath and added that, he was prepared for whatever additional consequences there were. “I’m glad to hear that because first on my agenda is finishing what Dr. Evans started. Let’s go." His father had pulled into a strip mall with a barbershop near the end. “This is where one of my younger colleagues gets his Reserves duty haircuts."
Dennis hadn’t been in a barbershop since well before his parents divorced. Before this morning, his hair hadn’t been cut (beyond the occasional trim) in years. Yet, here he was facing his second haircut of the day. The shop was empty of customers and his father directed him to the waiting barber. As the barber put the cape and strip around his neck, Dennis’s father explained: “my son is making a fresh start. Give him a high and tight, one and a half on top, zero on the sides." The barber was happy to oblige.
Dennis thought that with most of his crowning glory already gone, this would be a quick scalping. But, this barber was a professional. He took his time and was very thorough with his clippers. Over and over he went. He carefully blended. He used his hands to feel for uneven patches. He was gentle with the straight razor. When he was finished, Dennis looked in stunned silence at his reflection in the mirror, knowing his life had truly changed forever.