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Denny Has Short Hair by Derkx

Denny Has Short Hair
by Derkx

"Dennis, you’re a mess," I told my reflection.

I shouldn’t have been a mess. I should have been looking forward to my prospects. I’d finished my university degree and had secured a job with a well-known biotechnology company. The whole process was handled by paperwork mailed back and forth, as was typical in those days not so long ago. My application didn’t even ask for a photo. What mattered were my grades, my professors’ recommendations, and my evaluations as a teaching assistant.

I didn’t mind leaving the university area. I had no roots there and hadn’t formed any really strong relationships. I was a nerd. I spent a lot of time at the lab and online researching and playing video games.

My new job was thousands of miles away, in a part of the country I’d never been near. I didn’t have many friends at the university but I wouldn’t know anyone at the new place. Housing was arranged for me by the company. I didn’t need much. A studio apartment, furnished, would serve my needs. It was within walking distance so I wouldn’t need to look for a car right away.

It didn’t occur to me to get a haircut until it was too late. My hair was out of control. I avoided looking at my reflection anywhere in the cab, at the airport or in the plane. Once we landed and I had to step outside, I put on a cap which fit tightly because my hair had grown so thick.

At the apartment I met the landlord, picked up my keys, and checked out my apartment. There wasn’t much to see. It was large for a studio. That was good. Stacked by the door were a few boxes that I’d sent ahead. They mostly contained my old desktop computer and video gaming equipment, very carefully packed. Some lab equipment and textbooks that were still useful. And a few clothes.

I’d brought along a sandwich and a couple of sodas (now warm) from the airport. I put them in the frig, which was operational but was otherwise empty. I wasn’t hungry, so I went about unpacking and setting up the computer. It was fortunate that the kitchen had a counter with a couple of stools, because my equipment took up all of the dining table surface. I’d have to get a desk later.

I logged into my account and read a few emails. They were of the "how’s the new job going" nature. I didn’t try to answer. I didn’t have television service as such, so instead I watched a program on the computer while I ate my sandwich.

Was this move a mistake? I wondered. There was nothing for me here. Nothing! Except a job I might not even like. I knew no one and I wasn’t feeling good about myself.

I should have got a haircut before I left, I told myself as I vainly tried to pat down my hair. But I hadn’t had time to plan that. I didn’t know what kind of haircut I wanted or what to ask for at the barber’s. I didn’t even have a regular barber back there because I was never satisfied with how they cut my hair. If I had got a haircut before I left, I might have tried something shorter. But then it could have looked funny and I didn’t want the people I knew spending my last hours there saying "what did you do to your hair?!" I preferred "goodbye and good luck."

It didn’t matter now because no one here knew me. No one knew what my hair usually looked like, so no one would notice if it looked different tomorrow. I decided I needed to tame it tonight. I wasn’t good at styling my own hair but I could cut it down and keep the lengths consistent. I wasn’t artistic but, as a scientist, I was very precise about any kind of measurements.

I went into the bathroom and had a good look in the mirror at what I had to work with. My body was passable. I was slim, but it was a healthy thinness. My face was okay, too. Clear skin, bright eyes. Too bad about the hair. It ruined the picture.

You see, my hair was very thick and wavy. Not movie-star wavy. It was the kind of wavy that fought against itself and resisted control. It refused to lie flat. The result was hair that projected away from my head as it got longer, so the bottom of the sides and back were like wedges. The top was worse. From a side part my hair shot up more than over, creating an asymmetrical lump on top of my head. Taking it an inch or so shorter didn’t help, nor did thinning.

"Dennis, you’re a mess," I told my reflection.

I had to do something about this mess, something about my hair, before I showed up for work. I’d trimmed it before, so I could do it again. It couldn’t look worse.

I found the scissors I’d packed, a comb and a handheld mirror. I didn’t own hair clippers and I wouldn’t have known where to get any. (Short hair was not popular at the time. Flattops and crewcuts were military not civilian styltes.)

"Here goes," I told my reflection.

I started at the back, which had grown long and uneven since I last did anything with it. I started cutting back, evenly of course, a bit at a time. There was still so much there, a big wad of hair that didn’t serve any function and certainly didn’t look good.

"Hell," I told myself, "it’s time for this all to go." I refused to give in to the trepidation I felt. I took a good amount of hair between my fingers and made the scissors crunch through it above my hand. It was at the back of my head but I could see where I’d cut by manipulating the mirrors. Not so bad. The cut had left a strip about an inch in length. I ran my fingers over it. It felt kind of nice.

So, short hair it was to be!

Now that I was committed, I wanted the next cut to be the most dramatic, irreversible one. I wetted my hair then combed in down in front, just past the tip of my nose. I posed the scissors at eye level, then raised them above my eyebrows, then mid-brow, and a bit higher. I closed the scissors. Snip, snip, snip. I looked at the result. My nose-length hair was reduced to a high, straight-line fringe.

I felt a funny feeling in my stomach. I was shocked at what I had done. At the same time I was glad I’d done it and I wasn’t about to stop.

Anxious to see the final result, I kept cutting and cutting and cutting. I reduced my sideburns. (I’d shave the new lines later.) I exposed my ears. I cut the rest of the back evenly and progressed to a longer top.

It may sound like I was doing a hack job on myself. Not true. Like I said, I’m an expert with measurements. I kept most of the sides and back of my hair at that rough one-inch, finger’s width length. With the comb I was able to taper down to a natural line at the nape. And I was able to extend the length gradually to the top, which I took down to a conservative two-inch (two-fingers) length.

I took a long look in the mirror when I was done.

"Well, that’s that, Dennis," I said. "You’re now a short-haired man." I never had hair this short as an adult, or as an adolescent for that matter, so this was a totally new experience. "You can stop fretting over your hair and get on with life."

I gathered up the mounds of discarded hair on the sink and floor and consigned it to a trash can. I shook out the remaining cut bits from my head then went to bed.

The next morning I woke before the alarm. I slipped on yesterday’s clothes and went out in search of a doughnut shop. I ruffled my hair, which felt great, and didn’t bother with the cap.

After I’d eaten breakfast and showered, I didn’t bother with hair products or with blow-drying. When I was ready to leave, my hair had just about dried on its own. I ruffled it as I looked in a mirror by the door. What I saw was a variation of a caesar cut (as I’d later learn). A longer variation. The cut was symmetrical but I could brush it to the side if I wanted. It had lots of natural texture. (Finally the thickness was useful!) It was short. I didn’t care. And I didn’t care whether anyone else would like it or think it strange. I felt good about the haircut and good about myself.

I was still feeling light-weighted and positive when I reached my new employer’s personnel office and was duly processed with photo taken for an ID card and legal forms filled out. I was handed a white lab coat to use, logically, whenever I was working in the lab.

"You’ll have your name tag by the end of the day," I was told. "You go by ‘Dennis,’ right?

"‘Denny,’ if you don’t mind." I surprised myself with that one. I’d never been called "Denny." But it was fitting now because I didn’t feel like "Dennis" anymore."

I was assigned a locker then shown to my lab space. As we entered the room, I heard one woman whisper to another. "Who’s the sexy new guy?" I glanced to see who they were talking about. It was me!

I know it sounds like I’m about to say that my life turned around, that I suddenly became popular, made lots of friends, and was tremendously successful in my career.

I wouldn’t want to disappoint. I had to prove myself at work, prove that I was worth my salary. I did, but that was because I was diligent and knew my subject. I acquired a number of good friends who accepted my nerdy traits; some were fellow video gamers.

I don’t know whether my short haircut motivated a personality change or whether I was already ready to come into my own and adjusted my haircut to that. I remained an introvert while I opened up to others and developed a good (wry) sense of humor. I like to think I retained a sympathy for others’ insecurities.

I kept my short haircut, with some occasional nods to fashion changes but no fad cuts. It looks great and I wish I’d gone with it sooner. Except I wasn’t ready then.

I am still "Denny." Or just "Den." If a stranger asked for "Dennis," they’d be told, "Oh, you mean Den. The skinny guy."

The moral of my story is . . . I don’t know. "Respect yourself," maybe? "Listen to your gut"? (That doesn’t sound right.)

All I can say is that I changed overnight, literally. For me, the start was simply a haircut that suited me.

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