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I Married a Teddy Bear by Derkx
I Married a Teddy Bear
I’m Michael. Mike. He’s Charlie. He’s my husband. I love him, for better or worse. After all, I married him consciously and willingly.
I have what I think of as a conventional haircut. It’s the kind of haircut an actor might have when he’s auditioning for a generic kind of character. The kind a corporate VP or a mail clerk might have for lack of anything else. I have a casual right-side part, usually. My hair is dark brown. Standard brown.
My haircut doesn’t change a lot although I do vary it some. Changing the part to the left doesn’t look so good. Peaking my hair into a faux hawk is okay, but is a little too trendy for me. The sides and back vary between short-medium and medium, that is, typically Number 4 with clippers or the equivalent with scissors. The top is always scissors-cut, not extreme, not spiky, not drooping over my face. I once had highlights added but no one noticed because of the natural undertones.
I don’t have glamorous hair. I have good hair and I like it.
Then there’s Charlie. Charlie doesn’t like his hair.
At our wedding, Charlie’s light-brown hair was grown out longer than mine and was slicked back. I thought he looked fine. (In my eyes, he’s always fine-looking.) He didn’t care for all the gel or mousse or whatever, didn’t like the maintenance, and wasn’t crazy about the look.
"Too much trouble," he concluded.
Charlie tried all the latest hairstyles. None of them, he said, was him.
He dismissed the undercut as "too trendy" and the various fades as "high maintenance." Charlie’s latest attempt was a pompadour with a hard part. "I look lopsided," he said.
"Argh!" he raged one morning. "My hair goes the wrong way here and I can’t get this bit to lie down at all!"
"You could try a perm," I suggested.
He scowled at me.
"No, not an old lady’s perm with tight curls," I clarified. "I mean a loose perm. The kind that adds a waves and puts everything in alignment." I added, "In theory." I wasn’t really sure that’s how it worked.
"Can you see me keeping regular appointments to put my hair in curlers and sit under a dryer with stinky chemicals burning my scalp?"
"Yeah," I smiled at the image, "it was a stupid suggestion. Guess I’m not much help."
So, there he was, my husband. As I said, he was sporting a pompadour he didn’t like to be bothered putting into shape, with a ("stupid") hard part that was stubbly for much longer than it was a clean strip.
Despite the hair-style efforts he objected to, Charlie was damned good-looking. His hair was a pleasant light brown and his eyes were a consistent light blue. He kept his body in great shape, with borderline six-pack abs. (He was in shape but he wasn’t fanatic about having an extremely "cut" musculature every day of his life.) To accentuate his physique, he shaved his chest, and trimmed his arm and leg hair until barely visible; it was a popular practice. I didn’t mind the stubble on his body. There was nothing wrong with some manscaping. Charlie was used to the extra shaving work. He liked the results and he looked good. (As for me, my body hair was neither so sparse nor dense that I bothered doing anything with it.)
"I’m hopeless," however, he concluded about his the hair on his head.
I didn’t agree. He was a handsome man. He was intelligent and competent at his work. He had many friends and admirers. He had one of those personalities that found good in most everyone. And he had a sweet, warm smile.
"Should I cut my hair?" he asked me one day. "I mean, really cut it. Short."
"I don’t know," I answered honesty. "I like your hair long, like the way it is now. . . . But it is YOUR hair, so . . . What do you have in mind?"
He shrugged. "I’m not sure. I’ve been looking at different haircuts on the internet . . ."
He left it there, but I had the feeling he had a fairly good idea what he wanted. I didn’t press.
Several days later we were having dinner in our apartment. Charlie was toying with his food, which was unusual; he had a good appetite.
I looked at him and smiled to encourage him to say what was on his mind.
"Michael?" he began, avoiding a direct look into my eyes.
"Charlie," I responded.
"What would you think, Mike, . . . What if I wanted to cut my hair really short? I mean, to buzz it all off?"
"What? You don’t mean you want to shave your head?" To me that would be absurd, because he had a full, thick head of hair (however uncontrollable) and because I was used to him with that hair.
"No, no. Not shaving, no. I’ve got this scar on my head and . . . No, I don’t think I could pull off a shaved head. Or would want to. . . . No, I just meant short like buzzed down with clippers. A cut that’s the same length all over, so I don’t have to style it or do anything to it. Just short. Very short. A half-inch? A quarter-inch?"
He was sincere. He was insecure about presenting this idea to me. I didn’t like to see the worried look in his loving eyes.
"I’ll have to give this some consideration," I finally said. Although I appreciated his concern for my opinion, it wasn’t my decision to make. I wouldn’t disappoint him by immediately vetoing the possibility. My procrastinating response was sufficient to motivate him to finish his dinner.
When we went to bed that night, I snuggled up against his smooth chest then let my fingers rise to feel his thick, product-laden hair on his head. The hard part was no longer skin-shaved. The long strip was now the length and feel of corduroy pile.
Charlie was kind of quiet over the next few days. When the weekend came, he approached me again.
"Did you think about . . . you know, what we were talking about?"
"You mean whether you should cut your hair short?"
I couldn’t hold back a reassuring smile. He was so sweetly considerate of MY feelings. He was irresistible.
"It’s YOUR hair, you know. But I’m glad you value my input. . . . If that’s what you want . . . If you want to give it a try, go for it. I’m okay. I’ll even go with you to the barber, for moral support, but we’ll look silly if I have to hold your hand."
"Barber?" he said. "Actually, I was hoping, maybe . . ." He left the room then and came back immediately with a black plastic box in hand. "I got these a couple of days ago." He opened the catch so I could see what was inside.
"Hair clippers? You don’t mean you want to do this yourself?"
"No," he answered sheepishly. "I was hoping you’d cut my hair."
"What! I’ve never used clippers . . ."
"It’s not that hard. It would be an easy style, nothing fancy. We could find a how-to video on the internet."
He was crazy. It was a stupid idea. He wanted to get an untried, first-time short haircut, and he wanted ME to be responsible for it.
"No way!" I told him emphatically. "Absolutely NO FRICKING WAY!"
About forty-five minutes later, Charlie was seated on a chair in the middle of our kitchen. (The tile floor would make clean-up easier.) He held a towel around his shoulders, not that it would it help much.
We measured the length of the hair in his hard part and determined that the Number One clipper guard was the closest.
"I don’t know, Charlie. This looks awfully damned short."
"It’s the best match, Michael. I want it to be the same length all over. No more stupid hard part."
Our discussion went back and forth for a while. I hesitated and gave him plenty of opportunities to back out of this potential disaster.
"It is the shortest guard, you know," I said. "Almost the same as no guard at all, which would be like skinning you to the raw."
"You’re right," he agreed. "I wouldn’t want the ‘no guard’. That would be too much like shaving my head and I know that wouldn’t work for me. The Number One is very short, but it would leave me with some hair and I’d know once and for all what I’d look like that way. . . . No more discussion. Let’s do it now!"
I was the one to gulp with trepidation. I secured the Number One guard on the clippers and double-checked that it couldn’t accidentally come off. I turned on the clippers. It must have a been a quality machine because there was no loud clacking to startle me. Just a moderate hum.
From the online videos, I knew how to hold the clippers right-side up. That was a start..
"Where should I begin?" I asked.
"How about the stupid part?" he said. "Start there and get rid of it."
I did. I pressed the clippers gently to Charlie’s scalp and pushed back. The blades mowed through a stretch of hair at the top of one side of his head. I looked. The grown-out hard part had disappeared, now lost in the surrounding stubble of hair.
"I guess so."
"Then march on."
I did. I ran the clippers down the next lower path, then lower again. I could see Charlie’s scalp showing through. In very little time the sides and back were clippered down as thoroughly as possible.
"Go!" Charlie directed when I hesitated before attacking the top.
I plowed up from the back of the top, so the front length simply dropped off at the end of the shorn path. Charlie picked up a clump of hair that had fallen into his lap; that chunk was a major part of his pompadour. It didn’t really hit me until I reached the center of the top that this really, really was a no-turning-back scenario. There was no way to stop now and redeem this haircut. I would be traumatized for life if I screwed this up! Even Charlie squeezed his eyes shut a moment, realizing the craziness of what we were doing to him.
After his entire head had been buzzed down, I was much calmer. No hand trembles. I ran the clippers over everywhere again until the absence of blade chatter told me there were no remaining bits to chomp off. I saw the scar Charlie was worried about but it was barely visible through the bristle.
"How’s it look?" Charlie asked when I turned off the clippers. He hadn’t brought a mirror so he had no idea.
"Well," I said, "it doesn’t look bad. It’s all one length, at least. . . . Wait a minute. I think I can do this."
My comment made Charlie visibly nervous. More so when he saw me remove the guard from the clippers and turn them on again.
"What’re you . . .?"
With comb in one hand and clippers in the other, I trimmed around his ears, being careful not to modify the actual hairline. Then I placed the comb against his sideburns and clippered them just the tiniest bit shorter than the rest of his hair. I’d seen this in one of the online videos. Good so far.
I moved to the back of his head and studied the nape of his neck. I never realized how low the hair grew down his neck. Oh, it would be a sin to take that off. I used the comb and clippers almost reverently to taper the very bottom of that hair growth for a natural look.
"Beautiful," I concluded.
"Wow, that’s short!" was Charlie’s reaction when he finally got a look in the bathroom mirror. "Good and short. And scalped."
That wasn’t the end of the trial. Charlie wasn’t instantly converted to short hair. On the other hand, he wasn’t regretting what he’d done (what we’d done) to his hair entirely. He didn’t like the look of the Number One cut and I didn’t like the way it felt. Too bristly.
It took a while to work out that the haircut Charlie and I liked best on him was a Number Two buzz, which could grow out to a Number Three without much difference. He was also loose about his beard, which he either shaved or let grow out for a few days’ casual, unshaped stubble.
He had no complaints about his hair afterwards. It was the right move. The short buzz suited him perfectly. He looked fine. Mighty fine.
"Thanks for playing along," Charlie said, shooting that engaging smile at me.
It might seem that the haircut was all about Charlie and his self-image and comfort. Not so. I benefitted from being able to run my hands over his velvety hair whenever I liked. It reminded me of a soft toy bear I had as an infant. I especially craved the furry nape of his neck.
When Charlie gave up the trendy hairstyle, he also decided to back off the excessive manscaping. That meant he let his body hair grow out, long and thick. I could bury my fingers (or toes) in his dense, lush wheat-field of chest hair. He smiled appreciatively when I did it. More bonuses for me.
In the end Charlie’s changes were to my benefit. My hipster spouse had turned into my personal loving, blue-eyed teddy bear.