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Giving In by Steve P

This is a true story, with the details changed for the sake of anonymity.

I’d been getting ready for the move to start grad school for a while now. A brand-new city full of strangers awaited. I’d packed up the car and driven out to my new apartment in Milwaukee. Once I’d arrived and setup my new apartment, I decided to order a set of hair clippers.

I thought to myself, "Well, it’s a new place. I don’t know anyone, and this is the perfect chance to do something you’ve always wanted to: shave your head."

I was nervous, though. I spent the whole day waiting for my clippers to arrive in the mail, and when they finally did, I could barely contain my excitement. I tore open the package and inspected the clippers and the array of guide combs.

"Okay," I thought, "The sides are still pretty short, so I’ll start with a longer comb and cut the top to see how it goes."

After oiling the clippers, I snapped on the #8 guard to cut the top of my hair to 1" in length. Flicking the switch, I held them up and listened to the buzzing for a minute as I stood in front of my mirror. With a deep breath, I brought them to my hairline and pulled back. I didn’t notice much of a change with the first pass, but the next few reduced the 2.5" long hair to a neat, uniform 1", which naturally blended down to the shorter sides.

Upon inspection, I looked good. It looked like a normal haircut, and I considered stopping there. I wasn’t satisfied, though. I quickly switched to a #4 guard and placed the clippers at my forehead again. Before I could stop myself, I pulled them back, halving the length of the hair on top. I pulled them again and again across my scalp, enjoying the feeling of the clippers shearing through the hair, going far enough down the sides to blend neatly into the shorter sections.

I was happy with the results and resolved to keep my hair at that length.

Once it grew out again. By this point, I had decided to commit. I likely wouldn’t have this kind of freedom from judgment and others’ opinions ever again. I turned off the clippers and snapped off the guard. I opened the lever to clean out some of the sweaty hair that had gotten stuck in front of the blades before pulling it back closed. With no guard on the clippers and the lever set as short as possible, I was ready.

I switched on the clippers and took another deep breath, worried about how I would do with the back and missing spots. I did already have a good-looking haircut I could keep.

Casting aside my fears momentarily, I brought the buzzing metal blades to my forehead, feeling their warmth as they vibrated against my skin, just below the hairline.

"You can do this," I told myself.

And I pulled the clippers back into the remaining half-inch of hair. My jaw dropped in shock, and I began to worry that I’d made a mistake, shearing a bald patch down the middle of my hair, but it was too late to turn back now. Trying to keep from shaking, I pressed onward, enjoying the comfortable warmth of the clippers as they slowly reduced my hair to stubble, feeling carefully for any missed spots. After about 20 minutes of running the clippers across the stubble, I was finished. I took my hand and rubbed my new lack of hair, enjoying the feeling in my hand and my scalp.

I brushed the hair off of the clippers and put them down on the sink, reaching for my electric razor. I knew this would be trickier with a smaller blade size, but I was ready. I’d come this far, so it was time to finish off the job that I had waited years to start. I flipped the switch and brought the buzzing blades to my forehead for the fourth time that night. I pressed down, trying to get the closest shave possible, and pushed the razor back into my hair, against the grain, reducing the stubble to smooth skin. After the first few passes, I looked at the mirror in shock, unable to process the skin next to the stubble that suddenly looked so long, wondering why I hadn’t done this sooner. I worked my way around my head, reducing the uniform stubble to a shiny, smooth skin, meticulously checking with my fingers and mirrors for any missed spots.

Eventually, there was no hair left to shave, and I had to accept that I was done. I stared at myself in the mirror, almost unable to recognize my own reflection. I felt a pang of regret, which I quickly pushed aside, knowing how long I had wanted to do this, and how long I had obsessed over extremely short hair. Grinning ear to ear, I gave my head one final rub and began to clean up the mess of hair that was all over the bathroom.

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