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1970 THAT 70’s STORY by JAMES SWINARSKI
I’m James and in the spring of 1970 my recently divorced Mom and I moved from the sizable metro of Kansas City Missouri to a small borderline south town of Fayetteville Arkansas. This was in an effort as to be closer to her Parents and my Grand. Quite the cultural transition from urban to a rural suburban new tract home community. At the age of 10 I was eager to "fit in" so I friended Mike a next door neighbor.
Quickly I was enrolled in the fifth grade as to finish the school year with Mike. Mom very much approved of Mike not only as a peer, but also his Father who could play that role model in my life. I really liked Mike’s Dad because he coached little league baseball and this was just the type of inclusion that I so desired.
Summer arrived and with School dismissed Mom thought to take me to the Wal-Mart Discount City for some summer clothing. Not at all discerning, the wardrobe of a boy was picked out for me; white and striped cut-off shorts, tanktops and white low cut sneakers. Even then I never understood why people bought clothes that looked like they were ready for Goodwill. Anyway this was stereotypical of a white trash, redneck neighborhood.
Like most boys’ of the day Mike and I avoided haircuts as much as we could. Wearing our hair fairly long with bangs to the eyebrows. I sensed a change of seasons however when at the North Valley Shopping Center, a neighborhood hangout, I witnessed two of our mutual friends leaving the Barber Shop with freshly shorn and butched hair cuts.
One of the first weekends of the summer Mike’s Parents invited us to a barbecue. Mom had me shower and laid out my clothes for the Saturday evening event. Perplexed as to why she wanted me to be so presentable?.
We arrived next door and Mike emerged from the Kitchen sporting a butch haircut. Man Mike! you got a butch!. Then Mike’s Dad, the Coach said, and you’re next!. I’ve had it with that long hair and I’m going to give you a haircut. NO! James now being physically directed into the Kitchen, trying hard to avoid the pain of humiliation. I recognize Mike’s newly shorn brown hair on the floor around a yellow metal stool with a pull out footrest and take notice of a pair of black and white hair clippers on the counter.
Get up in the Barber’s chair NOW!. Nervously as being led to the electric chair, because in a lot of ways I was, I backed up into it and sat down. Mom sitting at the Kitchen table with Mike’s stated "And I want you to give him a butch just like Mike’s." A BUTCH! but I like my long hair, I don’t want all my hair cut off.. As a light blue towel tightly fitted around my neck and fastened with a safety pin identified the problem. Roughly combed for the last time, he said boys’ in the south don’t wear their hair long and with the hair clippers he’d have it done fast.
I DON’T WANT ALL MY HAIR CUT OFF!
DON’T GIVE ME A BUTCH!
Relax son, you know your orders.
With a loud KRACK as to audibly warn you of what’s coming the clippers turn on. There is nothing I can do now to stop this. A skinheaded Mike knowing misery loves company say’s c’mon James, as if to say it’s not my fault. My long black bangs are picked up from the right and left on the towel in front of me.
THAT’S TOO SHORT!
Mercilessly and at a noticeably louder tone the clippers leave nothing but a path of cleanly shorn stubble. Without pause the top continues to be plowed as I plead crying,
I DON’T WANT A BUTCH!
With his free hand firmly planted on the top of my head I now feel the sandpapered top. Clearing my right sideburn I watch a large clump of hair fall between my legs.
Your Mom want’s that long hair cut off!. NO!
In defeat I turn to say, but I didn’t want a butch.
And I said don’t move!
I suddenly remember how much summer there was left and that I would have to get comfortable walking around with a newly shorn head in public. What would the other boy’s with long hair do, laugh?. What would I say, that I like this?. And just like that the clippers turn off as quickly as on. O. K. we’re done, nothing’s left!. No more girl hair, you boy’s are going to look like you’re from around here. I get up from the stool uncertain and in an attempt to console me Mike said I like your butch haircut James. I responded, friends. I know I had gotten what I deserved. Soon after being liberated of my hair I made amends with "Dad" because I knew I had the Father figure that I needed.