My Summer Baldings by BaldSurfer
I'll never forget the first time I shaved my head, although the details of the shaving were lost in the fog of alcohol and humidity. It was 1996 and shaved heads, while still fairly rare, were starting to become a little more mainstream. The younger end of the baby-boomers were choosing complete baldness over the laughable combover. And in the nightclubs, guys with full heads of hair were starting to show up shaved bald. Especially down here in Florida, where the edgy style had the added benefit of offering relief from the oppressively hot and humid summer. All my life, I'd been fascinated (and truthfully, aroused) by the idea of radically short haircuts and shaved heads. But I never gave in to what was becoming almost a fetish. I'd never gone more radical than the Clooney-style Caesar cut that I was sporting in 96. But I was a bartender at a beach-side Tiki bar, and the days were 90 degrees and 98% humidity. My Caesar was overgrown and I'd planned on seeing my barber after my lunch shift. But during that shift, with sweat pouring down my neck, I drank way too many tequila shots.So when I sat down in the barber's chair and the cape was tied behind my neck, I told my barber to shave me bald. He laughed a little and (as he tells it) asked me if I was sure. He says I confirmed and he shaved me completely bald. I wish I had a better story. I wish I remembered if I was scared or excited. I wish I could remember what part of my head was skinned first. But my first clear, reliable memory was waking up from a nap around 7 pm, walking past my bedroom mirror and seeing a ridiculously white scalp, made even sillier by the deep and clearly defined tan of my face. But I loved the look. Had always secretly wanted it. Had sexually fantasized about it. So I kept it all summer. I endured the jeers of my friends. I laughed off the "do you have cancer?" questions of the patrons. But as the tan evened up on the scalp I shaved daily, I fell in love with the look and feel of total baldness.
But after awhile, the daily maintenance began to feel like a chore. And if I skipped more than a day, my thick hair was painful and difficult to shave away. So after 4 months, I grew it back. Never long. No more than half an inch on top, the sides usually buzzed shorter. But the next July, as the heat and humidity started to beat on me again, I went back to my barber - sober this time - and had him shave me bald again. This time, with all my senses, I had the kind of head shaving experience that stories on this site describe so well. It was tactile, exciting and sensuous to watch and feel myself get shaved bald. Having seen it a year before, the reactions from my friends and family was pretty mundane. I liked the look and feel, but I missed the shock of my bartender and the extreme reaction of my friends. I shaved regularly until mid-September and then went back to my buzz cut that i refreshed every 2 weeks.
The next summer, I wanted to get shaved bald again, but I also wanted to recapture the shock value. I still had the same job and the same friends, so I decided to mix things up by getting the shave by a new barber. I let my buzz grow out for an extra 2 weeks, leaving me with an inch of hair, and I chose an "old man" barber shop in town, that I would visit on Saturday, their busiest day, hoping for maximum reaction. The shop was filled with middle aged and older men, getting "regulars" or having the fringe trimmed around their bald skulls, plus a few moms bringing young boys for their summer cuts. I waited nearly an hour for my turn, and the shop was still full of people waiting behind me. As the elderly barber wrapped paper around my neck and caped me, he asked "What it'll be today, young fella?". Loud enough to ensure that everyone in the shop could hear me, I said "I want you to shave me completely bald. Hot lather, straight razor, the works." I left no doubt as to what I wanted and the barber stammered a bit as he said, "You're the boss." I felt every eye in the shop on me as he ran the edgers over my head, leaving barely visible stubble. The crowd seemed surprised when he wrapped m head in a warm wet cloth and even more curious as he spread warm lather over my head and shaved me bald. He re-lathered me and shaved again, this time against the grain. As I stood up after he was done, all eyes were still on me. I heard a father ask his 12 year old son if he wanted a haircut like that. I loved my bald look. I loved the silky smooth feel. But OH MY GOD! I was suddenly addicted to the attention. I stayed bald all summer and then regrew my winter buzz cut. But I knew that come next summer, I was going to get shaved bald again. By a new barber, in a crowded shop, with all eyes on me, as they gasped and watched my full head of hair get shaved away to bare scalp.
And that became my annual routine. By the third year, my friends didn't even bother to react or acknowledge that I'd shaved my head. It wasn't new to them. It wasn't a surprise. So beside my love of my summer baldness, the only rush came from the shock of strangers. Each year, as much as I loved short neat hair, I'd add extra weeks between my last buzzcut and the summer shave, making the transformation increasingly extreme. And I had to drive farther and farther to find a barbershop I'd never been to.
A couple of years ago, I had my hair buzzed down to a #4 in April and didn't touch it again until the start of July. With 2 inches of hair, which felt like a hippie mop to me, On a Saturday morning, I went off in search of a new barber to skin me. I decided to mix it up a bit and make the experience even more alien. I headed down to an area that was nearly all black. I knew that African-American barber shops were very social - a place where men of the community gathered to socialize, argue politics and sports, talk smack, hang out, and somewhere along the line, get a haircut. I decided to crash the party. I wasn't scared. I had friends of all races, believed that ifyou didn't start trouble nobody would give you trouble, and was confident that the worst that would happen to me would be some verbal insults. So I walked confidently into Vernon's. As I expected, I was the only white guy in a jam packed shop, but nobody said anything to me, except one barber, who I assumed was Vernon, who said "Have a seat. We'll be with you as soon as we can." As the patrons talked sports, I tried to join in, but they ignored me, as if i wasn't there. So I grabbed a magazine and waited my turn. As my turn got closer, a customer with barely a half inch of hair sat in Vernon's chair and said "Give me a bald head." With only a sly smile as a reaction, Vernon clipped away all the man's hair, and proceeded with the familiar routine of hot towels, hot lather and straight edge razor until the man's head was a gleaming brown skull with no hint that hair had ever been there, I was a little jealous. After my first summer shave, it took weeks until the tan evened out and my head looked uniform and "natural". But this guy already looked good. I'd enjoyed watching Vernon's careful attention during the whole process, and hoped he'd be my barber. When he'd rubbed some sort of oil into his customer's scalp and buffed his head to a blinding shine, his chair was empty, and as he brushed away the hair clippings, he looked straight at me and said, "You're next, Ace."
I eagerly jumped in the chair. As he caped me, with no hint of offense, he said "Hey, man. Welcome to my shop. I'm Vernon. What brings you here? We don't get a lot of white folks here. You're welcome, but I'm curious." I told Vernon that when I needed a haircut, I just stopped at the first barber I saw and took my chances. He let out a big laugh that made me feel comfortable and welcome. He asked what I wanted, and I said, "Just like the last guy. It's time for my summer shave"
"You want to be bald-headed?" he asked, showing more surprise than I'd expected. I said "Don't stop until you hit the bone!" It seemed like every man in the shop started to laugh uncontrollably at the same time. I could almost feel their thoughts. Who was this white guy getting his head shaved? Can't be a skinhead or he wouldn't have come here. Another July in a barber shop with every eye focused on me. But this felt a little uncomfortable. I wasn't scared that they'd hurt me. It was more like they were all silently laughing at me. When Vernon plugged in the big black Osters, with a huge smile on his face, he said "One white Michael Jordan coming up!"
As the clippers roared to life, Vernon's joke seemed to change the atmosphere. Instead of laughing at me, they laughed with me. I couldn't contain my smile as Vernon's clippers tore through my hair and my beloved bald head emerged again. As Vernon shaved away the hot lather, he joked that "You got a lot more tanning to do than if you was brother!" I told him I was used to it, and explained the annual routine. After 2 hot lather shaves, I left with the smoothest bald head I'd ever had.
So now it was a new strategy - cross-cultural headshaves. If my annual balding was a shock in my neighborhood shops, I got even more attention in a shop where I clearly didn't belong. The next year it was a predominantly hispanic neighborhood. I didn't realize going in that it was a shop frequented by a lot of local gang bangers. But head shaves made me fearless, so I sat there as tattooed muscular kids got their buzzcuts with sharp outlines across their foreheads. They tried to goad me into arguments. They tried to get a reaction to justify beating the hell out of me. But I sat and read a magazine and waited my turn, the first time that I was scared for my life in a barber shop. They hurled threats and insults, but I wasn't backing down. . When I was finally called, the barber was as dismissive s the customers, and asked "What do you want me to do, gringo?" I very calmly said I wanted him to shave my head as smooth bald and shiny as he was capable of. He smiled at the challenge, and the gangbangers stopped catcalling and just started to watch as he sheared my head. Rising to my challenge, the barber shaved me once with the grain, once against the grain, and a third time in random strokes that removed even the slightest hint of stubble. It was, without a doubt, the best and smoothest shave a barber had ever given me. It was 2 days before I felt a hint of stubble.
But my days of barber adventures was done. The fear had taken the fun out of the shave. So last Saturday, my buzz grown out to almost 2 inches, I went over to the mall and walked into Family Barbers. The place was overflowing with parents and kids. Some kids got their summer crew cuts. Others had their bowl cuts precisely trimmed. And in full view of them all, when my time came, I sat down in the chair and told the young, pretty barberete "I'd like a hot lather head shave, please. Make it smooth and shiny." She stammered as she confirmed my request, and her hand shook a little as she took the edgers to my head. She could barely talk as she tentatively gave me a clipper shave. The small kids watched in wonder - some even asking their mom if they could do that (which was always answered with a firm and decisive "no!") When the clippers had done their job, the barberette asked "How's that?". I said it was a good first step, but I wanted to be shaved completely bald. She wouldn't say so, but she clearly had never done this before. She wrapped me in the hot towel, and then gently rubbed the hot lather over my head with her soft young hands. She was tentative with the razor, as if she'd hardly ever used it before, seemingly afraid of cutting me with every stroke. She only shaved me once, and the result was as sandpaper rough as a day's growth. But I could fix that at home, ans there was something empowering to me in her fear. Instead of going to strange shops where I felt a sense of peril, this would be the new routine. my new thrill. I'd scare the heck out of rookie barber girls, as the whole shop watched...