Bill - From Blondie to Butch to Buddy by Manny
When I came back from the storage area with a refill for the lather machine, my eye was quickly caught by the site of a new arrival to the hotel, already in the process of checking in. He had a wonderful mane of thick blond hair -- streaked by the sun and glossy -- that fell longish over his ears and completely covered his collar in back. At that point, that was all I could see -- and I truly loved what I saw. As he bent to fill in the form at the check-in counter, I caught a glimpse of the expected abundant forelock that dangled and danced in front of his face as he filled in the required data. I hoped this guest’s stay at the hotel would be of some duration so that I would have ample opportunities to admire those sexy locks as they paraded in and around the lobby.
When the check-in procedure was over and the fellow turned to gather his luggage, I was treated to an additional surprise. He was handsome, like a male model with a well-chiseled jaw and piercing blue eyes!
Then, unexpectedly, his eyes veered towards the shop and locked directly onto my gaze. Inwardly, I felt a blush of shame as he’d caught me spying on him. But the momentary panic gave way to an inward thrill. The fellow ran his right hand through his hair, pulling the liberal bangs back from his face and then awkwardly smoothing his hair down in back while trying to judge the length. This was one of the habitual gestures that almost all shaggy men made as they took a seat in my barber’s chair, right before the cape was cast and fastened into place. It was an assertion that a haircut was needed, perhaps overdue. And, with Blondie eyeing the shop and trying to tame and measure his locks with his hand, I knew that he was seriously considering a trip to my barbershop during his stay! I quickly turned away and began replenishing the lather-making machine, so as not to unnerve him with my stares.
During the afternoon, I caught site of Blondie sitting casually on one of the sofas in the lobby, “reading” a newspaper, while all the while watching me at work on one of my customers. The client in my chair actually was Manny, one of the young bellhops, who I gave a cut rate to – both to help him out financially, but also because he had a great head of thick, jet black hair that was a privilege to cut. In the two years that he’d worked at the hotel while studying for his bachelor’s degree at a night school, I’d coaxed him from his initial “big hair” look (think “Uncle Jesse” in Full House), taking him gradually shorter and shorter into a traditional taper with the scissors.
When he told me he would be dropping by for a haircut after he got off work in the afternoon, I had decided that it was time to shift gears on unsuspecting Manny and apply the electric clippers to his taper, taking it down a lot tighter and a lot higher – especially in back. I was going to show some of Manny’s skin and give him a tidy whitewall. However, after seeing Blondie take a seat in the lobby and secretly survey the shop, I quickly aborted that plan and began to gingerly trim Manny’s hair. I just cut the sides and back a bit, and left the top and fringe long. I thought that would inspire Blondie to entrust his locks to me.
As I began removing the cape, Blondie suddenly put down the paper and stood up. “This is it! He’s coming in for a haircut,” I thought to myself. My heart skipped a beat. He did move towards the shop, but then walked straight past. What a letdown. And to think that Manny got away, too, without a more aggressive crop job. Well, I would certainly get another go at Manny. But what about Blondie?!
The next day, I saw Blondie pass through the lobby several times. During each occasion, he quickly looked at the shop. One time, he nervously touched his hair like he did at check-in. There was certainly still a good chance that a haircut could be in the cards – I had years of experience judging people’s mannerisms when they were in a strange hotel and contemplating using my barbershop services. Perhaps it was just a matter of building up the courage to let some unknown barber bring the shears to his dreamy locks! Or, maybe he was considering a radical cropping while he was on his vacation. Go home with a new shorn look.
I decided that I should try to engage him the next time I spotted him poking around the lobby.
The following morning, as I arrived to open up, who should be seated in the group of sofas nearest to the shop: Blondie! He was flipping through a magazine. His hair was freshly washed, full of life and shimmering with health. “Good morning,” I said, trying to sound routine and casual.
He looked up and replied with a similar greeting. But his eyes lingered a bit instead of returning to the magazine. “I hope I haven’t kept you waiting long….” What a brilliant idea! It just popped out of my mouth. I couldn’t believe my stroke of genius. “But come on in now and have a seat. It’ll be just a minute for me to get into my smock and be with you.”
To my total surprise, after hesitating a bit, Blondie stood and followed me into my shop! Like a sheep to the shearer…. And, oh boy, was he going to get shorn!! Blondie took a seat in the barber’s chair and shifted a bit nervously as I slipped on my pristine white tunic. Ah yes, the nervous hands through the hair. The forelock, though, would not cooperate and hung down past his right eye. I moved quickly into place to secure the cape tightly about his neck so that he would not think about leaving. He looked wonderful, so handsome, so nervous….waiting for his precious hair to be cut by an untested barber. Of course, with the male model look, he was not a regular barbershop type client. No, his dreamy hair was the product of a high priced salon. What could have driven into a barbershop after a few days of lurking? My gut feeling told me that he was seriously considering the “big chop”…just working up the courage to ask for it. But, as an insightful barber, I certainly could also help move the scheme forward even if the request wasn’t put verbally….
I began brushing the silken locks, smoothing them into place and trying my damnedest to get the massive forelock to stay off the brow and plastered back. But it was too heavy and too long. After two or three attempts, I gave a slight chuckle and broke the ice with Blondie. “I guess this is one of the reasons you’re here bright and early this morning! By the way, I’m Jake. What’s your name?”
“Bill,” he answered. Nothing else said.
“So, Bill, any special instructions?” I hoped there would be none…some vague response like, just cut it short or I’m way overdue a haircut.
Bill hesitated and then said, “It’s a bit on the long side. I guess you can take off an inch.”
Hmmmm. That was certainly not carte blanche. Anyway, I had no intention of following the instruction. That was one huge advantage of being a hotel barber – most of your customers were a onetime affair. So, the extra short crops were….well, just something the client would cry over or feel irritated about…but have to live with for several months.
I brushed the massive forelock straight down and it completely covered both eyes and almost hit the upper lip. “Just an inch? I don’t think that’s going to do it.” Blondie had been served notice that his mane was not going to survive in its present glory. How would he react? I got out the spritzer and began wetting the lush blond hair.
My gut feeling was confirmed. He did not react defensively at all. In fact, he was quite pliant. “Yeah, I guess not. More off, then, I suppose.” Ah, now that vague instruction was something I could hack!
I swiveled the chair away from the mirror. Bill tensed up – ah, he was nervous after all. “You’re not a barbershop regular, are you?” The question was rhetorical. “I can always tell when a customer gets faced away from the mirror and he’s not used to it….” Bill murmured something of a confirmation that I was right. He wasn’t a barbershop type guy.
Quick as a flash, I grabbed the shears and began Bill’s metamorphosis. The center of his forehead was the initial target. Snip, snip, snip. And copious amount of wet hair fell onto the cape. The wonderful sound of a muffled drumbeat as the wet chunk hit the cape. Five, six inches worth. Bill was in shock. Utter shock at how short his pretty bangs had been cut. The shorn hair looked so wonderful on the cape – cold, dark, lifeless clumps.
“Now, there, much better and less trouble…I can see your handsome face clearly too,” I said cheerfully. Then I began gathering the long wet hair on top and scissoring it off to about two inches in length on top. This meant clumps of six inches or so were falling furiously to the floor. Bill looked like he was going to say something – perhaps the obvious, that I was cutting it much shorter than he wanted – but he remained silent. This only goaded me on to shorter heights of barbery. Snip, snip, snip went the scissor, uncovering the right ear, then the left, and then across the back at the nape. Now, the cut was beginning to take shape. The lack of any protest on Bill’s part made me certain he inwardly longed for the big chop. And I would oblige him, only too eagerly.
My next move would prove my theory beyond any doubt. I picked up the clippers. Surely Bill would object. To my surprise, he did manage a sort of objection. “What are you gonna do with those?”
But I was ready with a quick reply. “I’m a barber, Bill. I’m giving you a haircut,” I said matter-of-fact. Click. The machine snapped to life. “Fellows get their hair cut short in barbershops.” Never were truer words spoken.
Bill’s lack of any further protest unleashed an aggressiveness that took even me by surprise. Pretty Bill’s transformation would be completely radical! He all but asked for it (by omission). His thick tresses would be no match for the heavy duty Oster’s I had in my hand. I noticed that they had on #2 blades. “Why not?!” I thought to myself. I steadied Bill’s head and pushed his chin down with one hand. Then the screaming clippers were taken to the nape and up, up, up they were pushed….easily mowing off virtually all the beautiful long blond hair. Bill sat still and silent. His passiveness drove me to take the clippers up through the crown and straight forward towards the fringe. Mounds of hair fell in the clippers’ wake. Bill’s fate was sealed. Blondie was quickly turning into Butch!! Within short minutes all the long hair had been reduced to a #2. The shorn hair covered the whole cape.
I needed to break the ice and bring Bill out of his transe. “You’re going to be a new man when I finish with your tidy barbershop look.” The clipping stopped and he looked up sheepishly – like a soldier climbing out of his foxhole after the guns fell silent. The buzzed head looked adorable. The cockiness of the “male model” was gone and he seemed as approachable as the fellow next door. “I can never figure out why the butch cut isn’t more popular with guys these days.”
“Butch cut? What’s that?” asked Bill curiously.
“Well, it’s the new look you’re sporting, Bill,” I replied. Then I slowly spun the chair to face the mirror. Bill’s face blanched. I ran my hand over the top of the shorn pate. “Same length all over. I gave you a very practical quarter inch butch. If you want I can take it down shorter. Some fellows like it ‘to the wood’!” Then I ran my hands all over his fuzzy, buzzed scalp. “Get used to that, Bill. All your friends will want to feel your butch when they see the makeover for the first time.”
Then I brought home to him how radical the transformation had been but snatching up a huge shorn hank from the cape. “My goodness. What were you thinking with all this hair. Nightmare to put up with!”
Bill seemed sheepish. “Well, all my friends always told me what great hair I had and that I should let it long….”
“Yeah,” I said cutting him off mid sentence, “but they didn’t have to deal with it each morning – shampooing, blow-drying, keeping it under control in the wind. I saw you battling with it even when you registered upon arrival at the hotel.”
“How’d you know I was thinking ab$$$out getting it cut short?” Bill asked.
“Listen, Butch, a fellow like me knows. Was written all over your face….and I gave you a few days to work up the courage.”
“Thanks…but my name’s Bill,” he added.
“Not anymore, Butch! You need a new nickname to match your new image.” With that I un-caped the fellow and happily accepted the generous tip. He seemed happy and embarrassed and nervous all at once as he exited the shop. Then my eye caught site of another lurker – Manny had been watching the whole thing from the corner of the lobby.
I hadn’t finished sweeping up the mounds of shorn hair when he hustled in. “That was some haircut that guy asked for!”
Manny always was on the lookout for handsome men in his age range. I commented, “I thought you might find our guest handsome.” Then I set the trap for Manny’s dense mane. “He’s a male model, you know.” I amazed myself at how easily the lie flowed out!
“Really!?!” said Manny in ready belief.
“Yeah, really. Didn’t you find him handsome?!”
“Very!” sighed Manny. “And he sure did look like a male model before you caped him up and clipped him down. Did he say why he wanted all that great hair cut off?” Manny asked.
“It’s all you’ll see when the spring season is unveiled. The modeling world is all in a buzz over the new, minimalist look. That fellow was so happy to dump that girlie hair. I thought he looked so much more manly after I finished lopping off those pretty tresses, didn’t you?” Manny didn’t respond. He was looking at the long hair that was by then swept up in a pile. I patted the seat. “Come on, Manny, have a seat. I know you just got your hair cut recently, but it’s time you get ahead of the fashion curve.” Manny seemed lost in thought so I patted the seat again. Just then Butch walked into the lobby and started heading straight to the barbershop. He ran his ran across the top of his head and smiled broadly.
Stepping into the shop he commented, “Feels great! But I’m still trying to get used to it. How does it look?”
Manny piped up – “Great! Let me give it a rub.” He stroked the velvety nape gently.
“I’m trying to convince Manny here to follow your example and get a nice, practical haircut -- like yours, Butch.” Without another word, Manny hopped up into the barber’s chair – my barber’s chair!
“Cape me up and clip me down just like Mr. Male Model!” he ordered.
Butch gave me a bit of a confused look, but then shrugged it off. “Did I leave my sun glasses in here? I want to go out and try to get these broad swaths of white skin colored a bit. It had been ages since my neck had seen the sun!”
“Sorry, Butch, but I haven’t see them,” I said as I reached for the cape. “But if you wait a few minutes you can watch my friend Manny here get clipped down nice and short – just like you. In fact, your haircut inspired him to ditch the pretty boy look,” I said as I tussled the thick, dark locks so that they tumbled down into his eyes. Poor Manny, seemed bothered, but he was securely under the cape and quite unable to push the troublesome forelock back off his forehead. “Here, let me be of assistance,” I said as I picked up a shears. “Right to the top!” Snip, snip, snip. The long bangs fell to the cape.
Manny tensed up. “Maybe I shouldn’t….”
But I cut off any line that might lead to any outcome other than a nice, tight butch cut for Manny. “Since you’ve got great dark hair, we can go even shorter – a quarter inch is all you need to leave you with that great sandpaper-like look and feel!” I snapped the clippers to life and Manny’s thick mane was as good as gone. Into his dense locks the clippers flew – straight from the nape up the back of his head.
“Fantastic,” shriek Butch. “I can’t believe how much is coming off!”
Manny looked up with sheepish admiration at the handsome “male model”. He seemed happy that he had such a pleased audience in the shop watching as his once pride and joy – that glistening, glossy mane of hair – was mowed off.
“Manny’s looking more and more like a man with each swipe of the clippers!” exclaimed Butch. Within minutes the puffy pompadour of hair Manny had so carefully cultivated lay in ruins on the cape and floor. I cleaned him up nice at tight at the nape and around the ears – some nice exaggerated arches for a final touch. My mission had been accomplished. It was quite a day.
I swiveled the chair around so that manly Manny could gaze at the new him. Butch looked on adoringly. After uncaping the shell-shocked bellhop, both new butched boys left the shop chattering and exploring each other’s velvety pate! They looked so sweet and innocent, reveling in their new closely clipped looks.
But half way across the lobby, I heard Manny give shout, “What, you’re NOT a model?!”
My stomach plunged….but only momentarily – the awkward silence was obliterated by gales of laughter as the two men left the hotel. “Well, you can still be my buddy, anyways.”