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The day I grew up by Thebarbered1
This is a true story. It was probably the day I "grew up”. I think I matured a lot that day, it taught me something, and thinking about it now, makes me quite happy. I must point out that although everything else is true and did happen, John is not his real name (I decided to change that for this story). Also, during the haircut, I don't know what number guard the barber used that day either, but thinking back now, it was probably either a 3 or a 2: ……………..
As a youngster, 12 years old or so, I lived with my mom and brother. My father had left when we were both quite young. My mom had always been quite relaxed about our hair, provided it wasn't ridiculously long and unkempt. We had it just over our ears and just on the collar at the back.
Life went on fairly peacefully, until suddenly, a new man came into my mom's life. His name was John. They seemed to get on well, and it wasn't long before he moved in with us. Although quite strict about manners, and insisting we call him sir, he was generally OK with my brother and I. There was one thing however that did strike a bit of a raw nerve between us. He was a stickler for short tidy hair. Although ours wasn't any longer than most other boys of our age, he often made comments to my brother and I about, what he called, our untidily long hair. These occasionally turning into minor arguments. My mom generally kept out of these, except for occasionally saying to "just leave it” – She just wanted the peaceful life..
One day, John pointed at me and said we're going into town. He didn't say why, and it never occurred to me at the time what he had planned. Once in town, he parked the car up, and the next thing, I found us standing outside the barber shop. "Right. In there, now!” he demanded. "But mom has said….” I started to say, but he interrupted with "That doesn't matter, if you're living under the same roof as me, you're going to have a proper haircut and look tidy”. We argued for a few minutes, but he wasn't going to relent. I didn't want to be the cause of a big rift between him and my mom, so finally, when he demanded in a very sharp voice "Get in there now!”, I slowly walked in, with him following behind me. There were three chairs in there, with three barbers cutting hair. As we entered, they all looked up at the same time, saying hello – one continuing "we won't be long and we'll be with you”. As we sat down in the waiting area, John said to me to behave myself and do as I was told. "Yh” I despondently replied. "Yes what?” he retorted. "Yes sir”, I answered.
After a few minutes, the chair on the right, next to the front window , became free and as the barber stood next to it, I hesitated for a moment. John looked at me and said "Well?” and pointed to the chair. I slowly got up, walked over and sat down. John also got up and came over, and stood in front of me. The next thing I knew, I was being covered in this dark blue cape, the neck tissue was being snuggly fitted around my neck, and the cape snapped closed at the back.
"What will it be then?”, the barber then asked enthusiastically. I was about to say just to tidy it up a bit, and not to take too much off , but before I could say anything, John broke in, and said "It's about time this lad had a proper haircut . A short back and sides I think, nice and tidy around the ears - and the back, I want neatly squared off”. He then said "oh, and can you trim his sideburns up neatly” - "About here”, he then said, pointing to about three quarters up to the top of my ear. He could see I looked horrified and said to me "No, it's about time you started looking smart”.
The barber looked at me and smiled. He said "Don't worry lad. We'll soon have you looking really good”, and then tilted my head forward. I pushed it back up again. John looked at me rather annoyed and said sharply "Are you going to behave and keep still?”. "Yes sir”, I replied, and I tilted my head forward again. The barber picked up his clippers and snapped on the guard. I felt him run them up the back of my neck. Taking a few minutes or so, he continued all around, before going up the sides. Then after finishing that and taking the guard off again, he pressed them against the back of my neck, creating what I imagine was a straight line right across. He then went back to the sides, and each in turn, and seeming to take his time, trimmed neatly around my ears and then down towards the back. As I looked in the mirror, I could only see myself from the front of course, and I'd never seen myself like this before. John was watching on and smiling approvingly. At that moment, I really hated him.
The barber at this point, then turned the clippers off and picked up his scissors. Then, holding a bit of my hair between his fingers, said to John "That much off about right?”. John said yes, and he started cutting the hair on top, taking it down to about an inch or so. As he cut my fringe away, the hair fell down on to my face, which he brushed away. Then the clippers came on again, and he started the final tidy up – including the sideburns. When he had finished that, he brushed me off all around, turned to John and asked him how it was looking. "Oh, Much better” John said, the barber replied "I'll just clean him up a bit then”.
At this point, I thought he'd finished, but he tilted my head forward once again, picked up a container and a shaving brush, and started to lather up the back of my neck. When he'd done that, he said to John "I've just got to leave you for a moment” , and left us, going out to the back of the shop. With the sound of the other barbers' clippers buzzing away in the background, and with my neck still lathered up. John looked at me. "You don't have to go round looking untidy you know?” he said in what seemed to be a calmer voice, in an effort I think to try and bring me round. "Yes sir, I know” I replied in a similar calm manner.
After a couple of moments, the barber returned with a straight razor in his hand. He cleaned up the back of my neck, then got a towel and wiped off the excess lather that was left, and then brushed me down again. He unsnapped the back of the cape, but before removing it or the tissue, looked at John and asked him how I looked. "He looks much better doesn't he?” he answered.
He was about remove the cape, but John suddenly said to him "He's been really good actually, really compliant. Let him have a look” The barber picked up the hand mirror and held it up. It allowed me see the back of my head in its reflection. I could see my hair was much shorter and that there was indeed, a straight line across. "There,” he said, "don't you think that looks better?” . Deciding I'd better be polite, but at the same time, actually, beginning to think myself, it was alright, I replied "Yes sir”, before turning to the barber and saying "Thank you for doing that for me. It looks very nice”. The barber smiled, and said appreciatively "It's a pleasure young man”. John was smiling.
After he paid, and as we left the shop, the first thing I noticed was the breeze around my neck and around my ears. Outside, he stopped and turned to me and said "Do you know what? I'm really proud of you, you know. I know that wasn't easy for you at all, and that you were really upset about it. You conducted yourself really well though”. "Thank you sir” I replied. "Hey, let's go and get something to eat and drink shall we?”. "Yes please!” I said, and we went to a nearby café and then enjoyed the rest of the afternoon.
On getting home later, my mom looked a bit shocked when she saw me and I think was about to ask John why he'd made me have it cut like that. As John had done to me in the barbers, I broke in however and said "It's OK mom, I'm alright”. John looked at me, and then turning to her said "Do you know what, he's been absolutely amazing. He's really grown up today” .
After that, I ended up going back to that barbers every 4 or 5 weeks or so, frequently having the same barber. I didn't find going back there daunting any more, and there was no more slowly getting up, walking over and sitting down. In fact, I found going there enjoyable, and also quite relaxing.
I think probably, that trip to the barbers has shaped the way I've had my hair since, and as I said earlier, maybe it was the day I "grew up”.