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Conversations, Dec 1978, Part 2 by Archon 2
Author's note: Please read part 1 of this story.
We pick up the conversation as Steve tells Dave about his trip to the barbershop, and how he got his "Stevie Crew”:
And for a moment I saw myself in the chair, ready to be transformed from a regular teenager with a few friends, into a recruit that would have plenty of buddies working together to help each other. But reality set in when I saw the faces of those twins, with tears in their eyes—I saw that I would soon be a teenaged kid with a clipper shave, and that you would finally have another clipper shaved buddy making it through the halls of our high school, being the subject of conversation for all of our classmates. Strange, isn't it? The hardest subject that we have to get through is why our dads shave our heads?”
"Yeah, it's a hard subject, with lots of questions to answer,” chuckled Dave as he answered Steve's rhetorical question anyway. Then with a tinge of regret in his voice, Dave continued "and what pisses me off is that I'm always failing that subject!”
"Well I failed from the start, actually,” began Steve, who continued "because when my dad told me I was getting an induction cut, I first tried to get him to take me to that barbershop that you went to for your boot cut, hoping that I would get off with just getting a boot cut. I mean, my dad really liked how you looked with it, and I thought that if I could go there, I might be able to convince him to let me get the boot cut instead…and, I really didn't want to run into any teens at a base barbershop who might still have an induction cut. Bad luck, of course, in that those twins were there to get their induction cuts.”
"HA, now you know how I always felt, getting really antsy if there was a soldier before me that was getting a high and tight or something like that” interjected Dave, who then felt bad for Steve. Dave continued "well, what I mean is, now you know how awful it is to either get a haircut forced upon you after your dad sees another kid with a short or shorter haircut that they think you would look good in. But at least you weren't the kid with the short haircut that made someone else's dad decide that they would get a short haircut.”
Reflecting for a while, Steve said in a dejected voice, "No, I was the one getting a haircut based upon getting bad grades, who just happened to be next after some twins got their heads shaved…and escaped by basically begging my dad not to make me get an induction cut and turn me into a kid who would have trouble being at school…it would stack the odds against me doing well at school. Or at least that's the argument that I used…I would be too busy trying to get the other kids to leave me alone so that I could study and get better grades.” Then looking off into the distance in deep thought, Steve concluded with "but I guess we really don't know that parents think, or the reasons why they do things to us, as he said ‘well maybe, you'll stay home and study more…anyway, this will make you remember that you need to get better grades.'”
Dave, who had been listening intently, replied with his usual "Wow,” and then followed with "now that you've said that Steve, I'm kind of glad that I'm the one that will hopefully get my dad to give me a ‘haircut deal' based on my terms, and not his. Wouldn't want to bet on a clipper shave each time report cards come out. And, I like your dad, but I have to say that it sucks what he's doing…it's like he knows how much teasing and bullying I put up with because of my short haircuts, and that's what he's using to make you get better grades—it's just like when fathers point at my haircut to make their son's behave. But you know what? I think that's a point in my favor when I talk to my dad…I'm tired of being pointed at for having a short haircut—and a reason for better behavior from their sons!” Then looking at his friend, Dave said pointedly "I know you don't like your haircut, but now I can say that after all this time you've actually helped me realize how I might be able to being the conversation with my dad: ‘Steve's father thought that giving him a short haircut like mine would be a good punishment, and I know you don't make me get short haircuts as punishment.' Might just do the trick.”
At hearing that, Steve's mood lifted somewhat, and he laughed, saying "Well, you can tell him how I nearly s**t in my pants—and the begging that I had to do—to escape a clipper shave, that might make him believe how crappy it is to make you son get a short haircut in these times.”
"So what happened?' asked Dave.
Steve shifted in his seat, a sort of nervous gesture not unlike the ones that he and Dave had always done when their turn in the barber's chair was fast approaching—a kind of nod to the inevitable outcome; he then proceeded "Well, just as the twins were being finished, I looked at my dad—you know, with that serious look that I've learned my lesson already—and asked him to have the barber give me anything but an induction cut. At that point I was going to beg him more, even if we weren't the only two there at the waiting area. You know, the twins' father had gotten up and went over to do that ritual of rubbing his sons' heads and telling them how great it feels…well, and to be men and stop crying, or else! So I tell my dad how much everyone hates their induction cuts, and that a boot cut would be short enough to teach me a lesson, and that it would actually look good on me. But—hey, I didn't want him to think I was trying to get off easy—that even though I want a boot cut more than an induction cut, I would still have to learn my lesson and get better grades, because I would still get a lot of teasing. He responds, ‘An induction cut would grow out about an inch until your next report card…giving you time to think about what will happen if you don't get better grades, and also some amount of hair that you wouldn't want to get all cut off again.' So I say, ‘Yes Sir, but something like a really short crew cut or boot cut would also make me learn my lesson, and it would be reinforced, because if you let me substitute something else besides an induction cut, I will pay for the next few haircuts till my next report card. That would teach me responsibility as well.' I kind of took a page out of your book,” concluded Steve, as he once again started to laugh.
"Oh yeah, you certainly did,” replied Dave. "So he went for it, I guess?”
"Not quite then,” responded Steve, who then added "but I was determined…and as I went to the barber's chair and was being caped, I kind of thought what the hell, I'll try crying, and then begging…”
Interjecting, Dave corrected Steve with "You mean you started to cry when you realized your head was going to get shaved.”
"Yeah, something like that. Damn, I don't know how you put up with it every two weeks…” Steve continued "the good news was that my dad was sort of there at the chair, and I asked him to maybe have the barber give me a butch or burr, and that I would ‘appreciate it' and work my butt off to get better grades. Then I guess my pleading worked, because my dad asked the barber to give me a really short crew cut—and to remind me that I almost got an induction cut, to basically taper the sides and back as short as possible.”
"I always felt sorry the barber, being in the middle of some of these punishment cuts,” reflected Dave. "I never put them on the spot with my haircuts…maybe I should have.”
"By the way, what do you tell them when you go in now for a haircut?” asked Steve, who then suggested, "do you tell them just ‘take it all off…again?'”
Dave, somewhat irritated now at Steve, retorted "yeah, that's right…in front of my dad I tell them to take it all off, or shave me bald. I'm past that, as I just tell them ‘short induction cut with an outline shave around the ears,' that takes care of it. Not sure what would happen if I just told them to ‘give me a trim.' I'm always worried that it won't look like I've gotten a haircut…but it's funny that even though during the two weeks my hair doesn't grow more than a quarter of an inch, it sure looks different when the barber is done. I mean, there's really just ‘hair dust' on the cape, yet I look bald again.”
Now subdued and introspective once more, Steve offered that when he goes to the barbershop again, he's just going to tell the barber to give him a trim, "unless, of course, my dad goes with me to make me get an induction cut….damn, the things I have to worry about now,” he added with some remorse at his situation.
"You'll get used to the haircut…and yeah, I'm sounding like a parent now, but at least I didn't use the ‘they're just jealous of your haircut',” said Dave, who then laughed as he noticed that Steve had continued to rub the back of his head, from the bottom to the top. Dave then added "actually, looks like you're used to it already!”
"Shut up!” responded Steve, while consciously stopping his head-rubbing—but then on reflection, he admitted that "yeah, it actually feels cool.” Then he continued with "well, like I said, it's this short because my dad was still at my chair when he told the barber to make sure the back and sides reminded me of an induction cut…so the barber tell him he's going to take the bulk of the hair on my sides and back down to half an inch, and then taper it down from there. So he snaps on whatever guard he used, and he proceeded from my left—or maybe right side, I don't remember—moving the clipper up from my sideburn, over the ears and up maybe about three-quarters of the way, then he turned my chair as he proceeded around my head. Damn, for a minute I thought I was going to end up with a high and tight haircut. But then he put on another blade, and then did the same thing, cutting the hair even shorter as he went up from my sideburns to about halfway up this time, turning the chair again as he went all the way around from side to back—then to the other side. Then it was time to ‘remind' me that I almost got an induction cut, so he tilts my head down—you know, chin to chest almost—and then I felt the clipper blade on bottom back of my neck, mowing its' way up a couple of inches, row after row till I felt that I had no hair at the bottom of my neck…and then I heard the barber ask my father if that was short enough—I was basically at this point too scared to move—so there I was with my head tilted down, as my dad was inspecting my haircut. Apparently it wasn't short enough, so my dad asked the barber to just cut the bottom back and sides as ‘short as he could,' and then blend it with the longer hair at the top into a nice taper.' That's when I really felt the blades, they were oh so close and warm and this point. When he finished the back and tilted my head back up, I was facing the mirror. And instead of turning the chair, the barber went from side to side with those clippers. When he finished one side and was moving towards the other, I saw how close I had been clipped.”
"Oh yeah,” said Dave suddenly, "I know how that goes. Did you notice how much ‘space' there was between your ears and your scalp? That's generally how I judge how short my hair is on the sides…I can tell by how much my ears seem to ‘stick out' from my head. Sometimes, though, I can see the stubble sticking out from my scalp as well…but most of the times, I can only tell by ‘the gap, as there's no hair sticking out.'”
Steve laughed at Dave's last statement, but nodded in agreement, "Yes, the gap between the ears. It wasn't that wide when I went in, but after the clippers took off my hair on the sides, I saw a huge gap, and couldn't see any stray hairs sticking out from my scalp. And when the barber was done on the other side, I looked to see if the gap was the same…and it was! Totally shaved sides! Then the barber took a whole lot of time to blend all of the transitions on the sides and back…at that point, I wanted to have a look, actually. But I had to wait as he cut the top down, working his way from the crown to the front. And then when he got to the front fringe I suddenly remembered that I wanted something like a boot cut, so I kind of shouted ‘let me keep my bangs so I can comb it into a quiff,' but my dad cut in and said ‘no quiff, cut if short like a crew cut.' So that's what the barber did, taking sections of the front up with his comb, and then using his scissors to cut the fringe off and tying it into the shorter hair behind it…so I ended up with this nice short Stevie Crew!”
Laughing, Dave responded with "there you go…and now you know what to ask for each time, a ‘Short Stevie Crew!”
"Maybe,” responded Steve, who added that "you know that afterwards, I kind of felt bad for the barber, as he was in the middle of all of this. I mean, yeah, there's always young boys who get their first haircut and cry, or cry every time till they're older. But a teenager arguing over their haircut with their father has to be an experience that they don't look forward to having. So as he was brushing me off, I didn't wait for him to ask me how I liked my haircut…”
"Do you think he would have, given the circumstances?” asked Dave, who then added "Or maybe the question is should a barber ask a teen who was given a punishment haircut ‘do you like it?'”
"Yeah, that would be like adding insult to injury,” agreed Steve. "But,” he continued, "I just said ‘thanks for the haircut, you did a good job,' then got up to leave with my dad. And then as we were leaving my dad thanks the barber, and says something like ‘I think you've taught him his lesson.' Of course, I wanted to run right out and hide, but I had to shopping with my dad right after. And on the way to and through the PX we had a little chat.”
"Wow, you had to run the gauntlet!” exclaimed Dave.
"Not to mention how cold my head was…such a new sensation, all the wind rushing around my head. I could feel it on my ears as well. And by that time I was rubbing my head, trying to figure out how short my hair really was…then I caught a glimpse of my dad noticing me rubbing my head, and I stopped; but no before he said that I ‘seem to like my haircut.'” Taking time to reflect, Steve then said after a bit, "And yeah, I kind of liked how it felt, but my new Stevie crew was a punishment, so I just said ‘well I wanted to figure out how short it was so I would know how much teasing I was going to get over it.'”
"Well you were worried…eh, are worried,” opined Dave.
"Yeah, I'm worried about Monday,” started Steve, who then dropped his voice to add "but I was really worried when he led me to the section of the PX where they had clippers and electric shavers on sale. He was looking them over and telling me that he didn't want to have to buy a set of clippers—or, if need be, and electric shaver, if ‘I knew what he meant.'”
At that statement, Dave was stunned, though he did manage to say "Wow, Steve. I never thought of your dad as being that kind…do you really think he'd shave your head bald, I mean really bald!?”
"I'm with you,” responded Steve, "This kind of threw me for a loop. Yeah, my dad always made me go to the barbershop, but for the past few years I've had nothing but basically regular haircuts. Now he's part of this insane whatever it is that's going around…fathers taking their sons to the barbershops. And not for the ‘regular' short kinds of haircuts like flattops, crew cuts and butches…but for ‘military' style haircuts! I don't understand it.”
"Steve, I think fathers have always taken their sons to the barbershop, at least some of the time. In the 50's and 60's, just like in ‘Leave it to Beaver,' the boys went on their own, usually, because it was the thing to do, no one had long hair. Though there was that episode where Wally's father called ahead to let the barber know what kind of haircut to give Wally, most of the boys conformed to the standards of the day. And now we're both outsiders because the standards have changed. Mostly it's that boys should be allowed to choose their own haircuts, not be dragged by their fathers to the barbershop, like some of us,” said Dave.
Dave was then reminded of his older brother (by 4 years) Mike, who had been the one who had first explained to Dave how awful it was to have to go to the barbershop for a short haircut. Mike was the one who had always complained—though not to their father—about how much teasing they would get at school. And though Mike had been right, it really didn't affect Dave much until they had moved from base to where they lived now, a city about 30 minutes away from the base. Mike, Dave and Matt had last been together at the barbershop about a year ago, when Mike and Dave actually had longer hair than Matt, their younger brother. Both older boys sported taper cuts, with Mike's being allowed to be fairly ‘long.' Matt had his medium crew cut. It was odd to see three bothers having different haircuts; but, this was in line with their father's rules of making sure each son had the best haircut appropriate for their ages. So it really wasn't a concession on their father's part that the two older boys had taper cuts; besides, the boot cut was coming for Dave…and Mike, well Mike went off to live with their grandparents on the island of Maui for his senior year, to help with their small farm. Mike had sent pictures home recently, which showed a tall and well-tanned young man with a short flattop. Well, it looked like a flattop in that the top was wide and flat—but the front wasn't brushed up like a flattop, and the sides and back were taken down really short. So to Dave—who knew his haircuts—described it more as a butch with flattop, and maybe a little tapering around the ears and back. Actually looked great on Mike, and perhaps that's what made their father decide Matt should get his hair cut into a flattop. And that was yet another reason why Dave thought that if his father didn't go for him choosing his own haircuts, maybe he could convince him to allow Dave to grow out his clipper shave into a flat top. If only…
Turning his attention back to the present, Dave told Steve "Remember I told you that Mike has a butch with flat top now? I think he actually chooses his haircuts, as I don't think my grandparents would make him get it, unless my father insisted that they do.”
"I miss Mike,” said Steve, and he meant it. Mike was a good friend to both Dave and Steve, along with Matt.
"Well he's living it up now on the islands! Man, I wish I was there with my grandparents. I mean, yeah, he has a short haircut, but I think he actually chooses what haircut he gets now. Wish I knew for sure, but thinking about how good he looks with his flat top, and the fact that I actually made excellent grades gives me some hope that I'll be able to talk to my father…I am certainly tired of being a baldie.”
Dave got the chance to talk to his father, sooner than he expected.
End of Part 2