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Conversations, Dec 1978 Part 3 by Archon 2
Note: As always, please read Parts 1 & 2 First.
Conversations, Dec 1978 Part 3
Dave and Steve stopped the conversation abruptly when they heard Dave's father calling to him from the gate into the back yard from the front, which was just around the corner.
"Back here, Dad,” answered Dave, who got up and looked towards the path from the front yard so that he could greet his father when he came back.
"Don't forget to salute,” Steve said as he also stood up, adding "I'll guess I'll see you soon, stop by afterwards if you can.” Steve left just as Dave's father came into view, and they said their goodbyes as they passed each other. Dave could see that his father had his report card in his hand, and most likely wanted to talk to Dave about it; the good news was the his father looked genuinely pleased, the bad news was that Dave wasn't ready to talk to his dad about a ‘haircut deal.”
As Dave's father came into the patio area he smiled at Dave, and uncharacteristically put his hand out to rub Dave's head…and seeking to set the tone for his upcoming conversation, Dave smiled and then said as his father finished "still short, like sandpaper!”
"Sure does,” replied his dad, who then took pulled one of the patio chairs directly opposite of another, and motioned Dave to have a seat. He then continued "You've been good about keeping up your induction cut,” suddenly stopping, he surprised Dave by then saying "or as you call it now, your clipper shaved baldie.”
By that time, Dave had sat down in the chair directly opposite his father, and he fidgeted in his seat when he heard his father use those terms that Dave thought he had never used in front of his father, or his younger brother Matt. Dave simply didn't want his father to think that Dave was complaining about his haircut by using such terms, so he sought to ‘clarify' what he meant.
"Clipper shave and baldie as just terms that I use with my friends and others, since that's what they refer to my haircuts as. ‘Induction cut' has too many military connections…even though it's the correct term, I suppose. I don't mean any disrespect by using them, Sir.”
"Relax,” Dave, replied his father. Looking at Dave for a bit, his father couldn't hide his pride at how good his son looked—at least to him—with his induction cut. Such a simple haircut; but, he knew Dave didn't really like it, and he knew Dave was looking to make a ‘haircut deal' with him. And, to tell the truth, his father was fine with Dave growing his hair out to something a little longer; but not as long as a taper cut again, though it was a perfectly decent haircut for boys and men. No, now that Dave was going to high school next year, it just seemed that the best haircut for his son was a ‘military' style haircut, which meant very short. After all, he did get many more compliments about Dave's ‘short' haircut from everyone. On the other hand, his father wanted to be fair to Dave, and Dave did get good grades.
"Induction cut or clipper shave…and I can see baldie,” Dave's father started with, as he looked at Dave, communicating with a knowing smile that he wasn't here to catch Dave up about how he referred to his haircut. He then continued, "And let's be honest, you really don't like the clipper shave. To tell you the truth, when you had the boot cut I thought that was the best haircut for you—and I really didn't have any plans to make you get—let alone keep—your induction cut. The opportunity just presented itself at the base fair. And though I like your induction cut now, and kind of want you to keep it, I know that no one else has one at your school. So I'm going to make it easy for you to talk about your ‘haircut deal' that I know you want, based upon your grades.”
"So how did you find out,” asked Dave of his father? "Was it Matt?”
His father smiled at Dave, and then leaned over to once again rub Dave's clipper-shaved head, while chuckling, responded with "Don't worry your nearly bald head over it…not important. Only that I know you want to make a ‘deal,' and I'm here to find out what kind of terms you're thinking of.” With that, his father leaned back to enjoy a laugh with Dave. That was exactly what Dave needed, his father's signal that a haircut deal just might be possible…and their sharing a moment as simple as his father rubbing his head.
"He dad,” began Dave with an earnestness in his voice, "was it a waste of time for me to get all these clipper shaves? I mean, if I hadn't offered to pay, and went by myself to get it cut again, would you have come to talk to me about a deal?”
Dave's father smiled when he heard the question, and then responded "Well, it kind of was, as I didn't have any ‘plan' other than just letting your hair grow out till you could get your boot cut again. And since I knew at that time that you were just trying to make a case for ‘liking' the clipper shave, thinking it would help you seem ‘grown up' or whatever about your haircuts, well I just let you get yourself clipper shaved. But now, I'm proud of you for keeping your word. And I also understand your need to—in some way—be in charge of how you look. So I'm open to doing the reverse of what Steve's dad did—yeah, I know about it as well—and let you ‘earn' a choice in your haircuts. Let's be clear, though…I really liked your boot cut, and as far as I'm concerned, for a young man your age, the best looking haircut for you is a very short ‘military' style.”
Dave's hopes were somewhat dashed by his father's last sentence, but he was still motivated to try to come to some agreement, especially since he himself had said that he knew that Steve's dad had imposed a punishment on Steve…and he was going to do the reverse. In time, he would be allowed to grow his hair out from…well, the ‘short military style' that his father was stuck on—that just had to happen. "So you know about Steve's dad…and I suppose you know there are some other kids my age whose haircuts are dependent upon grades. Ok, I know I wasn't one of those kids—I knew that you wanted me…err, all of your sons to have short haircuts. And for the most part, I'm ok with going to the barbershop and not being allowed to have long hair.” Then Dave broke off, but reestablished eye contact with his father, because he meant this part that he continued with, "I'm mostly ok with not being allowed to have long hair, because to tell you the truth, I've never had long hair, and I don't know if I would like to have long hair or not. I did like the boot cut, or at least I like having some hair to comb, something that made it stand out. So before we talk about a ‘deal' based on my grades, I want you to know that yes, my goal is to get you to allow me to choose my own haircut—but, it's not to eventually have long hair.”
Dave's father face beamed with pride at the moment he heard that from his son; yes, he was proud of Dave for many things, but now he could be proud that his son—at least at this moment—understood his stand that long hair is not for his sons—and just maybe Dave agreed that long hair was atrocious. On an equal level, he was glad that he would probably not have to have any more confrontations with Dave, no more ‘this is such a silly argument, I should be allowed to wear my hair any way I want to,' or the ‘everyone else has long hair!' Until this point, he never realized how much it affected Dave, about his insistence that his sons had short haircuts. To him, it was just natural. When he was growing up on Maui, his father—who was not in the armed forces—and his mother always made sure he and his two brothers went to the barbershop every 2 weeks. Well, he usually had a regular crew cut, and the ‘summer' haircut given by his father, but no ‘military' cut worn all the time like Dave. Perhaps if his father had seen more soldiers, young men who wore extra-short haircuts that made them look clean and neat…well, he wasn't a bad person for making sure his sons looked clean-cut and neat…”Ok,” he replied to Dave, "I'm listening. What do you propose?”
Dave, still unsettled because of his father's unexpected openness, took some time to gather his thoughts, before he said "Well, Dad, you have my report card in your hands now…and as you can see, I received four A's and two B's, which is a lot better than usual. I wanted to show that I was really trying before I asked you to consider…well, allowing me to choose my own haircuts from now on, based on me getting good grades. Um, actually, getting better grades than I usually get. Maybe even, say, if I get straight A's—something that I have never been able to do—I get to choose my own haircuts for a whole year, unless I get anything less than a C grade on any report card during that year. I have to admit, I was hoping to think more about it before I came to you, so I'm kind of unprepared. But I'd like your thoughts, dad.”
Dave's father had actually thought about a ‘haircut deal' with Dave since the base fair, where Dave had been given his first ‘induction cut,' and he had the benefit of thinking about it as well. But whereas Dave seemed to be hung up on particulars and trying to find a way to rationalize some mechanism or reason for his father to make a deal with him, his father's stand was really quite simple at this point, and he informed Dave that "as far as I am concerned—and your mother as well—is that we'd like for you to always strive to get good grades, without any incentive like being allowed to choose your own haircuts. So my thinking is that since we—your mother and I—want you to continue to keep looking sharp and clean cut, as well as earning excellent grades, I'm going to offer this: From this moment, you can decide on your own haircuts—but nothing longer than a short regular boy's tapered cut like you used to have before you got the boot cut. But you have to go regularly to the barbershop—no growing your hair out long between each haircut, and I'll pay. For myself, I would like you to consider going back to your boot cut, I really liked how sharp that made you look, and it would be a great example for Matt. But, since you're most likely to let your hair grow out longer, I like the ‘punishment' angle of a haircut deal, which I am including. That means that if on any report card you get a C grade or lower, I decide on your haircuts till the next report card.” Dave's father then looked at Dave intently and put out his hand as he asked, "Do we have a deal?”
Now excited, Dave asked with enthusiasm as he shook his father's hand "You mean from this moment? I can choose my own haircuts?”
"Yes, that's what I said. But remember, next week you're going to the barbershop with Matt.”
Dave thought about it for a bit, then asked "if I don't want another clipper shave…um, sorry, induction cut, what should I ask the barber to do? Do I really have to go…can't you let me slide for a bit, until perhaps my top gets long enough to do a short flat top, or perhaps even longer to do a quiff so I can have the boot cut again?”
"No, no ‘sliding,' as I want you to continue to keep a schedule of going to the barbershop—that's part of you being disciplined. So it's every two weeks to the barbershop.”
"Ok,” replied Dave, "I understand. And Sir, I meant it, I'm not trying to somehow end up with long hair; like you said, nothing longer than a short taper cut for now. In fact, at the beginning I was going to ask you to let me have a haircut like Mike's, you know, in the photos he just sent. A short tapered butch cut with flat top…and I guess I had better confess that I chose a flat top haircut because I thought that since you just had Matt get one, and Mike had one now, that it would be easy for me to persuade you to let me have the flat top—and yeah, let it grow out from there, but not long!”
Dave's father chuckled a bit, then responded, "Well Dave, it seems you put a lot of thought into this plan of yours. You know, I guess when I was your age everyone had a short haircut, but that didn't mean I liked getting my hair cut. In fact, there were times when I told my dad I didn't want to get a haircut. I never told you this, but each summer your grandfather used an old pair of hand clippers on me and your uncles. Back then, fathers used to give their sons haircuts once and a while. Wish I had a picture of the haircuts he gave us”
"Hand clippers?” asked Dave, suddenly intrigued.
"Yes, they're just like little mowers that can basically shave your head. It doesn't hum, but they make a noise kind of like scissors when the barber—or father—starts to cut the hair. You can't force them through the hair, as the speed is limited by how fast you can squeeze the handles, and if the blades are not sharp, it tends to pull at the hair. So there we were, three of us at the start of summer in the barn. He just had us take our shirts off and lean over a trash can as he used the hand clippers on us. Seemed to take forever, as he moved the clippers over our heads a couple of times. You felt them on your scalp—they were always so cold to me—and then as each of us were finished went to the hose and washed our heads off. Then when my dad was done we would clean up, then the three of us would head to the bathroom and look at our bald heads! Since we were on the farm and didn't see many of our friends for the summer, we were alright with our haircuts. And then generally your grandfather shaved us through most of the summer; and then when the last month of summer came he let us start growing our hair out. One summer, though, we made the mistake of complaining that we didn't want him to shave our heads for the summer. I guess it really made your grandfather angry, because he took us to the barbershop, and had the barber shave us bald…with a straight razor even!
Clearly intrigued, Dave blurted out "You were shaved…bald!”
"Yes, since we didn't want him to ‘shave us bald' one summer he had the barber do it,” responded Dave's father as he laughed. "That taught us to not complain, and to be careful of how we say things. Boy did I really hate that summer, even though it was kind of fun being bald—actually. Well, it wasn't fun when my dad packed us into the truck, as he had already gave us all the switch—boy was it hard to sit down on the ride to the barbershop, much less not fidget when we were each in the chair. But your grandfather had threatened us with another whipping if any of us got out of line. I felt sorry for the barber, actually, because I think he knew when he saw up shuffling in and tentatively sit down in the waiting area that he was going to be asked to discipline us with a severe haircut. We thought we were just going to get shaved really close, not actually shaved bald. So imagine how we all felt when your grandfather told the barber to shave us all bald!”
Dave interrupted at this moment, saying that "Wow, dad, you never told me that you used to complain about getting your haircut…or that gramps shaved you all bald. For that matter, I never knew you had ‘summer haircuts.' I'm glad you never got so angry with me that you had me shaved bald, or to give me the switch…man that would have been pretty awful.” Reflecting on what he said, Dave then asked, "So you know how I feel about having to get these really short haircuts…with so many others having long hair.”
Laughing a little, Dave's father replied, "Well, sons always complain about going to the barbershop, no matter what haircut they get, or have to get. So with you and your brothers, I allowed a certain amount of complaining since I did it myself, and I understood what you were feeling. But, it seems to me that you never understood—until now it seems—that I felt it was my job to make sure that you had a haircut that I liked and thought looked the best on you. And that meant all the time, so there were no ‘summer haircuts' or any time when you didn't go to the barbershop. Yes, that meant that besides the regular taper cuts there would also be flat tops, crew cuts and butches, along with the boot cut. Not because I thought having you wear a very short or even ‘military' haircut was a punishment. I still think the boot cut is the best haircut for you; but, I'm willing to give you a chance to prove you can keep this deal.”
Absently rubbing his head, Dave then asked his father "Was there ever a time when you really considered shaving me bald? I mean, I think you mentioned it once or twice when I used to complain to you…but was there really a chance? It would have been so bad for me to have you drag me into the barbershop and have the barber actually shave me bald. I don't know how you and Uncle Rob and Uncle Mark made it through that day.”
With a big grin on his face, Dave's father continued his story "Well, remember that the barber knew us well, and your grandfather, of course. And he wasn't that shy about cutting boy's hair short; at that time there were a few boys around that area that had their heads shaved in the summer—well, not bald, but a few. And we were going to be next. The good thing is that we were the only ones in the barbershop. So there were two chairs—but only one barber, can't remember his name. But your Uncle Rob was first. I remember him being told to get up to the chair, and not to give the barber any trouble. So he just sat there with a defiant look on his face as the barber used the bare clippers on his head, going over and over it taking his hair down as short as possible. And then he rubbed some oil onto his head and then wrapped a hot towel around it and told to sit still and not move. Can you imagine your Uncle Rob sitting in the barber chair with a towel wrapped around his head? Then your Uncle Mark was called to the empty chair, and his head was shaved down with the clippers. He looked shocked, just like your Uncle Rob in the other chair…I'm not sure what kind of expression was on my face, but I remember your grandfather saying something to me like ‘bet you're all wishing that you didn't bring this upon yourselves by complaining,' and then he said loudly, to all of us ‘make sure you watch each other getting their heads shaved, as you might have to do it yourselves from now on,' so who knows, I may have been sitting there in shock from the scene and what your grandfather said. Then just like your Uncle Rob, the barber rubbed some oil onto your Uncle Mark's head and then wrapped the towel around it. The barber then went back to your Uncle Rob, took the towel off and then lathered up his head. The barber told him to ‘make sure you keep your head still in whatever position I put it in, and that he'll feel the blade scraping over his head.' Well, you should have seen your Uncle Rob's face when he heard that! Your Uncle Mark's eyes were wide in the chair as well. It was a horrible scene now that I think about it. Two teens, one with a towel wrapped around his head and the other with shaving cream all over his head, and both of them with their capes lightly covered with whatever short hair they came in with—I mean, usually there is some twitching and movement so that a lot of the hair falls off the cape, but not this time. No talking, no movement from those two!”
"Geez,” interjected Dave. Uncle Mark and Uncle Rob…wow.”
"Yes, they were quite a site” continued Dave's father, "And that was the first time I saw anyone's head being shaved. Back then, or when you use a straight razor, it's not like the safety razors we have now. You have to scrape the hair off the scalp a little bit at a time—no broad long strokes. Just carefully scraping off the hair, and inch or maybe less each time. After shaving the top of your Uncle Rob's head, I remember the barber going to your Uncle Mark and taking the towel off and rubbing a little more oil on his head, and the re-wrapping it with the towel. The barber said something like ‘nice and soft soon, boy will it be smooth when I'm done!' When I heard that, it dawned on me that I shouldn't have felt bad for the barber, having to shave our heads, as I think he was enjoying it. Then he goes back to your Uncle Rob and starts at the sides. I think he was working with your grandfather, as he told your Uncle Rob to ‘hold still or your ears might come off.' Well, when we heard that, well, I think we all held our breath…but no ears were cut off, and when the barber was done with your Uncle Rob he covered his head again with another towel and worked on your Uncle Mark. Basically they were lathered up twice. And when Rob was done the barber told my father that he was going to rub some kind of oil to make it ‘shine,' and whatever it was it did the trick! So your Uncle Rob was told to have a seat, and I was called up. Your Uncle Mark's head had been shaved once already, and he was still under another towel. So the barber took the clippers to my head and shaved me down and then wrapped my head with a towel after he rubbed some kind of smelly oil onto my head. As the barber did that, I could feel his hand going over my head, but I couldn't hear the hair being ‘rubbed,' so I knew that it was pretty short already. And then the towel was wrapped around my head, and I knew that the point of no return had come. Then the barber goes to shave your Uncle Mark's head for the second time, and he also gets a shine, then goes to sit. So now I'm the only one in the chair, and I see my two bald brothers with their shiny white heads sitting down and crying. I didn't want another whipping, so I really had to hold in the tears when the barber started to lather up my head. Then as I felt—and heard---the razor shaving my head, I had to hold in my fear of my head being nicked, as well as my ears being possibly cut off! After what seemed like forever, I was done…then as my head was shined I joined your uncles as my father thanked the barber and paid him. What was really bad at that time was that your grandfather told the barber that our bald heads were our punishments for complaining, and what a great job he did. We had to thank him as well, then we went home to do our chores. That whole day and for the rest of the week we were scared to even say anything. But we didn't have to shave our heads bald, and for the rest of the summer we just had our regular summer cuts. I think it was because your grandmother didn't like the idea of her sons being bald, actually…and she had your grandfather apologize after a while—and he was sincere. But we learned our lesson. And I think that's one of the reasons why I never thought to punish you or your brothers with a bald head or other haircut.” Breaking off from his story, Dave's father thought for a little while, and then stated in a grave voice, "and that's why I don't like the idea of you not getting good grades, and then me having to punish you with a haircut that you don't want. I don't want you to put me in the position of having to do so because I agreed to your deal. Believe me, I don't want to be disappointed with you.”
Dave, now somewhat uneasy, nonetheless reminded his father that he was going to do his best to get excellent grades, and that if…just if Dave got a C or lower, his father could still choose to give him a break and not make him get a short haircut. Any grade of C or lower would just mean that Dave could no longer choose his own haircut…which basically meant that if his hair reached the maximum length of a short taper cut, his father could order him to get an induction cut or anything in-between. "And,” Dave added, "Remember that I really like the idea of having a short butch with a flat top, like Mike; and if Matt still has his flat top all three of your sons will be flat topped. So I just might have a short enough haircut anyway to get away with any grade.”
Both Dave and his father laughed at that last statement. Feeling very proud of his son, Dave's father then added, "Tell you what, if on any report card you get straight A's, I'll get whatever haircut you want me to get!”
"Maybe we'll all get flat tops!” exclaimed Dave, as they both went inside.
End of Story.
Author's Note: We'll continue this series just before Dave's Freshman Year in High School. The Haircut Deal, for the most part, went well for Dave during 8th grade and summer. But events always conspired (it seems) against Dave, and his last report card for the 8th grade broke the deal…the consequences were not felt, however, until his older brother Mike came home from Marine Boot Camp…