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Conversations, September 1979 Pt 1 by Archon 2
Note: Please read all "Conversations" first.
He was only slightly winded during this morning jog, but that was because his older brother didn't push the pace, and he was in pretty good shape as well. Rather, his brother Mike—who was after all 4 years older and a well-conditioned Marine now—was content to basically run along with him. And they didn't talk much during the run throughout his neighborhood, so that saved him some energy as well.
It was a chilly but clear Monday morning, and it was still chilly to him even though he had been jogging for some forty five minutes already, and the temperature did not get warmer with the rising of the sun behind them as they made their way back to their house. Or rather, it was just his house now, as his older brother had an apartment near the military base that their family had lived in for a couple of years before moving to the city just about 30 minutes away in 1974. Mike had recently been sent to study at the DLI, and that gave him time to come to his old home often. In fact, Mike had stayed the night at his old house so that he could get Dave used to his routine of getting up early for a jog, before heading off to school; Mike to his classes, and Dave to high school, where he had just started his freshman year last week. Their father had thought that Mike could help Dave become more disciplined, especially with his homework. While Dave was actually a good student, his last report card from the 8th grade had two C grades, which was usually unacceptable at any time. However, two C's were even more unacceptable at this time, as Dave and his father had made a ‘haircut deal' which called for a decision from his father based on those two C's.
‘Haircut deal,' Mike had laughed when his father had told him about it. While Mike as no stranger to short haircuts now, he was also subjected to short haircuts growing up while many around him had ‘feathered' hair, usually on the longer side. There were some with regular boys' cuts, but like his two brothers Dave and Matt, their crewcuts, flattops and butches stood out. And Mike, to some extent, felt partly responsible for Dave's obsession about wanting to decide on his own haircut. After all, it was Mike who used to complain and tell Dave about how much teasing they would get when they got to school—he remembered Dave not completely understanding what the problem was when he was young, and then how he used to complain to Mike about his haircuts when he was older, and had been teased a whole bunch. But there was something a little different in Mike's case, which started at Jr. High, 7th grade. Maybe it was his friends didn't care or say anything about his haircuts, or that Mike was one of those kids that others looked up to. And yeah, Mike perhaps didn't get to choose his haircuts…or maybe it was that he honored his father's wishes, or even didn't care—as he certainly didn't complain at all, and he was seen in front of the mirror using a comb when he had enough to comb, or one of those curious plastic ‘butch brushes' that fit in your palm and had short spiky teeth all over it. So Mike didn't let his short haircuts define him from the 7th grade, which was funny, as his frequent high and tight flattops defined him as a Marine now, and he was proud of that image and worked hard to maintain it. But back then, when he got to High School, his short haircuts were a non-issue. Sure, he still asked his dad every now and then to let him grow it out, and when he was asked by his grandparents to come for his last two years of high school he thought he would finally be free to be a long-haired surfer boy on Maui. Imagine his surprise when he found out his grandparents were also short-hair believers. Funny, it really didn't matter when he found out he was still expected to get his haircut every two weeks at the barbershop. Maybe it was because he could get away with a long taper cut, or possibly it was because he thought a short crewcut or flattop was the best for a ‘farm boy' who also surfed. The fact was that the pictures he sent home where he had a short butch cut with a flat top were a reflection of who he was…just a regular teen who like his short haircuts. Too bad his brother Dave was still stuck in his obsession to get to wear his hair any way he wanted to, and now this business of a haircut deal with their father.
Mike thought again about his discussion with his father, and how he had said that "yes, I know what a haircut deal is. I heard about it from some other kids, how the length of their haircuts were determined by their grades. And I also know about punishment haircuts, Dave and I knew a couple of kids who got their heads shaved. So what kind of deal did you make with Dave?” So then his father explained that since he was so proud of Dave's commitment—and how he had paid for his induction cuts last year—he made a deal with Dave that he could choose his own haircuts, and let his hair grow out to no longer than a short taper cut; but, if he receives any grade lower than a C in any subject, then he would lose his privilege of choosing. "And then I would choose his haircut,” said his father in a forceful voice. The deal was struck last year, in December.
Turing his attention back to his jog and Dave, Mike told Dave "when we get home let's talk a bit about this ‘haircut deal' you made with Dad.”
"Ok, cool,” replied Dave, as he picked up his pace a bit so that he was a step ahead of Mike.
However, with that prompt from Mike, Dave thought back to when he made his haircut deal with his father, last December. He remembered that very moment, when he was committed to not getting any C's; although his father hadn't specified what haircut he would get if he did get a C grade, he wasn't going to risk getting clipper-shaved again. Or shaved bald for that matter; after all, now that he made the deal with his father, it showed how much leverage his father had over him because of his haircuts. But Dave had even joked that perhaps his hair would still be shorter than what was required, as he mentioned the current flattop trend with his two brothers; Mike with his short tapered butch with a flat top, and Matt's skin tapered slightly beveled short boxy flattop…yes, just maybe Dave would be happy with some kind of short flat top. And if he was honest with his father, he would have to admit that he actually like how flattops looked on him and others…and the high and tight flat top that Mike was wearing…outstanding! But first things first, he had to somehow let his hair grow out long enough so that he could have a flattop. Sounds easy, but one condition of the haircut deal was that Dave was to go to the barbershop regularly, with Matt in fact, every two weeks—no growing his hair out and skipping haircuts. So with his still short induction cut, Dave walked into the barbershop with his brother and father one week later for his first ‘official' haircut that he chose!
As Dave got into the barber chair, his father had made it official as the barber was draping him with the cape "He'll let you know how to cut his hair,” came out of his father's mouth…a phrase that Dave had been waiting to hear for so long. To Dave, it was a signal that he was finally going to be in charge. Well sure, he was just in this barbershop a day before Thanksgiving by himself, telling the barber to give him another induction cut all by himself. But to hear his father say that! He couldn't savor it for very long, however, as the barber replied "Well, looks like the only thing to do is snap on a shorter blade and shave him down again!”
But Dave was prepared…well, at least he was prepared to tell the barber how to cut his hair. He had to recover first—and quickly—so that he didn't end up with yet another clipper shave, by telling the barber that "I'm going to let my hair grow out into a short flat top, but in the meantime I want to look neat , still have that ‘clean-cut military look,' so would you please taper the sides and back to the skin like a medium regulation haircut, and make sure the longer hair on top is blended into the sides…maybe cut the top back a little to blend into the short hair—but, leave the front top long.” Dave had even instructed the barber to turn his chair to face the mirror so that ‘he could make sure the haircut was being done how he wanted it.” And then he remembered how proud he was of himself, and the elated feeling when the barber did what he asked, and Dave was watching the barber go to work. And sensing that Dave wanted to know every detail, the barber snapped on a "triple zero blade so that the lower sides and back will be skinned,” the barber started on one side, ran the blade up from just below his hear to halfway up the head, and then stopped so that he could turn the chair around so that Dave could see the side…and boy did he see the white strip of scalp exposed, such a contrast to the stubble that was over most of his head. It was that strange moment when you realized that even though your hair was short to begin with, it could be a whole lot shorter when it was ‘skinned to the bone' again. "That's perfect” Dave had said, reminding the barber not go any higher. Then Dave watched as the barber took his clippers and started at the bottom, working his way up to that ‘medium reg' line that Dave had established. Didn't take that long before the barber was blending in the sides, and using his comb with bar clippers to cut the crown area oh so slightly so that it blending into the sides and the rest of the top, just like a crew cut. Dave then heard the barber ask "how about a shaved part, to make your haircut really stand out?” Dave smiled when he heard that question, as he had already decided that he was going to ask for one. "Yes, please” he replied to the barber, then watched as the barber carefully cut a part into his hair on the left side. His second haircut was almost the same, though he asked for basically a ‘low regulation' haircut. Getting that second haircut was magical for him, as he went home and stood in front of the mirror for the longest time trying to coax his front hair—which was now a little more than half an inch long—to lay over to the right, thinking that he finally had enough length to comb it over. Well, it didn't work too well, but there was a suggestion there of his hair being combed to the right, and each day that he was in front of the mirror he just willed it to stay in place. And then he remember his third haircut—three times the charm—where he told the barber to just taper the sides and back and leave the rest of it ‘full' as he wanted to look like he had a crew cut. After that third haircut, he maybe could have had a flat top two weeks later, but he had become too attached to the idea of having some hair in the front to comb over, so by April he had grown his hair out into a short tapered cut. Well, not too short, but not too long—for him, it was just right. What marred his accomplishment—just a little—was his father's orders to make sure he kept his hair immaculately combed at all times. Well, in actuality, Dave loved to comb his hair, so that wasn't a problem. What became a problem was that Dave didn't do well with his schoolwork during the last quarter of 8th grade. Not because he spent too much time in front of the mirror, but because he was having too much fun just being a teenager that sort of fit in now because he didn't have a really short haircut. Spanish and Algebra, these two classes were his downfall.
"So how does this affect our deal about your haircuts,” his father had asked. Dave had remembered that question, and it still seemed to him that it felt like his father was looking down at Dave, who was sitting already caped in a barber chair with a barber already beside him wielding a huge set of clippers. He had responded "Well Sir, remember that this just means that I don't get to decide on my haircuts now, we never said that I would have to go back to getting an induction cut, or any other kind of short military haircut. You could let me try to make it up…you know, maybe don't decide until the next report card.”
His father had then pointed out that "Your next report card isn't till the first quarter of 9th grade…so it's after the summer and then a few months into the new school year.” Then Dave, perhaps emboldened by his recent success with growing out his hair, joked that, "well you used to get ‘summer haircuts,' and now that it's summer maybe you can teach me a lesson by shaving my head with a pair of hand clippers…but only for the summer, that should be enough to teach me a lesson!” This did not go over well with his father, who had responded that "Well a deal is a deal, and there has to be consequences if it's broken. Too bad, as I was OK with your taper cut; in fact, I thought it looked great on you, and I was glad that you kept it combed so well. But, I also like how you looked with your short military style haircuts. I'm not saying this to be mean, but until you told me that I was going to let you continue to choose your own haircuts till your next report card. Unfortunately, it's a short flattop like Matt's, for now. Maybe a clipper shave later.” Well, that was a couple of months ago, and he still had the short flattop when he started high school last week. Then just two days ago, Saturday, his brother had taken him to the barbershop…and…
Suddenly Mike, seeing Dave in deep reflection, reached over in Dave's direction and snatched the beanie that he was wearing off of his head and sprinted forward quickly, daring him to try and get it back, reminding Dave of his classmates and others who made fun of his haircuts. But he caught himself and didn't take the bait from his older brother…no, he wasn't going to act like his "old self,” who would have immediately tried to get his beanie (or whatever he wearing over his head) back from whoever was making fun of his haircut.
"Hey, it's freezing” Dave called out to Mike.
"I'm not wearing anything...so you don't need it” his brother shot back at him, and then continuing with "or perhaps you don't want anyone to see you with your new haircut?”
"You saw me Saturday with you guys, after we got out of the barbershop, I didn't hide my haircut then” he responded. Why was his brother testing him?
"Well, you were at the DLI, and then there were five of us all with short military haircuts walking around later…so you fit right in and didn't have anything to worry about.”
His brother then slowed the pace as they turned to their street and then signaled to him that they should walk the rest of the way.
"Hey Mike, can I have my beanie back” he asked his brother; who answered, "yes, sure…” and then deftly pretended to give his brother his beanie back, but instead of getting his beanie back he was subjected to a head rub which brought about his all-too-familiar reaction of twisting quickly away, though he caught himself before he shouted out the usual "stop making fun of my haircut.”
But, it was too late, and his brother reacted quickly by putting his brother into a headlock and giving head a ferocious head rub, and then let him go.
"What was that for” he asked Mike.
"Your head was cold, so I decided to warm it for you” Mike replied as he gave back the beanie.
"Wow, I never heard that one before…thanks I guess” he said sarcastically to Mike.
"What's up with the reaction” asked Mike, "I thought we talked about this when I took you to get your haircut…”
Dave cut in with "Yeah I know, I have to be comfortable with my haircut, if others see that I get embarrassed they'll keep making fun of me…I know Mike. You just caught me off guard. Remember, I was comfortable enough Saturday, and didn't mind you or your buds rubbing my head after I got it cut.”
"Well, like I said earlier, all of us had military haircuts; and they weren't making fun of you at the barbershop.” Mike then turned to him and asked in a serious voice, "I don't want you to be anything other than look confident with your haircut, and like we discussed, you are NOT to take your beanie to school today, or anything else to cover your head.”
"Alright already…geez, I know” he replied, then both fell silent. As they were nearing his house—their house—he felt bad about his little outburst that came when Mike rubbed his head, and he wanted to kick himself because he was sure Mike knew he wasn't being quite truthful. He remembered the weekend, how it started on Saturday when Mike came by and surprised him by telling him they were going to spend the day together with some of his Marine buddies, and that Mike was taking him for a haircut at the DLI barbershop.
Yes, his older brother Mike had taken him—Dave—to the DLI barbershop. The Defense Language Institute is where Mike had been sent to learn Arabic, which was convenient for him as his family lived only 30 minutes away. Dave had never been to the DLI, and for that matter, had never ‘hung out' with Marines before. But there they were, his brother and three of his buddies along with Dave, marching into the barbershop. Dave actually had the longest hair, with his crew cut that was last cut two weeks ago. The Marines that were with him had their high and tight flattops that had one week of growth…so they looked short, at least to Dave.
"Hey Mike, who's the new recruit with you?” they suddenly heard Steve call out as they passed his house.
"Ha ha,” he said to his their friend, as both he and Dave stopped as Steve approached them. "Looks like you got clipped as well” he said to Steve, who was sporting a freshly cut skin tapered crew cut, a ‘Stevie Crew' haircut that his father made him get last year when he received bad grades on a report card.
"Yeah, got it Saturday at the base barbershop—and boy I'm glad that most of the focus will be on you today with your haircut” replied Steve. "Last time Mike was here your dad didn't make you get the same haircut…what happened this time?” Steve asked.
"It was Mike…or Mike's idea.
"Just trying to help my younger brother” Mike said, who continued with "he's going to school without his beanie, and not be worried about anyone making fun of him…just going to go about his business like he did Saturday when he showed off his new haircut at the mall where I'm sure some of his classmates saw us.”
"Oh yeah, they saw us…and almost everyone will know today…I'm really going to get it today.”
"Yeah, too bad we didn't get our haircuts Friday night…would have been one more day for us to grow our hair out” offered Steve.
They were at their house now, and as he turned around to Steve he rubbed his head to judge how much longer his hair was after almost two days of growth, but there wasn't much that was evident, so he told them both, "seems the same as Saturday…”
"Rubbing your head a lot? Mike suddenly asked as he turned to his brother.
"Well, I guess more than usual…since it was so short, I guess I wanted to make the connection with how short it looks with how it feels.
"I did that a lot at bootcamp” said Mike.
"I never had to do that” kidded Steve.
"Oh well, time go get it over with—off to school.” Dave continued with, "I wouldn't mind it being Saturday again, except for the haircut of course.”
"Just remember how you were at the mall” said Mike.
"Well, that's fine…any chance of you and your friends coming to school with us then?” Dave asked his brother jokingly.
"Yeah, we need you to kick butt if anyone makes fun of us” said Steve.
"You guys are young men now, and it's time you both stop being bothered by what others think of your haircuts, and whether or not your parents make you wear them” admonished Mike in his "grown-up” voice that he used far too much lately it seemed.
"Wow, what great advice” Dave sarcastically to his brother.
"Well, since you're my bro I will help make it seem like today is Saturday…though I can only drop you off at school” he said, and then turning to Steve he continued, "I have to take care of some business with my bro Steve, so we'll see you a little later.”
"Ok guys” said Steve as he turned to leave.
"See ya soon Steve” he said as he turned to Mike. "What's up?” he asked Mike, who replied "Why don't you take a shower—but just put on a tee-shirt, and I'll meet you in the backyard patio.”
Author's Note: Mike helps Dave get over his fear of going to school with a short haircut in the part 2