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Aggressive is Good Sometimes by htflatnc
Aggressive is Good Sometimes
Burt pulled his bike onto the sidewalk in the shopping center just as he saw David taking a chair in the barber shop. "Perfect timing," Burt thought. Burt hurried to lock his bike and get into the shop just as David was giving careful instructions to the barber of how he wanted his biweekly crewcut shaped up. You would have thought since David was a regular at the shop, instructions would not have been necessary, but David was issuing them – blade numbers, different points at which to change the blades, and comments about the overall final product. Burt didn’t understand what the different blade numbers meant yet, but it was obvious to Burt that David was an expert on this. Burt also thought this was interesting because it showed what he had suspected, namely that David was extremely meticulous about his personal appearance, including his carefully manicured crewcut.
This past summer, Burt got his head shaved in a barber shop his father had taken him to. The family was down at the beach on a two-week vacation at the time. His father hadn’t known Burt’s intention to get his head shaved or that Burt had seen pictures of his father at the same age having his head shaved. His father just had wanted Burt to get a haircut and get his long blond locks under control. Mission accomplished beyond Mr. White’s wildest dreams.
Afterwards, Burt’s father had taken Burt to buy shaving supplies at the drug store. This trip had been a major success as the girl at the checkout counter who was only a few years older than Burt said she thought he looked very cute with his head shaved. She even asked if she could rub his bald head, a request with which Burt was only too happy to comply. Mr. White had gotten a big kick out of what transpired and teased Burt about it on the drive back to the vacation house. Far from taking offense to the teasing, Burt actually liked his father’s teasing comments. It only added to Burt’s sense that shaving his head was a good decision.
Burt’s routine was to wake up early and go for a run on the beach just after sunrise. He had been doing that even before he got his head shaved. Burt liked the change of not having to get the hair out of his eyes as he ran. One other apparent difference was that the perspiration flowed freely now with no hair to sop it up. He would return and his father would have just gotten up. Burt would still be hot and sweaty from his run, but his father would lather and shave his head in the bathroom. The run probably made his head slicker with the perspiration and easier to shave. For the next four days, Burt’s father shaved Burt’s head every morning. But then Burt’s head broke out in a rash with razor bumps.
Burt wanted to continue his head shaving ritual with his father, but he also did not want to get the rash infected by going over the bumps with a razor. He wasn’t sure what to do at first but quickly hit on the idea that the barber who had shaved his head, Dan, might have a solution.
Burt got his father to take him to the barber shop that was four or five miles down the beach. It was a Sunday, but because this was a barber shop on the edge of military bases – Marine Corps base and air station – Sunday was a very busy day. The shop didn’t open until noon and Burt and his father got there fifteen minutes early. Mr. White went next door and got some seafood from the Chinese restaurant while Burt was allowed into the shop before it was officially opened. Dan, the barber who had shaved Burt’s head was there and recognized him – how could he not considering Dan was still talking about that long-haired blond kid who came in and had his head lathered and shaved. Burt was becoming a legend. Burt explained the problem with the rash and bumps. Dan told Burt to have a seat in the barber’s chair. Dan got a good look at the rash while also admiring Burt’s almost clean pate. The barber got a small bottle of lotion that contained Aloe Vera and applied some directly to Burt’s head and rubbed it around. He then gave Burt the bottle and told him to apply it twice a day and his rash would clear up in three or four day’s time. As Burt hopped out of the chair, a car with three Marines pulled up in front of the shop. They entered the shop as Burt was still thanking Dan and trying to pay for the bottle to no avail. One of the three Marines told his buddies to get a look at the kid’s clean shaved head and complimented him on it. The Marine hopped up in the chair and told Dan that he wanted one just like that kid.
Burt’s rash cleared up in two days rather than the three or four days Dan had told him. Burt rode his bike back to the barber shop so he could thank Dan and get the stubble clipped and his head shaved in the barber’s chair once again. It was Dan’s day off and there was a younger man there, in his late 20s. He said Dan was still talking about Burt and his head shave and the Sunday visit. It seems Burt had started a chain reaction of head shaves with the Marines who had come in that Sunday.
It turned out that the young barber was Dan’s son, Dan Jr. Dan Jr. told Burt to hop up in the chair and he would take proper care of his shaved head just as his father had. Dan Jr. turned out to be a no-nonsense barber just as his father was. Dan Jr. rather than having a simple crewcut like his father had a flattop, which Burt told Dan Jr. was bitchin’. Dan Jr. laughed at that and thanked him. He said that he thought Burt’s shaved head was bitchin’ as well. Dan wanted to know why Burt had his head shaved and whether his father had made him do it. Burt explained that it had been his idea and that he had been in charge of choosing how his hair was cut since he was about twelve years old. He had let his hair grow long and he knew it had not made his father happy that he didn’t keep his hair neat and presentable all of the time. Burt said his father had not minded the long hair, it was how well Burt kept it under control, looking neat and clean cut. Burt admitted he had done a terrible job at that. Dan said while all of that may have been true, it didn’t mean necessarily a shaved head. Burt then explained about the pictures he had found of his father last Christmas. He had shown the pictures to his grandmother and she had given explanation for lots of the pictures which had helped Burt understand his father far better than he had ever understood him before. He realized he and his father were very much alike as a result of seeing these pictures. For the first time, Burt understood things from his father’s standpoint and fully realized his father was no ogre.
Burt was explaining all of this to Dan, Jr., as Dan took the blond fuzz on Burt’s head down with the t-edgers and afterwards lathered and shaved Burt’s head. Burt got to try something new with this head shave, however. Dan, Jr. used a mug, shaving soap, and a brush. Dan, Jr. had turned the chair so that Burt could watch the preparation. When Burt felt the bristles on his head, and began asking questions about where he could find a mug, brush, and shaving soap. This would become part of Burt’s routine for the rest of the summer.
For the rest of the summer, Burt kept his head shaved. After the problem with the rash, Burt began lathering and shaving his own head. It was awkward at first shaving the left side of his head since Burt was right handed, but Burt adapted and got used to it. With daily practice, it took less and less time. Initially it took almost half an hour for Burt to shave both his head and his face, but by the end of the summer, it was only taking less than ten minutes and his head was as smooth as glass.
Halfway through the summer, football practice started. Burt had not been hiding out the summer he shaved his head. He went regularly to the gym and got compliments on his new "haircut." When he showed up with a shaved head at football practice the first time, he got quite a few glances and comments, but Burt took it in stride – both the compliments and the snide remarks. There were some of both, but primarily compliments. Well over half of the guys were new to Burt, so they had no memory of the long locks Burt used to have.
Burt’s second week of football practice at the beginning of August was picture day. Burt had his picture made seated in his jersey, holding his helmet in his lap with a huge bright smile and a shiny bald head. It took extra makeup to control the glare off of his head. Burt and Mr. White loved the final picture and Mr. White put one of the pictures in his wallet. It was quite a contrast to compare the picture of Burt with his long locks taken the year before and the picture with his shaved head and football uniform.
School started at the end of August and that’s when Burt ended his daily head shaving routine. He had not had a haircut in about six weeks when he rode his bike up to the barber shop and his hair was almost an inch long and was becoming unruly once again. Burt’s hair seemed to have a mind of its own and required close management to keep it in check. Today was the day for Burt to take control once again of his hair and his appearance.
David and Burt were classmates, sophomores in high school. They had three classes together and ate lunch with the same group of guys, so they saw a lot of each other every day during the week. They had known each other only since the start of the school year since they went to different junior high schools. There were both sharp points of commonality and sharp points of difference between the two. They got along well together and had become friends quickly even though David wasn’t on the football team.
Burt had noticed that David was on a regular two-week haircut schedule that took place of Thursdays. This normally would have been a problem for Burt, but football practice had been very brief today so Burt had time to get to the barbershop in time to watch David get his crewcut. And Burt wanted to watch David’s meticulous crewcut being crafted.
David and Burt exchanged greetings as Burt entered. "So this is where you get that head of yours clipped," Burt said as he was beckoned to the chair next to David’s.
"Yes, every two weeks. Looks like yours could use more than a little attention as well," David commented on the riot of blond, unkempt hair atop Burt’s head. The hair atop his head was not long, but Burt had not bothered to comb it and his hair was jutting in every which direction. Burt was convinced that he needed to get a haircut that would be short enough that he would not need to constantly comb in order for it to look neat.
"Yeah, it does need attention. And today’s the perfect day to do it. Today is my father’s birthday, so if I show up all spruced up with a fresh haircut, that will make him happy. He will be especially happy if I wind up with one as clean cut and sharp as yours."
"You haven’t been in here in a while, have you. Last time I remember was back just before Easter," Burt’s barber, Barney, commented. This was the barber shop where Burt would normally come. His father came every week to ten days to get his hair cut, but Burt since he was twelve had quit going regularly and let his hair grow much longer than he had growing up. Just before school started, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter had become Burt’s haircut routine the last few years. That was all about to change. Burt had decided he wanted to be on his father’s haircut schedule, more or less.
"It was last Easter when I was in here," Burt said.
"How do you want your hair cut today?" Barney asked him.
"I’m going to want something similar to David’s though with some variation. I think his haircut looks really sharp. I like how the back and sides of David’s haircut going from completely skinned to being full but still short up at the top. But I’d like a little bit more on top than David so that I can have a brush cut on top. I want it so that I don’t have to comb it, but can just brush it up and go. I also plan on getting a haircut every week or two like my father. Is that enough for you to go on for my new haircut?"
"I think so," Barney said and went back to the counter to prepare the clippers for the next haircut. Barney lined up a total of five different clipper blades at the ready to be switched out as he went along. Barney planned on tackling the top with clippers and comb to give the brush cut on top.
"Do you really think I have a sharp looking haircut?" David asked Burt. "I get a lot of crap from Quinn about my short haircut." Quinn was David’s older brother and was sitting outside in the car waiting for his little brother.
"Oh, I absolutely do. I think your haircut is bitchin’. Since you and Quinn look so much alike, I know how you would look with long hair. And you look better with your crewcut than Quinn does with his long hair," Burt stated matter-of-factly. "So I thought I would pattern mine on yours. I’m certain I’ll look better once I get my hair clipped short. I like the clean cut look and always have. And for a few years when I got to make the choice of haircut, I let it grow much too long but mainly because I could. But I’m over that now. Do your parents make you get a short haircut?" Burt asked David changing the subject.
"No. I do it partly because of ROTC, but mainly because I like how it looks" David said.
"How long have you had a crewcut?" Burt asked.
"I’ve had a crewcut similar to this since I can remember. Quinn used to get one like this when he was younger. It wasn’t my choice when I was little, but it’s been my choice for a few years now. Quinn decided to be like you were and let his grow out to the point where it’s out of control. My dad and Quinn argue about it all the time, too" David said. "I never went through your long-haired rebellious stage. Have you ever had a crewcut or a short haircut before?" David asked.
"When I was little, my mother was in charge of my haircut, and she kept my blond hair on the longish side. It was just off the ears and bangs that were just above the eyebrows. When the hair started getting in my eyes and covering my ears, my dad would bring me in here for a haircut. This summer was another big change though. When I was down at the beach, my father took me to the barber shop and I got my head shaved," Burt said.
"You shaved your head this past summer? You mean just got it cut real short, right?" David asked.
"Well, I got what the barber called a US Marine Corps induction haircut and then he lathered and shaved my head. Twice. And my head was as smooth and soft as plush leather." Burt had caught the attention not only of David, but the two other barbers with this tale.
"And your dad made you get your head shaved? Was it a punishment of some kind?" David asked.
"No, no. Nothing like that. It was entirely my idea. My father didn’t know it was going to happen. Actually, I wasn’t sure it was going to happen – if I’d have the nerve to go through with it – but I did."
"Did you like having it shaved?" David asked.
"I did like having it shaved. I enjoyed the process of getting it shaved and I liked how I looked. I’ve got a nice looking head under all this mop," Burt said laughing at his bit of conceit.
"Why didn’t you keep your head shaved if you liked it so much?" David asked.
"Part of it is that I’m following my father’s pattern. He used to get his head shaved during the summer when he was my age. I also would like to try different short haircuts, so it will be experimentation and changing haircuts while I’m in high school. But I definitely plan on shaving my head again next summer. The other thing I’ve learned is, I’ll never be afraid of going bald, because I already know I look great with a completely bald head," Burt boasted.
As with David’s haircut, Burt’s barber planned on using the same five blades on the Oster 76s: the five 0, the three 0, the 0A, #1 and 1-1/2 blade. The barber positioned the clippers at the base of Burt’s right sideburn and pushed the clippers up slowly as the hair on Burt’s side was released to fall onto his shoulder. The clippers only went up less than an inch and Barney took the clipper and blade all the way around Burt’s head establishing a line in the back and the left and right side before he changed blades to a slightly longer blade. Barney did this four more times establishing base lines for each clipper blade length. It was obvious where the blades had been switched as the hair in one level had yet to be tied into the other. Burt thought it was fascinating that even with his hair so short, there were such obvious differences in short and shorter.
"A brush type crewcut is a cool haircut," David said. "I wish I could get away with that haircut. I tried it once, but it didn’t work because of the cow lick I have up front. It totally messes up the brush cut. I get it cut short enough that there isn’t a cow lick just after the haircut, but it grows into the cow lick with the swirl pattern after two weeks, and it’s time to get it cut again."
The mirrors in the barber shop allowed Burt to get a good view of David’s crewcut being manicured with the barber changing one blade after the other on the back and sides. While there had been five blade changes on the back and sides as with Burt’s haircut, there were only three on top for David’s haircut. Once David’s barber had defined the areas and marked the lines, he began blending the levels in with one another making a smooth transition and adding to David’s perfectly manicured look that he took pride in. Inspection was tomorrow and David would be wearing his ROTC uniform. The uniform and precise haircut made David feel good about himself, set an example for others and inspired awe in Burt since school had started.
Just as Burt had a good view of David’s haircut as it happened, David had a good view of all that was about to transpire with Burt’s brush cut – and David enjoyed watching this. He enjoyed seeing pretty boys like Burt getting shorn. He would love to see his older brother Quinn undergo the same treatment. But Quinn never would – certainly not by choice, or so David thought. Quinn would have to be forced to get a major transformation haircut. But the thought of forcing Quinn to get his hair cut off brought a certain set of feelings to David that he found both highly satisfying and alarming. But here was Burt, a good-looking jock – and friend – willingly getting a crewcut that would be only slightly longer than his own. David couldn’t believe his luck in being able to witness this.
After clipping the back and sides of Burt’s new haircut, but before smoothing the transitions from one blade to another, Barney went to work on Burt’s top. He brushed the top back against the grain. He then passed the Oster 76s over the comb with a shower of short blond strands falling almost individually rather than clumping together. His hair was healthy and luxuriant as it was severed with each swipe of the clippers. David’s eyes were as big as saucers watching this shower of blond strands fall like felled wheat. Burt looked completely different when the barber put down the large black flattop comb with a handle. The blond hair on top was sheared to just almost an inch in front to about a quarter inch at the crown with a perfect transition.
Burt had been watching himself in the mirror, wanting to see the transformation that was occurring – something he had not been able to do last summer when he had his head shaved. Then, it was a matter of the barber firmly controlling his head pushing it in various directions as he quickly sheared away all remnants of Burt’s hair. Afterwards, the only disappointment Burt had in the head shave he had received was not being able to watch his hair cascading to the floor. Though this was not as drastic a transformation, Burt got to see it all this time, and Burt thought it was an awesome sight to behold.
Burt had been so transfixed watching in the mirror to what was happening to his blond coif, he did not notice that his father had pulled up in the parking lot outside the barber shop and was bounding in as he watched the barber transforming Burt’s head.
"Burt, glad to see you’re getting your hair cut. I was about to say something about it, but glad you beat me to the punch." Mr. White said.
Burt smiled at his father and said, "Hi, dad. Happy birthday."
"Happy birthday to you too, son," Mr. White said. Mr. White and Burt shared the same birthday.
"Once again, my hair was getting way out of control, so time to take care of it. I’ve decided to get a short haircut that will look sharp and be clean cut. I know you like the clean cut look, especially for your sons. I do too. So there’s no battle there," Burt said. "Furthermore, I think I’ll start following your barber shop visit schedule – every week or so. If this haircut looks as good as I think it’s going to, I’ll want to maintain it properly. That’s what David does with his. Do you know David?"
"No, we’ve never met," Mr. White said. "Glad to meet you, David. That’s a sharp looking crewcut you’re getting. Thanks for setting a good example for my son."
David’s barber had finished blending in the different lengths of the crewcut to his satisfaction. He took his hand and rubbed it across the tips of the crewcut to check if any stray hairs were standing apart. There were a few, so he grabbed his scissors and began snipping at them.
In the meantime, Burt’s barber began transitioning the different levels in the back and sides of Burt’s head to the carefully manicured look with all of the careful blending that characterized David’s crewcut.
"Thanks, Mr. White," David said. "Somebody has to take Burt in hand and show him what a properly groomed young man should look like," David said boldly but half-jokingly.
Both Burt and Mr. White chuckled at that. "Do you want the job? Think you could keep this mop under control?" Burt asked David.
David just ignored the question. It was too direct and could lead to places he wasn’t sure he wanted to go with Burt – at least not here and not now. But David thought it was interesting that Burt would even suggest this. David began wondering whether Burt had as big a thing about short hair, other guys with short hair and getting haircuts as he did.
Mr. White took the chair next to Burt and without saying a word, the barber had Mr. White caped and began tapering Mr. White’s short coif. Barney had taken the spray bottle and wet the hair Burt had left on top and then grabbed a jar of butch wax, spreading some on his fingers and working it into Burt’s hair. He used a blow dryer and a brush to stand Burt’s hair at attention – which Burt’s hair was only too eager to comply, it would seem. It wasn’t only Burt that wanted this brush cut, his hair seemed to want it as well and cooperated as fully as it could to the barber’s prodding. Without using a comb, Barney evened up the tips of Burt’s nascent brush cut, leaving the hair looking like husks of golden wheat that the wind could easily sway but would still look even and controlled. This was a sharp looking brush cut and Burt was a natural for it.
David’s barber had finished an outline shave and was applying after shave on David’s neck. David had to make a decision: continue talking to Burt and watch the final stages of Burt’s brush cut or leave. David was feeling bold, so he decided he would take a seat, talk to David some more and witness the final stages. Off came the cape and David went over to the register, took a close up look at the barber’s handiwork, decided it was perfect for inspection tomorrow, that all the transitions from one length to another of the crewcut flowed smoothly, and paid for his haircut. He then went over and took a chair in front of Burt. He then made a very frank confession, "I want to watch the end of your haircut."
Burt smiled at that. Now he was pretty sure that David had the same thing about short haircuts that he had.
"What do you think everybody is going to say tomorrow when you show up with such a new short haircut?" David asked.
"Hopefully, they’ll like it as much as I do." Burt answered.
"Do you worry about other people will think?"
"I care about what people think, but what some people think is more important to me than what some others think. For instance, I care very much what my father thinks, what my mother thinks, what family members think. I care about what my friends think though probably not as much as what my parents or family would think. And others who aren’t friends, I’ll take into consideration. But in the end, it’s what I think that matters most. I guess I’m conceited, self-confident, arrogant – take your pick of adjective of how to characterize that – to think that way."
"What do you think you’ll tell other people when they ask you why you decided to get it cut and keep it short?" David asked.
"I like these questions. And I’m sure I’ll hear all of them at least a hundred times tomorrow. I’ll just tell them the truth," Burt said.
"Which is?" David and Mr. White asked almost simultaneously.
"I drew inspiration from my good friend David and his bitchin’ military haircut. Isn’t it awesome?" Burt said, laughing. "I’m serious even though I’m laughing. It’s the truth."
Barney was satisfied with the brush cut he had crafted as well as the many transitions on the back and sides. He handed Burt a hand mirror to inspect the haircut. Burt said, "David, you aren’t the only one at school with a bitchin’ haircut. You’ll have competition from me," and handed the mirror back to Barney with a smile on his face.
"Son, that haircut does look sharp. I’m glad you will be keeping it like that at least for a while," Mr. White said.
Burt then asked David, "Do you want to see what I looked like with my head shaved? Dad, you have that picture of me in your wallet don’t you?" Burt asked.
"Sure," David said as Mr. White fished the picture of Burt in his football uniform out of his wallet. There was a picture of Burt smiling in his football uniform, holding his helmet, with his head shining.
David now understood Burt’s boast about how good he looked with a shaved head, and understood it wasn’t a boast. David said, "I think you look great with your head shaved, but I think you look better with the brush cut."
Mr. White chimed in quickly, "I think David is absolutely right. You are handsome either way, son, but the brush cut is better. The shaved head makes you look more aggressive."
As Burt was climbing out of the barber’s chair, he said, "I don’t disagree with any of this, but I’m still going to shave my head next summer. Aggressive is good sometimes."