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Manny: Down to Business at the Barber by Manny
I diverted my lunch-time stroll to the sandwich joint through the arcade of the Woodward Building to see if, per chance, I could catch a glimpse of any interesting action at Sam's Barber Shop. As I rounded the corner, I was surprised to see Sam himself standing idly in front of the shop. Usually when he didn't have any customers he'd be sitting in one of the two big chairs, reading a paper or just watching the world walk by. Sam smiled and acknowledged me with a nod as he always did, even though I'd never been under his cape before. In fact, I'd never been into a traditional barber shop in my whole life.
For years, I had been resisting a strong desire to have my thick, dark, wavy locks shorn by a no-nonsense geezer like Sam....to feel the clippers being plowed tightly up the back of my head....to watch helplessly as my abundant mane fell to the snowy white cape. But fear of what people back in the conservative office environment where I worked would say or think always kept me from enabling the big chop.
To deal with my timidity, I convinced myself that the first step to losing my fussy executive business pomp was to get myself into a barber shop, even if all I could request was a "trim". Although I had settled on Sam's, since it was conveniently located near my office downtown, I had never mustered up the courage to go through with my plan. At the last minute, I would always just keep on walking by. And once safely past, I'd catch a glimpse of my business cut with its copious wavy top reflecting in one of the plate glass windows of the arcade and breath a sigh a relief.
This pattern went on for years. My hair was my best feature -- the only thing that people ever commented about. And, frankly, I was afraid to have it stripped away by a barber. I'd feel so vulnerable and exposed without my confidence-inspiring, shimmering head of hair.
Staring at Sam in his professional white barber tunic inspired me as I walked towards him in the arcade. "Do it today!" I counseled myself. Already, I had promised myself that before the end of the month I would visit a barbershop and ask for "just a trim".
"How's business these days?" I quipped in as cheery tone I could muster, hoping not to betray any hint of total nervousness.
"Not as good as I'd like," answered Sam, eyeing my lush head of hair.
"The arcade seems much more busy since that software company moved a lot of its employees from the suburbs to work in this building. Hasn't that brought you new clients?" I asked.
"Some, yeah. But, like today, I've yet to give one haircut," Sam said, shrugging and glancing at the empty shop.
I gritted my teeth and mustered up all the courage I could. "Do it!" I exhorted myself. I caught a glimpse of my thick pomp in the glass window and cringed. How could I put my pride and joy at risk?! I cleared my throat. "Tell you what." I paused awkwardly and ran my hand through my wavy locks. "I'm in need of a bit of a trim..." Oh no, I'd basically begun to commit myself. My heart raced and I panicked. I pulled away from the precipice in the nick of time, "....if you're still without a client on my way back from lunch, you can cape me up."
Sam smiled. I'd nibbled the bait, and he was going to reel me in before I eluded him. "Step inside now. It'll just take 10 minutes or so. And your hair is quite long, especially on top."
Oh my! My waves were on his radar screen! Instead of fleeing from the scene, I decided to engage in a bit of dare-devil conversation from the safety of being outside the shop. Dabbling with disaster excited me. I put my hand up to my head again and plied my fingers in through the dense mane of silken dark hair. "You're right about that. And the longer my hair gets, the wavier it becomes. The last time I got it cut, the fellow didn't thin it out quite enough. Are you any good with the thinning shears?" I asked innocently. "For hair like mine, getting rid of the bulk is key to getting the waves under control."
"Bulk and length," said the barber firmly. "Step inside and I'll show you just what I can do...." he said moving towards the door.
I'd dabbled enough. My juices were flowing, but I simply could not bring myself to do it. I'd primed Sam to the point where he'd certainly thrash my locks very severely. "Really, I'm totally famished, Sam. On the way back...." I said as I began walking away.
"Sure thing," he said, with a tone of resignation.
"If you're available, that is....ready to go because I can't be away from the office too long," I added. That wasn't really true. I was in the top tier of management and could basically come and go as I pleased. But, it did give me a cushion to weasel out of things if I got cold feet again.
I could not think about anything else during lunch, except Sam tackling my wavy hair and thinning the life out of it. That chatter had also served to scuttle my main strategy in crossing the threshold of a traditional shop for the first time by gutting the possibility of requesting "just a trim." No, Sam, would take my top down far more severely than a trim. At its longest, my hair was about five inches from the hairline, where it was swept straight back into a thick pompadeur style. What would be left, if I surrendered to Sam? I'd sit helplessly as he tackled my mane with the thinning shears....followed by the electric hair clippers? A huge black set prominently labeled "fast feed" to chew of my beloved hair effortlessly? The thought frightened and excited me. I could put it off for another day.....chicken out once again....or, I could go through with it today! Sam was primed and I would be caped up nice and tight!
I tried to finish off my sandwich, but had no appetite. My stomach was churning.... I wiped my mouth quickly and headed back to the arcade on the ground floor of the Woodward Building. I told myself to play by the rules I had set -- if the chair was occupied I'd walk on by. If not.....
The closer I got to the shop, the more nervous I became. I was wavering. As I walked down the arcade, relief (coupled with a tinge of disappointment) swept over me. I saw the edge of a man sitting in the chair with the cape on. Just his leg and the corner of the cape was visible as I approached the shop. I was safe! I could walk by and just wave to Sam....
I strode forward with confidence. And when I got up to the shop and glanced into the neon-bathed interior, my face froze. It felt like a bucket of cold water had doused me from the top of my wavy locks to the tip of my toe. My feet turned into ice blocks. Sam was in the process of pulling off the cape from a young man whose head was shorn virtually to the bone all about except with a bit of stubble left on top -- like a military guy. The white-clad barber motioned for me to come in as the cropped client emerged from the chair. He didn't have to say anything; I could hear a deafening "Next!" ringing in my ears. The old geezer was ready for me!
But was I ready for him?! A tiny voice whispered inside my head. "You said you would go through with it if he was available. Now, go for it....." Trance-like, zombie-like, I found myself reaching for the door of the shop and pulling it open. It was done! I crossed the threshold for my maiden haircut by an authentic barber of the old school.
"Perfect timing! Have a seat there, and I'll be with you momentarily," Sam chirped cheerfully. "Uh, that'll be $17, young man. Hope I cut it to your specs!"
The shorn man ran his hand up the back, "Sure did. Loved the lather shave on the back and sides too. Nice silk-like feel here. You'll be my new regular barber, for sure," he stated confidently.
I stood there in a bit of a daze. Silk feel or sick feel? If that were my noggin, I'd be feeling deathly sick for sure!
Sam motioned me to the chair. Obediently, I took a seat. Despite the comfortable upholstery of the oversized barber throne, I felt like I was on pins and needles. As the door to the shop door swung shut, Sam said, "And to think you'd just asked me about the new employees in the building. That was one of them. Do you work at Compu-soft too, Mr. Uh...., what's your name?"
"Manny. You can call me Manny," I said. "No, I just cut through this arcade for lunch frequently."
The white cape sailed through the air and I gulped preemptively as he fastened it snuggly over a paper tissue lining around my neck. Then Sam turned the chair to face the mirror. I saw my self caped up for the first time in a traditional barbershop. My wavy hair still was displayed in its proud pomp. What was I doing, putting my best feature at risk in that shop?! Most men my age were struggling with thinning and/or graying locks. My head of hair stood out in bold contrast to their pathetic, whispy pates. No one ever guessed I was a fortysomething fellow with such a glorious mane -- so healthy and full of body. And now it was all on the chopping block! My stomach churned anxiously.
Sam picked up a comb and plastic spray bottle filled with water. "Manny, how long has it been since your last cut?" he asked as he tried his best to run the comb through my dense tresses.
Even though it hadn't even been a couple of weeks, I panicked. Hadn't thought through possible questions from the barber. "Several months -- two or three!" I blurted out.
The barber was satisfied with the response and smiled discreetly. "That explains things...." He combed the thick wavy forelock straight down as he applied a bit of water to the hair. The damp waves clumped together allowing me a clear line of sight to what was happening. Sam swapped the water bottle for a set of shears. The tips of my hair were drenched with drops of water clinging on for their life. Sam raised the shears towards my bangs. The blades opened and shut like butterfly wings....gracefully, confidently. My stomach lurched. I could not believe where the assault was starting and how severe it was going to be. Towards the mid-point of my forehead between hairline and eyebrow, the blades slipped into the damp, dense bulk of hair. CRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH. Chunk after chunk of dark clumps of wavy hair fell onto the cape. It quickly soiled with the severed, damp fringe. I gripped the arms of the chair under the cape tightly. It was far worse than anything I'd ever imagined could happen. I stared down into my lap and made a mental calculation of how much of my forelock had been chopped -- over two inches!
"Bet you feel better already," the barber said non-chalantly. For the first time ever, my bangs had been snipped off far above the brow. After he'd sliced off my prize trophy, the barber turned his attention to the rest of my pomp on top. Sam was poised like a victorious field marshal leading the charge forward from the beach-head landing. Lift and chop, lift and chop, lift and chop. From almost five inches, the bulk of the pomp was pared down to about two! "Short on top is the best way to deal with unruly waves like yours....."
When he'd finished lopping the length off at the crown, he combed all my remaining hair straight down all over and asked, "What about the sides and back? Do you normally have it tapered with the clippers?"
That was way too much. I didn't even have to think, "Oh, no. It was the top that had gotten to long. The sides and back could do with just a bit of a trim."
Sam began a more gentle approach with the scissors and comb. Lift and snip, lift and snip. I relaxed ever so slightly. About an inch was being taken off, which was far more than my normal stylist would harvest, but which seemed reasonable for Sam, considering the way he'd attacked the pomp.
He trimmed up one side and then the other. Then he came back to the first side and cut some more -- another half inch was cut off. Then back to the other. After about the third attempt to even things up, I realized that more than half the bulk had come off the sides as well! Oh my, I'd be leaving the shop with a very short haircut!
Then it happened. Sam began snipping an "arch" around my ear. Quite an exaggerated arch! A good quarter inch of exposed white skin framed the ear. I was accustomed to sides that lapped over the top part of my ear, but now the whole things was humiliatingly exposed! Oh my...I was in for a real, big-time geek look. Then the scissors scrunched across the nape. It seemed like the length in back was coming off above the natural hairline. Basically from below the tip of my earlobe straight across to the other side. Normally, my locks spilled liberally over my collar. Now, they'd been butchered as severely as my bangs. I felt dizzy and my mind wandered to what it would be like returning to the office with a very "barbered" look.
But Sam was not finished with me yet even though clearly half my cherished hair was now on the cape or floor. He flashed the thinning shears in front of me. "I'm not going to make the mistake that your last fellow did and be timid with these....I want another new permanent client, like the previous fellow! You're going to get your money's worth today, Manny!"
In a flash the thinning shears scrunched shut near the scalp and then again at about an inch away from the scalp. He set into a hypnotic rhythm of chop, chop, comb...and then a tuft of hair would float down past my eyes. Chop, chop, comb. Chop, chop, comb. Chop, chop, comb. It went on interminably! Sam seemed energized by thrashing my wavy hair mercilessly. By the time he was finished with that instrument of torture, my hair was wispy and limp. The body had been totally thinned out of it. The glorious waves were but a memory.
Then the barber picked up a set of clippers. I could not help but exclaim, "I think it's short enough now. No more need to keep cutting it, Sam."
"Oh, just want to clean up a bit on the neck," he said as he snapped on the machine, undeterred. Then he nudged my head forward gently, but forcefully.
I relaxed a bit as the vibrating machine tickled my neck. Oh, it felt soooo good! Maybe this barbershop experience wouldn't end up so bad -- in fact, maybe....just maybe, it would result in something life changing.
"Mind if I give the back here a professional finish?" Sam asked innocently.
I was lulled into agreement by the soothing clipper massage on my neck. Suddenly, the teeth plowed up into my hair above the nape momentarily -- just a spilt second -- as the barber scooped off a wedge of hair. My cock jolted. What was happening to me?! Sam cautioned me, "Sit still now, or this might turn out shorter than either of us expected." He continued with his "low and tight" taper at the nape. "There, that's perfect for a professional businessman like you," he said as he admired his own finishing touches on my makeover.
I sat there stunned by my unexpected encounter with the clippers, strangely desiring more. The clippers on the nape had felt wonderfully erotic. Oh, to feel them being driven tightly up the back! But I was too afraid to suggest anything further. I succumbed to silence.
However, the adventure was not yet over. My eyes widened as I saw Sam reach towards a strange box on his counter. A whirling sound preceded a huge dollop of steaming white foam in his palm. "My secret weapon for those silken head shaves like the one the fellow before you praised."
"You're not thinking about shaving my sides and back like his?" I stammered.
Sam chuckled. "You're funny!" He began applying the shaving cream around my ears and nape. "No, just to clean you up a bit on the outline. However, if you want, I could easily....."
"Oh no!" I said quickly. "Those military cuts are fine for the young guys, but older men like me need something more....." I stammered for a word. "More, uh....."
"More what?" asked the barber curtly. "More boring, more sedate?"
"Uh, more conservative, I guess," I said.
With a straight edge razor Sam began cleaning out the arches around my ears of all residue of hair -- very carefully, very gently. I was frozen stiff. "Relax," he urged. "I'm not going to slice off your ear with this! I've been barbering heads for over thirty years! Old schoolers like me, we wield razors as easily as we handle a fork." Sam pushed my head forward so that my chin almost touched my chest and adeptly dragged the razor's edge down my neck in long, smooth strokes. Then he applied a hot towel and very gently wiped the excess foam from my skin. "How's this feel? Soothing?" he asked. I nodded in agreement. A sting of witch hazel jolted me and the pungent odor tickled my nostrils momentarily.
Sam took the spray bottle and wet down my short wispy hair again and crafted a very sharp side part. I wanted to tell him that I wore my hair combed straight back, but I sat submissively as he slicked my hair to the side. It was plastered to my head and shiny. I could not believe the transformation that I'd undergone in Sam's chair!
The barber held up a hand mirror triumphantly to show me the back. I was unrecognizable. The low and tight taper looked like something out of the 1940s. Then he fondled the tapered nape briefly. His caress of the stubble sent chills down my spine. "Well, how do you like it back here? Just a bit of a taper for a well finished look. For me, no haircut is truly professional without at least a small ribbon clipped and tapered. If you want, I can take the taper higher in back."
I stared at the ribbon of taper -- scarcely covering white skin, contrasting sharply with the dark, slicked top. Something possessed me. I longed to feel the clippers at my nape again. "Yes, I think it would be better. Taper it higher. That's a good start there, but since you gave me a bit of a clipped taper, I would like you to take it up higher."
"Higher and closer too?" he suggested. "Sides as well, I imagine."
"Yes, sides too. Don't want a half-baked job, do we? Taper it very close on the sides and back, all the way up to the crown."
"You're not such an old man that you couldn't use a skinned look about two thirds of the way up," Sam suggested. "The skinned sides and back is very trendy now. Especially when it contrasts with a slicked top. I'll rub some pomade into your hair up here to ensure this brilliantine sparkle stays with you all day!"
"You're the boss, Sam. If you're going to be my new barber, I need to trust you fully. Work your magic and give me the cut you think suits me best!" I said enthusiastically, momentarily throwing all caution to the wind.
Sam grabbed the clippers and grinned. "I'm going to show you that certain cuts look good on anyone. He snapped on the machine and held it in front of my eyes. "I'm also going to show you that there's a lot better way to deal with wavy hair than the old thinning shears." In a flash, the clippers went up past my eyes to the hairline and were driven tightly over the top of my head. I was in total shock! A swath of stubble emerged in the midst of the slicked, little boy side-part he gave me.
Sam was ruthless in totally divesting me of the remnants of my beloved locks with his heavy-duty, fast-feed set of electric hair clippers. My head was like putty in his hand as he shoved it about from side to side peeling away all follicular growth. In a matter of instants my head was left with little more than stubble all over. He'd peeled me like a tangerine and my bald head stood out from the hair-cluttered cape like a naked lightbulb. I was speechless and stunned.
Sam smiled from ear to ear as he reached for some steamy hot towels. "It's great to have a client that gives his barber carte blanche. When you first pranced in her with the fussy executive pomp I thought you'd be a tough nut to crack. But look at you now! Clipped to the bone all over. Manny's my man!" Sam draped the towles over my head to prepare my scalp for the ultimate shave-down.
After a few minutes, Sam removed the warm towels and applied a huge dollop of shaving cream and began massaging it into my scalp all over. "Now get ready for the ultimate barbershop experience -- a lather shaved head!" I looked like an old man with a shock of snowy white hair in the mirror. Then Sam rinsed his hands and came back poised with a straight razor in hand ready to strike.
"Will you leave me with just a little stubble on top, like the previous fellow?" I asked pleadingly.
The first stroke of his hand gave me my answer. "No, I will not!" he said as he dragged the razor across the top of my hair. "You'll look sleek with a total cueball -- maybe even so cute and cuddly the girls in your office won't be able to resist stroking their boss' bald pate!!" Sam worked silently as he lather-shaved my whole head. Not a spec of hair was left anywhere when he'd finished.
Sam withdrew the hair-laden cape and spun the chair around. Then he reclined it so that my head lay back into a specially crafted sink. With a flow of warm water he rinsed the excess lather away. "What a nicely shaped head, Manny! And this minimalist look will show it off perfectly!"
To be honest, I wanted to stay in that position for ever with the warm water flowing over my denuded scalp and Sam murmuring praises for my bald head. I felt deathly afraid to face the world totally shorn!
But Sam sat me up soon enough and turned me about to face my new self. He toweled dried the cueball gently and then patted some witch hazel over the sensitive scalp. I shuddered. "You look like a totally different man without all the prissy hair!"
Never were truer words spoken. My legs felt like jelly as I stood up. The conservative dark business suit and tie contrasted starkly with the gleaming white shaved head. I handed Sam a $20 bill and stumbled out of the shop. "Don't wait three months for your next haircut, Manny," the barber called out. "I'll expect you here on Friday to shave you down again...."
I felt like a total misfit as I stumbled through the arcade. How could I face my colleagues at the office? I reached for my phone to tell them I'd gone home for the day -- sudden illness, possibly something I ate at lunch.
I emerged from the aracade onto the busy sidewalk. Just as I was about to dial, two young stud-like men in suits with shaved pates and fashionable sun glasses strolled by me with total confidence. They were laughing and chatting. The sun gleamed off their silken, skinned heads. They looked sleek and successful. I felt my own bald head -- oh, it was like total silk. I was enfused with self-confidence. In fact, I not only looked like a new man....I felt like one too!
Then, without another thought, I pulled out my Zegna shades and popped them on -- eager to swagger back into the office and show off my new bald-by-choice (Sam's choice, that is) look! I felt daring, bold and proud -- and ready to look down on and feel sorry for any fellow whose confidence rested in a prissy executive business cut!