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Shaved Head and No Shirt - Brit at Home by Mark

Some time ago, I wrote down the story of the head shave I had had for an unexpected holiday. My wife and I had had a great time " lots of sun, lots of relaxation - and, although I worked in a fairly conservative office environment, I had returned to work after the holiday with my head still shaved and wearing a gold stud through my left ear which I’d also had pierced just before the holiday.

My job was hard work. I was always busy and worked long hours " often evenings and weekends as well as during the week " but I derived an immense amount of satisfaction from a job well done. Although I had good intentions, it wasn’t many months before my trips to Moz, my barber, became more and more irregular " my hair grew and, whilst not unkempt, my appearance became a little shabby as I devoted all my time to work. Following a comment from one of the senior managers, I removed my ear stud " thinking I would put it back in at the weekend which, of course, I didn’t. But, worse of all, I ignored my relationship with my wife.

I didn’t see it coming - it was a Monday evening almost a year after the holiday. I arrived home from work - late, of course. On the table in the kitchen was a note and an envelope. The note explained that she was leaving me and, in the envelope, was her wedding ring together with a couple of other pieces of special jewellery marking our relationship that I had given her.

We met together the following Saturday and I quickly realised that there was no point trying to persuade her to change her mind. Stupidly, my obsession with work had compromised my relationship with the love of my life " I had blown it. I took off and handed back my wedding ring and the gold chain she had given me on one of our anniversaries. In the circumstances, our separation was amicable and, over the next few months, we split our joint assets, instigated divorce proceedings and I moved to a small flat in the city centre within walking distance of the office.
The reason I didn’t really notice what had happened was because I had work. And, for the next few months, work took over my life. All I did, from first thing in the morning until last thing at night was work.

I was always first to arrive which made that morning unusual because, despite the early hour, there were a number of very smart looking ‘executive types’ there and I didn’t know any of them. All became clear at 9 am when it was announced that the company had been taken over and we were all surplus to requirements with immediate effect.

Looking back now, I know how wrong this was " but, at that point, losing my job was much worse a blow to me than my relationship failing. With my redundancy payment and divorce settlement, I wasn’t badly off and, effectively, with my only overhead being the flat, I was pretty much a free agent. But, at the time, which happened to coincide with winter, I didn’t see it like that. Basically, I felt sorry for myself. I applied for jobs but was unsuccessful because I didn’t really try that hard. I went out to drink with ex-colleagues but was never very good company. The final straw was one Saturday afternoon when, in the city centre, I saw my wife with her new partner, a smart, tall, healthy looking guy. It shocked me to see how happy she looked and, even more so, to see that she was expecting a baby. I began to realise just how much I had lost.

Christmas came and went and it was several months later, still without a job, that I got up late one morning and found I had no milk. Unenthusiastically, I pulled on a t-shirt and jeans and walked to the food store.

I don’t know what it was, but there was something about that morning. It was no longer winter, there were birds singing and the trees were in bud in the park where I walked. The lady at the food store was cheerful as were the four guys working on a building site who acknowledged me as I passed them on the way home. When I got home I caught sight of myself in the mirror " I looked an unhappy, unkempt mess. I realised that things had to change.

Over the next few days, the weather continued to warm up. I made sure that I followed the same routine " a walk through the park first thing, a chat with the lady at the food store, acknowledging the builders on the building site on the way home. And the rest of the time, I sat and thought long and hard about the last time I had been happy - really happy - and what I needed to do to become happy again. Of course, I knew that I needed a job and a relationship would be good but those things were too big to achieve in one leap. And then it occurred to me - I realised the last time that I had been truly happy started when I had had my head shaved. I looked once more in the mirror " my hair was so long that it fell over the collar of my t-shirt at the back and I had got used to flicking it back with my hand when it fell into my eyes at the front. Could it really be the start of better things? There was only one way to find out.

I walked through the park then turned away from the office towards the little block where Moz had his barber’s shop. I started to feel a little apprehensive as it was over a year since I had been " I certainly wasn’t one of his best customers! But the shop was still there and, as I approached, a guy walked out and I saw through the window that there were no other customers waiting. Moz was sweeping up.

I opened the door and he looked up. ‘My friend,’ he beamed. ‘It has been too long, no? Come in, sit down. I can see you are having a rough time but I will make you look better.’ Why did I worry about my reception here I thought as I felt the soft leather of the chair envelop me? ‘You just want a little trim, no? For work?’ he continued.

‘Well, actually, I was thinking about a bit more than that,’ I said. I explained everything that had happened over the past two years " the head shave, the holiday, the all consuming job, the break up, the divorce, the redundancy, seeing my ex-wife and my need for a new start.
Moz grinned. ‘So we start the start with a new image,’ he beamed. ‘And it may be the same hair cut but you will not be the Brit Abroad like last time. You will look the hard man, the sophisticated man in this country, no?’

It was my turn to grin. ‘That’s exactly what I want,’ I said, ‘at least to begin with.’
Moz stood behind me and massaged my temples. ‘There has been much stress here,’ he observed. ‘So, for the next hour you will be still and I will work my magic.’

He reached for the clippers and switched them on. The sound of the hum was relaxing. ‘And here we go, my friend,’ he said as I felt the teeth begin to shave the back of my head. Gently, gently " one, two, three vertical strikes across the back of my head and I felt the long hair fall to the ground. Four, five, six and, even though the room was warm, I felt the air on the part of my head that had become exposed. The clippers went higher then to my left, becoming louder as they got closer to my ear taking with them all the hair above it. Moz paused and placed the three middle fingers of each hand on my temples once again. ‘You are beginning to feel better because you are beginning to look better, my friend,’ he smiled. ‘But we still have much work to do.’ He switched the clippers back on, this time concentrating on my right side and shaving off all the hair to about one inch above my ear. I knew that, in the past, this is where he would have stopped and started to blend in the longer hair he would leave on top.

Moz paused again, his expression pensive. ‘My friend,’ he said after a few moments pause, ‘I know you need to find a job and, because of that, there is an argument for cutting your hair very conservatively. But I cannot help but feel you would find true happiness and fulfilment if you let me cut your hair as you did all those months ago. Will you trust me?’ I had nothing so had nothing to lose.
‘Sure,’ I said.

Moz smiled and switched on the clippers once again. Even though they were the same set of clippers, they sounded different now. No longer relaxing, the sound was exciting. Moz held up the long strand of hair that had fallen into my face. ‘Here we go, my friend,’ he whispered as the steel of the clippers connected with my forehead. I looked at Moz who was still holding the strand of hair but it was no longer attached to my head. I had lost count of the number of strokes with the clippers that Moz had made as the hair on the top of my head fell to the floor but, a few minutes later, I observed the shaved dome of the top of my head that I associated with that holiday all that time ago. Moz performed a few more strokes, switched off the clippers and stood back. ‘This is a good start, no?’ he asked moving further towards the sink at the back of the shop.

I knew what was coming next as I saw him mix a lather then walk back with bowl and brush to lather the sides and back of my head. He produced his razor. The same order as the clippers but little strokes, rather than sweeping ones, this time. After the back, the left side; after the left, the right and, all the time, high, high up so that my head was bald except for the faintest shadow of a mohawk down the middle. Moz took a dry towel and wiped the excess lather then produced a hot one and wrapped my head in it. It felt amazing to be bald again and the memories came flooding back.

Moz removed the towel and stood back for us both to observe the result. It was an incredibly hard yet sophisticated look indicating that I was to be taken seriously.

Moz looked at my expression. ‘I can tell there is something else, my friend,’ he said.

I grinned. ‘The first time you shaved my head like this, you also pierced my ear,’ I explained. ‘And I was happy then.’

Moz smiled. ‘There is no need for me to pierce your ear again, my friend,’ he answered. ‘The little hole I made will still be there. Just wait a moment.’ He opened a drawer and took something out that I couldn’t see then he reached for my left ear lobe. The sensation was similar to that which I remembered the first time but, rather than the short, sharp pain I felt originally, this time there was just a little pressure. Moz removed his hand and there, in my ear, was a little gold piercing stud. But Moz hadn’t quite finished. ‘Of course, my friend,’ he said, ‘you wore one ear stud for your first new start so why not let me stud your ear again to show this is your second new start? You will no longer be the Brit Abroad - this time you will be the Brit at Home.’ He took out his piercing gun and placed it on my lobe, just above the original stud. This time the sensation was the same as the very first time he had shaved my head and, moments later I was looking in the mirror at a man with a bald head and his left ear studded twice.

It was time to go but I promised to return to Moz in two weeks and every two weeks after that. I felt energised and renewed with my new appearance yet nothing was really resolved and, with a shaved head and ear studs, it might be more difficult to get a job than before.

But I felt happier and kept my routine of early morning walks in the park. And that’s when things started to happen. A few days later, on my way back from the shop, I passed the building site. There were only three guys there rather than the usual four and, when I asked, they explained that their mate had left them to emigrate with his family. I joked that they would need a replacement and was astounded when they agreed and asked me if I wanted a trial as their labourer saying that I looked the type! Me? A guy who had only ever worked in an office. I grinned as I looked at them " each with a shaved head and two with a pierced ear. Perhaps it wouldn’t be such an issue after all. I started the following Monday. It was a glorious English summer’s day. It was painfully hard, physical work and, by the end of the week, my hands were raw and my body ached everywhere. I knew that the work would only become ever harder and that the weather wouldn’t always be so good but I was extatically happy working outdoors with my new, down to earth, practical friends.

I had to really work hard to fit in a visit to Moz now that I was working and, as a result, I missed my daily trip to the shop at the other end of the park. The next day, the lady behind the counter said that she’d missed me and asked where I’d been. I told her a bit of my story and then a bit more and we agreed to meet after work to find out a little more about each other. Things moved very quickly over the next few weeks as we dated and became boyfriend and girlfriend " terms that, months before, I thought I’d never use ever again in relation to me! She started to stay over and then moved into the flat. We became the most solid couple you could imagine and it felt the most natural thing in the world several months later when she told me I had impregnated her and she was going to have my baby.

And so, in some ways, I feel that I have come full circle but, in others, my life now is so different from what it was when I was married and worked in an office that there really is no comparison. It is high summer and I sit with my girlfriend in the park near to the flat where I live. Because it is wonderfully hot, I am shirtless, wearing only a pair of shorts and flip flops. I have muscles in places that I did not know existed previously before I started my labouring job and my hands are rough but in my arms I hold my baby son and my upper body casts a shadow over him to protect him from the sun. To me, the birth of my son represented another new start so I asked Moz to pierce my right ear lobe and now wear a stud through that as well as the two in my left. For the past year and more I have religiously visited Moz who has shaved my head. As I look at the sleeping child in my arms, I cannot wait for the time when I can take him as well. I am no longer the Brit Abroad, I am the Brit at Home and I am very happy.

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