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Why I Never Became A Barber by Zero

[In Which I Was Fifteen and Bored And My Curiosity Got The Best of Me]

I was fifteen years old back in 2009, which meant that emo/skater hair was all the rage (future readers might read this in the far away, long time ago tone I read the stories set in the 1970s). So, I sported a mop of dark wavy hair, of course, with heavy bangs over my forehead and ears well buried underneath them.

By then, I had already started to accept the fact that I was a bit more into haircuts than the average guy. But I had never done anything about my hair. Especially since turning fifteen years old in a Latin American country meant it was Quinceañera season and lots of pictures would be taken and posted for posterity in my friends' social networks.

I was not going to be the guy who did something radical to his hair with that going on. (Not to mention, I was also a coward).

Then, one morning, I woke up really bored. Dangerously so.

At this point, I was deadly curious about how the bare blades of the hair clippers felt like... problem was that we didn't own a pair at home. So, I searched for the closest thing we had: my dad's trimmer.

I locked myself in my bedroom with the trimmer.

With my heartbeat's speed increasing, I turned it on. The buzzing noise startled me and I really hoped no one heard it.

Scared as f*** about both the possibility of being discovered and making something I might regret, I looked into the mirror and checked my options.

I decided to shave the trail of hairs that grew down my neck. So, I turned my head around and placed the trimmer down their end. I slid it up softly in short strokes at the time. The whirring blades felt cool against my skin and I marveled at how easy they removed everything in their path.

Once I had done it on both sides, I did a damage assessment. I touched the back of my neck. I didn't find anything out of the ordinary. I peered into the mirror just to be sure.

It looked like nothing had happened.


Still excited and with a newfound confidence in the fact that I could get away with this, I turned the trimmer on again.

This time, I felt daring. I went for my sideburns.

I pressed the trimmer against the top half of my right ear and moved it downwards. Carefully, I cleared away all my juvenile resemblance of facial hair. I shaved the other to match. It went as easily as the first one.

Then, I paused and admired my reflection once more.

I was a motherf***ing master barber.

And no one had knocked on my door yet.

(Correction: I was a motherf***ing master ninja barber).

I scanned my face, trying to find something else I could test my self-barbering skills on without making a noticeable change. I was clipper happy, for lack of better words.

No facial hair to speak of. I had already cut my sideburns...

Before I could stop myself or think things better, I pushed my bangs back and found a perfect target: my widow's peak.

My mind started racing.

My widow's peak wasn't too pronounced or anything. Still, I was going to change the shape of my hairline this time. I felt my heart drumming.

With adrenaline coursing through my veins, I put the machine at the center of my forehead. I flicked the switch. The vibrations pulsated against my skull. Then, I pulled back slowly.

I felt a lot of strands coming off my head way too abruptly.

They drifted silently to the top of my dresser.

At that very moment, I realized I didn't have a barbering career ahead of me. I had clearly overestimated my skills.

I turned my dad's trimmer off and put it aside.

With a bad feeling in my gut, I looked into my reflection and saw what I had done.

My widow's peak was gone. And so was a portion of my hairline. I had shaved way too deep into it and I could see the straight line that marked the place where the metallic teeth had been.

I fingered the spot. There was a stiff patch of stubble. The only reason it wasn't down to the skin and I didn't end up with a bald spot was because I had not pressed harder.

F***ing hell.

I felt like apologizing to my hair, to those strands I had shaved off. I knew I should have stopped at my sideburns. With regret hitting me like a suckerpunch, I put my bangs back in place over my forehead, where they belonged.

My fringe was a perfect camouflage.

I was relieved.

Now, I just had to keep them in place more or less permanently and I would be okay.

I rushed back to the bathroom to put away the trimmer. My mom caught sight of me. I feigned nothing had happened. She didn't seem to notice either. As soon as I could, I scurried into my bedroom and got rid of all the evidence, with the fear of someone who had committed manslaughter, like they were blood stains.

Everything was under control.

Until my dad arrived home a couple minutes later and greeted me.

"What's that shadow on your forehead?" he scanned me with his eyes.
"What shadow?" I asked nervously.

He pulled my bangs back and pointed at the patch of missing hair.

I had to confess.

[In Which My Idiocy Led Me To A Dead End].

A throaty laughter came from my father's chest when I told him. It was followed by a "you should have told me if you wanted to shave your head" and an argument I was due to lose to his natural cut-throat logic: I needed to get that fixed.

Before I knew it, I was following my dad to the barbershop. As self-conscious as I could possibly be, I kept my head lowered the whole time and avoided eye contact while he explained the incident.

His barber also had a good laugh about it.

My father's Italian barber, (I'll call him Giuseppe) was a master with razor-cutting, something of a Sevillan barbering tradition, I've been told.

I had a feeling that he wasn't going to do a show of that particular skill today.

His hand came over my forehead and inspected the self-inflicted damage.

"I think a number one might do the trick" he rubbed the patch of stubble.

I was mortified when I heard that, but I couldn't bring myself to say anything.

"Sit down, lad" Giuseppe invited me to his leather chair.

I resignedly did so. Soon, he was securing a neck strip around my throat and tying one of his capes, I was at this point a full-grown fifteen years old, yet it seemed to eat me up whole.

He worked his comb through a couple tangles in my hair. As he raised my bangs, under the light I could see the trace of the trimmer in my hairline. There was the five o'clock shadow, shoving me in my face my idiocy.

Then, he unhooked his hair clippers from the counter. I remember hearing a quiet click and then a loud, distinct hum.

I knew at that moment that I had dug my own grave.

Giuseppe didn't waste a second and before I knew it, the metallic teeth were on my forehead.

I don't recall if I closed my eyes. I might have blinked.

Without hesitation, in a display of true barbering skill, he dashed them all the way back to my crown. My thick, wavy locks departed from my head so abruptly, I almost didn't register they were being sheared off. The crackling noise as the machine encountered them was the only indication of their movement. I only felt them abandon my head at the very end.

I saw the wide strip right across the middle of my scalp. There was a path of stubble surrounded by longer locks. My vanished widow's peak blended in it seamlessly.

Giuseppe made a second, then a third pass. He was quickly shearing off most of my hair off down to an eight of an inch. I could only watch my months’ worth of growth disappear. My hair came off in sheaves, falling all around me.

I had brought this upon myself.

I remember my natural introversion was at its fullest and I didn't make conversation. Just complied to the instructions to tilt my head one way and the other. My hair didn't stop raining. Buzz and there went another fistful of locks. Buzz and another clump landed on my shoulder.

I felt like a convict, or like I was being sent off to reform school.

If regret had suckerpunched me in the gut before, now it had ran me over with all the force of a speeding truck.

After a couple minutes, the entirety of my hair was littering the linoleum floor, if not lying over my shoulders and lap. I felt strange and naked without the weight of my bangs. Giuseppe folded my ear and shaved around it as well. There was not a single remnant of my mop on my head.

He ran the clippers a couple times more across the top of my head. He was dedicated to buzzing it to perfection. It looked like I had never ever had long hair to begin with. I only recognized myself in the mirror because I had witnessed this happening.

"Now this is all even" he smiled in the mirror and brushed his fingertips across the bristles on top.

He traded the clippers for a straight razor. Long hair and all, I had never been shaved before and my pulse quickened at the sight. He asked me to remain still as he shaved and squared my neckline with that cold blade, with surgical precision. I didn’t dare move a muscle. I think I didn’t even breathe. The scraping noise seemed way too loud in the otherwise silent barbershop. Finally, he applied a lotion to my nape and dusted me off.

I looked into the mirror again.

I didn't feel like a convict anymore. I looked like one.

Still, the experience had been both like a nightmare and a dream. Just that I couldn't decide which one back then.

My father paid for the cut. He asked me half-jokingly if that was what I wanted. I didn't reply. I was still conflicted about everything, thinking about how I would look in pictures now surrounded by my long-haired friends. Perhaps my dad had been silently expecting me to get rid of my mop, and I had just handed him an excuse to do so in a silver platter.

He did not keep his hands off my head. Neither could I, but I tried not to make it obvious.

On a family gathering the next week, my older male relatives said I looked like a man when they saw me. Lots of rather rough and unwanted head-rubbing ensued. I received the compliments while silently mourning my hair.

In time, I got used to the buzz. But I didn't stick with it then.

It was 2009 and long, emo hair was still cool.

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