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Ray Staves Off Mid-Life Doldrums by Manny

Ray was feeling stuck in a rut. Was it the first inkling of a mid-life crisis? He'd soon turn forty and his life was ho-hum. Wife, kids, office job, mortgage, honey-do chores... Most of his friends were in his same boat, and when they had their rare get-together at the tavern, they would mope to each other about similar problems.

As Ray went mechanically through his morning routine, slipping into the office clothes he had laid out the night before, he noticed that his hair was a little on the shaggy side. After several efforts, he finally got the side part just right. But, the top and sides were quite bulky and it took a bit of work to get them looking okay. Ray knew the heavy forelock would need more than just a bit of product to stay swept back into a quiff. Yep, no doubt, it was time to visit his barber for a trim. He'd do it on his way home from work....or Saturday morning if he felt tired at the end of the work day. At least it was Friday, and Ray didn't have to wear a tie!

"Anything exciting for the weekend?" his friend Doug asked as they were having lunch.

"Nope, not really....unless you call getting a trim at the barbershop exciting," Ray deadpanned.

"A trim....no. But something radically different might be exciting. A crewcut would take 4-5 years off your looks, Ray," said Doug. "My brother recently got one and put an end to his tidy businesscut. Made him look, feel and act years younger."

The story of Doug's brother getting a buzzcut strangely excited Ray. No more floppy forelock to contend with in the morning! Why not shake things up a bit? Imagine how surprised his wife would be if he came home with a snappy crewcut instead of his tired, same-old businesscut?

As Ray left the cafeteria he glanced about to study any crewcuts in the area. A few older men with thinning hair basically buzzed off....but quite a number of young men with very short haircuts. Even shorter than standard crewcuts! And they were virile, manly types who looked confident and up-and-coming.

Ray stopped in the bathroom on the way back to his office. He looked at himself in the mirror. He needed a change. Perhaps not a crewcut -- but he would have the barber given him more than a trim. Especially the forelock -- chopped off short and thinned down considerably!

The idea of having his quiff whacked off really excited Ray. In fact, he could think of little else all afternoon. 'Chop it off!' he'd tell the barber. Hold the forelock up with his fingers and say, 'I want you to put an end to this floppy forelock.'

Ray imagined himself with a little "bumper" in front, instead of a quiff. That would be a big change, he thought. And, he did feel excited about it.

But should he go a lot shorter all over, or just the bangs? Ray decided to Google 'crewcut' and saw a huge array of amazing images. The young fellows that sported them all looked very handsome and manly. He recalled Doug say, "My brother put an end to his tidy businesscut and made him look, feel and act years younger." It would be the perfect antidote for his mid-life doldrums too.
Ray decided he would, in fact, ask for a crewcut!

Wow! A lot of hair would fall to the cape. He ran his fingers through his plush dark locks. Why not? Buzz it all off!

By the time Ray got into his car, he was nearly shaking with excitement. He hadn't been so wound up in years. He examined himself in the rear view mirror. One last glance at his former self -- a tired, staid mid-level manager. Oh...that massive forelock! He couldn't wait to see it fall to the barber's cape!

Ray's legs felt wobbly as he walked to the shop. It was a feeling he'd never experienced. Before he reached the door, he made another quick decision to enhance the change. Usually, Ray would wait for Scott, the younger barber. He felt like Joe, the old codger, generally gave "too short" haircuts. The men getting up from his chair generally looked "very barbered"...even scalped.

But, today, if Joe was the first barber available....Ray would take a seat in the geezer's chair!

On pushing the door open, he was faced with a dilemma. Both barbers were free. Should he stick with his usual one? Things seemed to be headed in that direction as Scott rose from his chair, assuming he would be the one giving the haircut.

But, Ray, decided to chart his own very short path. "I'm going for a bit of a change today, gentlemen. Something a lot shorter. So, I thought I'd let Joe take his clippers to this thatch...."

Joe smiled, eager for the opportunity, and vacated his big throne. "Take a seat here, young fellow. I just oiled up my Oster's and they are ready to go!"

Ray eyed the line of clippers hanging from the counter. Any one of them could take him down!

Joe cast the pin-striped cape and brought it about Ray's neck, fastening it with an over-sized metal clip. "So, it's going to be shorter for you today?"

Ray wrestled his hand from under the cape. He grasped his thick forelock. "This has to go. I want it taken off very short." Then he ran his fingers through his hair. "All of this really. Something quite short!"

"Perhaps a flattop?" Joe suggested. "You've got the perfect hair and head shape for one. It's not something I would recommend for everyone, but if you're wanting a big change, my vote is to flatten this out up here. And yes, that means this big floppy forelock is going to hit the cape almost in its entirety. Peel the sides and back almost bare. How about it?"

Ray unexpectedly found himself open to the idea. "Did you see those two men running for the Senate in Montana, both sporting flattops and bragging on their haircuts as part of their campaigns?"

"I ought to move out there," Joe laughed as he reached for the clippers. "So, a flattop it will be!" Without another word Joe snapped on the machine, snagged the long, thick lock with a comb and brought the chattering metal teeth right through the mass of hair.

It took a few split seconds. Ray watched with wonder as the lock of dark hair fell to the cape. "Oh!" he gasped as he gripped the arms of the chair tightly to steady himself. His transformation had begun! There was no going back...the standard businesscut was destined for the dustbin.

Joe snagged another mass of dark hair from the top, and with some deft clipper-over-comb action sent it to the cape. He was clearing away the overgrowth before he'd begin to sculpt the flattop in earnest.

Once a huge cauldron of Ray's cut hair had collected on his lap, the barber began with some banter. "You know, you made the right choice requesting me today. If it had been up to Scott there, he'd still be asking you if you were sure about the change, and suggesting that he just take a bit off at a time so that you could weasel out of it if you suddenly got cold feet." As he spoke, the old barber was chuckling, knowing he meant nothing more than to rile his colleague up a bit.

Scott defended himself from the other chair, "Well, Ray, how about it? Do you wish you had a chance to back out of the big change or are you glad Joe went straight to the punch and started turning you into an army drill sergeant before you could consider it a bit?"

The thought of where the haircut could go suddenly caused Ray's stomach to churn. Certainly Joe wasn't planning on giving him a landing strip or a high 'n tight or shoeing him?!

"Well, I did want a big change, and that's what I'm getting," Ray said calmly. "Choosing Joe was the right move for me today. No chance to back out, if you know what I mean. But, I'm not sure drill sergeant is where I want to go...."

"So, no skinned sides for you?" Joe asked. "But you will go for a landing strip. Every decent flattop needs a proper landing strip, in my professional opinion."

Ray's stomach churned again. Joe was pushing the envelope with him. The thought of the clippers grazing the top of his head sent his nerves into overdrive.

"That's right, no skinned sides. I was thinking about that Montana Senator -- Jon Tester. I like his length," Ray said. "It's got a nice professional look, and not so military, I think."

"Okay, we'll give you a #1 on the sides and leave a little length on top," said Joe. "But no prissy, overly long plush top! You'd just be exchanging one fussy, high maintenance look for another one."

"No, give me a Senator Tester length cut," Ray said firmly. He reached out from under the cape and took the shorn forelock into his hand. "Wow, this is one big chunk of hair." He tossed it to the floor.

"Good riddance!" laughed Joe.

Suddenly, the barber forced Ray's head down, and he felt the clipper at his nape. Ray steadied himself....the sides and back were about to get taken down nearly to the wood!

The vibration of the metal teeth on his sensitive nape felt fantastic. As he stared down at the cape virtually covered with his shorn hair, Ray savored the feel of the clippers climbing slowly up the back of his head. There was no doubt Joe was taking it almost all off in back. Mentally, Ray followed the track of the clippers up and over the occipital bone, climbing closer and closer to the crown before finally easing off the scalp.

"Whoa, Joe! You're going to leave him with some hair, I hope!" Scott interjected from the peanut gallery.

A wave of remorse swept across Ray as he rippled with tension under the cape. What had he gotten himself into?

"Not very much. No, not at all. Ray is going to look like a real man when he leaves here, not with some whimpy pathetic pretty boy flattop -- the kind you give!" Joe countered back good-naturedly. "You don't want to look whimpy, do you, Ray?" Joe asked rhetorically.

"No, but I don't want to look bald either!" he replied, still in a prostrate position with Joe keeping his head firmly bowed in a penitent pose.

The clippers sprang to life again, this time moving much more quickly up the back of his head.

As he rounded the side, Joe flicked the mass of hair being peeled off so that it landed on the caped, right in Ray's lap, where he could plainly see what was coming off.

"You've taken off so much of my hair, Joe, I can hardly see the cape," Ray joked nervously.

The barber let his cowed client finally sit up straight, then cocked his head to the side.

The clippers moved up quickly through Ray's sideburn, obliterating the small bit of flair he'd been allowing himself and peeling the dense layer of padding off almost to the skin. Ray's stomach lurched. For the first time he clearly saw just how short the sides and back would be. Virtually nothing! White scalp cleared gleamed from under the sparse layer of near stubble.

"Steady there, pal," the old barber warned, as Ray instinctively tried to dodge a second swipe. "I want you getting your money's worth!"

"You're not giving me that army look I wasn't wanting, are you, Joe?" Ray asked nervously.

Joe stopped the shearing and stared playfully at Ray. "Of course not! When you leave here, you'll be fit for the U.S. Senate!"

Then he turned the chair away from the mirror. "Now, perhaps this will help you relax a bit. Stop being such a Nervous Nelly. Once I'm finished with your new look, you'll see the final product."

Scott let out a bit of a laugh from the other chair and Ray felt chastised. He decided to just relax and let Joe give him the flattop per his best instinct as a 'take charge' barber. In a way, the barber was right, a big reveal of the final new look was probably the best thing for him.

Ray decided to try some light conversation, "I guess it's not every day a man walks in here with a businesscut and goes for a radical change."

"Doesn't happen nearly often enough, in my opinion," replied Joe. "But when it does happen, I sure enjoy driving the big change with my powerful Oster's in hand!"

"Tell him about that teen who came in her last month, the parents were sending to military school," Scott suggested.

"Oh, talk about hair on the floor! This kid had a pony tail flopping down his back! I skinned him something fierce. And Scott there, tackled the father," Joe added. "Let him off too easy, in my book."

"Oh, he squirmed plenty under the cape," Scott laughed. "I think he was some sort of professional guy. Not a normal client. Guess he had made some sort of deal with the son to get clipped too. The teen was sullen about the haircut, as expected. But the father turned out far worse. He could not stop touching his shorn head when I let him out of the chair!"

"Yep, the father was much more traumatized by the haircut than the kid was," remarked Joe.

"No wonder. The boy was heading off to military school where everyone else would have a knob head. But, when Mr. Banker Executive returned to his office the next day with his fine suit on and briefcase in hand, I'm sure his baldy look was going to generate a lot of smirks and whispers! said Scott.

"But, you, Ray...you are going to make heads swivel and people take note when you stride in looking like a million bucks!" Joe said, finishing off the sides. "And now, for the most crucial part, you need to sit up straight and still, got it pal?"

Ray was very tempted to reiterate he did not want a landing strip, but held his tongue. Surely, Joe would remember. And if he didn't.....well, so be it. Ray would take it in stride.

Then it happened! Ray felt the bare teeth of the clippers lightly graze the top of his head. The feel was otherworldly!! It was like nothing Ray had ever experienced before.

"Looking good!" Joe pronounced cheerfully. "No decent flattop is complete without a nice landing strip, Ray. Remember that."

"That one could accommodate a 747!" joked Scott, who had come over to watch the final touches. "Just kidding! You're looking great, Ray!"

Joe slowly swiveled the chair around to face the mirror. "Tcha-da!" he announced with a flourish.

Ray broke into a huge smile. The flattop was way shorter than he had envisioned, but it looked fantastic.

"WOW! I love it!" he exclaimed. Out came his hand and he felt the landing strip and back. "I could do this all day!"

Joe pulled the cape off carefully and shook all Ray's hair to the floor. "Quite a carpet you've left us with, Ray."

Ray moved closer to the mirror to examine the flattop more carefully. "Show me the back," he asked Joe, who was more than happy to produce a hand mirror.

"What do you think?" the old barber asked.

"I think this haircut deserves a very generous tip!" Ray said as he handed the barber $30, twice the posted rate for a flattop.

"My that's generous, of you. Thank you very much," Joe said, warmly shaking Ray's hand. "Next time, though, that landing strip is going to expand in width and length!"

On his way home, Ray could not stop sneaking looks in the rear view mirror and touching his shorn head. He felt bold and confident.

He burst through the front door with gusto, "Honey, I'm home! Call your mother to come sit with the kids this evening. We're going out to dinner and then dancing! I have something to show you...."

"Ray!" she gasped. "I can't believe it! Let me see! What ever inspired you? You look wonderful, honey....."

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