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Russell's Haircut Adventures: Part II by Just_Me
This is part two of a very autobiographical story, although I have changed the names of the characters. This story picks up after Russell’s father forced Russell to get a very short haircut just before the father left to work out of town for about six months.
Dad left on the day after he forced me to get that horrible haircut. He hadn’t been out of the driveway more than a few minutes when I started working on Mom about letting me grow my hair out while Dad was away. I kept saying, "I don’t want it to get real long. I just don’t want to look like a freak at school."
I could tell she was torn about it. She rarely went against what Dad said, and I knew I was putting her in an awkward spot…but I didn’t care.
Mom dithered a bit, but I knew I had her when she said, "Your hair is so short that it’s a moot point to talk about it right now. We’ll let your hair grow to its normal length, and I’ll think about it in the meantime. Now, go get your clothes ready for school tomorrow."
I knew I had her support at that moment. I decided to push things while she was agreeing with me (even though she hadn’t officially agreed with me). "Mom, can we go to the mall and buy me some "normal" clothes? Maybe a few pair of jeans, and a couple of shirts? Dad won’t be here, and he won’t know."
"I guess that would be OK, I really can justify getting you some new clothes, since you're outgrowing the clothes you have now. I’ll do it, as long as you don’t get anything too outlandish. You know your father won’t be gone forever, and we will have to deal with his reaction when he gets home."
I can’t tell you how happy I was. I kept saying, "Thank you Mom! Now I won’t be the only kid in the universe wearing dress pants and a dress shirt to school!"
Having some decent clothes to wear to school took some of the sting out of having to go to school with my new haircut.
Getting to wear normal clothes helped me not feel so isolated at school. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I was fitting in with the kids at school.
Once I got past the battles at school caused by that ridiculous haircut Dad had inflicted on me, my self-confidence really started climbing. I became more confident, and started asking girls out, and was surprised when they started accepting my invitations. I increased my workouts, and started putting some muscles on. I had a growth spurt, and was soon the tallest kid in my class. I felt like I was looking like a man, not a boy. I had no doubt that I was looking hot. Looking back, I now know I got downright cocky.
I heard Mom and Dad talking one the phone a few times, and she was trying to get him used to the idea that I was no longer his little boy. She kept saying, "It’s time for Russell to start taking some responsibility for himself." (Dad was a big believer in taking responsibility, so I knew Mom was taking the right path to win him over.)
He gradually gave in to the idea of me wearing "normal" clothes (I don’t know if he would’ve given in if he had known I was already wearing "normal" clothes). Mom was talking to Dad one day, and she yelled upstairs, "Russell, get down here. Your father wants to talk to you."
I thought, "Oh, s**t! What have I done now?"
I picked up the phone, and gave a tentative, "Hello?"
Dad didn’t waste any time. "I hear you’re wanting wear to fashionable clothes. Against my better judgment, I’m going to allow it, but there’s going to be some restrictions on what you can and can’t wear. Your jeans have to be clean, and not faded. I won’t tolerate outrageously big bell-bottoms. Plus, they have to be stiffly starched, so they at least look somewhat presentable. T-shirts are out, but I will allow you to wear polos. Are you willing to abide by these rules?"
I instantly went into a frenzy of thank you’s.
As I was getting ready to hand the phone back to Mom, Dad said, "Don’t push me on this. If I get home and find out you’ve embarrassed me by the way you’re dressing, I’ll throw everything away that I don’t approve of, and it’ll be slacks and a dress shirt for you as long as you live with me. Do you understand me?"
Mom and I had fun shopping for more clothes after we got Dad’s approval.
Being able to wear "normal" clothes really helped me prepare for the next battle, even though it was a battle I was pretty sure I would never win. Not long after I won the battle about the clothes, Mom stepped in and started talking to Dad about letting me let my hair grow out (again, he didn’t know he was talking about something that had already happened). I joined in the battle, and talked to Dad on the phone several times. Mom and I had both promised my hair wouldn’t get too long, just barely over the ears. It wouldn’t touch my collar, and the bangs would never get long enough to get in my eyes. I promised I’d never do a center part, that I would always part it on the side like a man should. I assured Dad I would take good care of my hair, and that it would always be clean and combed. I explained how I wanted to fit in. I assured him that no one—and I mean no one—at my school had short hair like I did (and I was convinced no boy in any other school in America had short hair like mine). For a long time, none of our reasoning, or arguments, convinced Dad, but eventually he started giving in. Finally he said he’d let the sides fill in, and let me block the back, but it had to be over the ears. I agreed to that—at least for a starting point. I hoped that I could get him to change his mind as time progressed.
Once my hair had reached the length that Dad has prescribed, we took a picture and sent it to Dad. He wrote back and said, "I don’t like it, but it’s not horrible. I’ll agree to let you keep it this long, but it better not get any longer. You’d better get that in your mind, and keep it there. If you push me, we’ll go back to the old regime--a visit to Mr. Callahan every week, for short back and sides. Let me know that you understand me."
Time passed, and my hair finally reached what I thought of as a reasonable length.
Dad’s trip to Pennsylvania got extended again, and again. He wound up being gone almost a whole year, and Mom only made me get a haircut a few times, and each time it was longer than the last one. I knew my free time was coming to an end, but I planned on enjoying it to the last possible moment. I assured Mom I would get it cut to Dad’s standards before he came home.
You know the old saying about the best laid plans of mice and men? Well, my plans got sent askew. Dad showed up two weeks earlier than he had told us he was going to. I was in the living room when he walked in. I knew I was in deep s**t as soon as I saw the look on his face when he saw me. His face turned bright red, and his mouth started moving, but he wasn’t saying anything. Somehow I knew he was so angry he couldn’t talk. He fumbled through the pockets of his suit coat, and pulled out his pipe. He lit it while he glared at me. Finally, he said, "Get in the truck. NOW!"
Knowing there was nothing I could say or do, I did the only thing I could think of. I yelled, "Mom! Dad’s home. Come see him."
I was hoping that Mom could calm him down.
Dad squelched that idea. He yelled, "Hazel, don’t bother coming in here. I don’t want to see you right now. I’m too angry. Russell and I are going to the barbershop, and we’re going to deal with this s**t on his head right now."
I thought about running, but I knew there was no place to run. Worse, I knew I had no one to blame but myself. I had broken every one of Dad’s rules. My hair was so long that it completely covered my ears. The hair was below my collar, not above it as I had promised. My bangs reached my nose. I had a center part.
I thought, "Russell, you’re a dumb ass. If you hadn’t reneged on your promises, you wouldn’t be in the position you’re in."
I wanted to crawl as I walked toward the truck, but Dad wasn’t having it. He growled and said, "You’d better move your ass. I want it in the truck, NOW!"
I moved my ass.
It’s funny the things you remember. The thing I remember most about the walk to the truck was how much smoke Dad was generating from his pipe. If I hadn’t known better, I would’ve sworn he had four pipes in his mouth--all going at the same time.
Once we were on the road, I started trying to placate Dad. I told him I knew I was wrong, and that I would never do it again.
He said, "It’s too late now, Russell. You didn’t live up to your end of the deal, but I’m going to live up to mine. That s**t is coming off your head, as soon as I can get you to Sarge."
I tried another tactic. I tried stalling him, hoping he’d calm down later. "Dad, school pictures are next week. I’ll gladly agree to whatever haircut you pick, if you’ll just let me keep my hair for the pictures."
He glared at me (yet again). "Have you gone stark, raving nuts? Do you think I’m going to let you get pictures with that mop on your head. I’d always have to remember it if I did—as if I could ever forget the shock of seeing a son of mine looking like a d**ned hippy!"
Ever a smart ass, I said, "Well, if you’re going to remember it anyway, why not let me get a picture of it, so I can remember it?"
"Wrong answer, boy. The hair is going away—today—and it’s going to stay away for a long, long time. Deal with it. I tried to be fair and meet you halfway, but you wouldn’t. So now, you get to deal with the consequences of your actions."
I just shut up at that point. I knew from experience that there was no argument that was going to work once Dad invoked the "consequences of your actions" phrase. I was done. There was nothing else that could be done. I went to my last resort, and prayed that God would keep Mr. Callahan from butchering me like he had last year.
While I was praying, I realized that I really hated the smell of Dad’s pipe. I don’t know why I decided I hated it so much, and at the worst possible moment. It had never bothered me before, and I had actually sorta liked it. I sometimes thought about trying his pipe, to see if I would like it.
I mouthed off, and said, "Well, if there’s nothing I can do about the haircut, can I at least get there without you suffocating me with that stinky old pipe of yours?"
As soon as he looked at me, I knew I had made another major mistake. He said, "Open the glove box."
I did, and saw a bunch of really big cigars. He said, "If you don’t like the smell of my pipe, maybe you can handle a cigar. Give me one of those!"
I guess he could see I was thinking about making another smart remark, and he said, "Boy, don’t even think about saying it. I’m so pissed at you right now I can’t see straight. Don’t push me, unless you want to see what’s going to happen."
I meekly handed him the requested cigar, and he soon had it clipped and lit. The sharp, pungent smell of his cigar filled the truck. It was much worse than the homey smell of his pipe. I wished I hadn’t said anything about. I coughed dramatically.
A look from Dad silenced me.
Once we got to the shop, Dad sat there a minute, breathing hard. I sat quietly. He finally said, "OK. Let’s get this over with. Get your ass in there."
I said, "Dad, please. I promise it’ll never happen again."
"You’re right, Russell. It’ll never happen again. I’ll make sure of it. Now get in there."
I thought, "My only remaining hope is that there’s a long line in there, and Dad’ll have time to calm down. I know I’m going to get a haircut, but I hope he’ll settle down, and just do white-walls, instead of peeling it like last time."
Then a thought worse than death hit me. What if Dad was so mad he had Mr. Callahan shave my head?
I silently cursed my luck when we walked in. Mr. Callahan was finishing up with the man in the chair, and there was no one waiting--although there were the usual old geezers sitting around smoking and gossiping. I tried to resign myself to a major shearing—and I was completely unsuccessful. I knew my only hope was a miracle from God, and I didn’t have much faith that was going to happen.
Dad sat down, and pulled me into the chair beside him. Mr. Callahan said (as he always did), "God-d**n it, Al, get your ass over here. I can’t cut your god-d**ned hair when your f**king head is all the way over there. By the way, when did you get back? I’ve missed your sorry ass!"
Dad said, "Sarge, you’ve got the wrong person. The young man sitting by me is gonna be getting his hair cut first."
Mr. Callahan did a double-take, and I could see the gears in his head moving. He wasn’t sure what to expect. He looked at Dad, as if to see if Dad was joking. He said, "Al, you’ve got some god-d**n nerve. Who the hell is this god-d**ned hippy you’ve brought in my shop? You know how I feel about those bastards."
He gave me the evil eye, and said, "If I didn’t know better, I’d say it was Russell under all that f**king hair, but I know that can’t be right. You wouldn’t let a boy of yours grow a god-d**ned mop of s**t on his head like this boy has!"
Dad laughed and said, "It’s Russell all right, and I promise you this. He grew all that s**t without me knowing about it. It would’ve never happened if Hazel had done what was right while I was gone, but we’re gonna take care of it right now. I sure am hoping those clippers of yours can find his ears, but be careful and don’t cut them off."
I smiled at Dad, just to let him know I didn’t mind being the butt of his joke—and to hopefully put him in a little better mood.
"Well, god-d**n it son, time’s a-wasting. Get your ass over here, and let’s get this god-d**ned show on the road."
Once he had the cape thrown around me, he said, "What’s it gonna be?"
I pointed at Dad. I knew I had no say in things at this point.
The conversation went like this.
Dad: "It took him a year to get his hair this long. I want it so short it’ll take him two years to get it back. Do you remember how short you cut it last time? I want his hair so short that he’d look like a hippy if he had that much hair now."
Mr. Callahan: "Sure, I remember how short it was. If you want it shorter, I’ll have to shave it."
Dad: "Now you understand what I want. Get ALL of that s**t off his head. Shave it twice, to make sure it’s good and gone."
I think my heart stopped when I heard that. My worst fear was coming true. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to cry, but didn’t want to give Dad the satisfaction of seeing me cry.
Dad looked at me, and said, "Russell, get ready to look like Kojak. I’ll buy you a lollipop after Sarge is done with you."
Mr. Callahan surprised me. He said, "Al, that’s a mighty drastic cut. Are you sure?"
Dad blew some cigar smoke at Mr. Callahan, and said, "Get rid of it. All of it. Now!"
"You got it, Al. It’s all gonna come off. Before I start though, you got another one of those cigars? I’d be happy to take one off your hands."
"I’ve got some more in the truck. Sharpen your razor, but don’t cut a hair on the boy's head until I get back though. I want to watch every god-d**ned moment of this--from start to finish."
That really annoyed me. If I was going to have to go through with it, I wanted to get it done. The needless waiting seemed like unnecessary torture to me.
Dad came back in, and handed the cigar over. Mr. Callahan said, "These are much better than what I usually smoke. I’m going to enjoy this." It took forever for Mr. Callahan to get the cigar clipped and lit. He disappeared in a cloud of smoke, and I hoped he could see through the smoke to cut my hair—or should I say shave it? By that time, I was resigned that it was going to happen. I just wanted it over, so I could see how bad it was going to look.
If I had been truthful with myself, I also would’ve admitted that a small part of me (a very small part) was looking forward to it. I had always liked watching Kojak...
Once again Mr. Callahan surprised me. He said, "Russell, I almost hate to do this to you, but it’s what Al wants. I just don’t understand why you thought you could get by with letting your hair grow like this. Anyone who knows Al knows he’s not going to stand for it."
"You’re right, Mr. Callahan. I don’t know why I thought I could get by with it, and I don’t blame you. I admit it’s all my fault. You just do what you’ve gotta do, and I’ll deal with it. Anyway, I think completely shaved might be easier to deal with than just the stubble you left me with last time. I think it’ll look more like I wanted to do something different, rather than I was made to do it. Who knows?"
Dad looked startled. I don’t know if he was more surprised by me taking responsibility for my actions, or that I didn’t seem to mind having my head shaved. I don’t think he analyzed his thoughts. He just said, "I ain’t got all day. Get it done."
"Russell, do you want to watch, or do you want to just see it afterwards?"
"I think I’ll watch. I didn’t watch you the last time you peeled my head."
"Okey-dokey! One shaved head coming up."
He started combing my hair, and I thought, "Why in the hell is he combing my hair when he’s going to shave it?"
He combed the top straight back, and put his hand right behind my hairline. I was caught off guard when he pulled my head back so far back that my nose was pointing at the ceiling. I had expected him to shove my head forward, like he had last time. I heard the clippers spring into action, and he plunged right down the middle of my head with them. He was going so fast that it felt like they were pulling my hair out, rather than cutting it.
"D**n!" he muttered. "Your god-d**ned hair is so thick the clippers don’t wanna go through it." He picked up another pair, and said, "These’ll handle it. Say bye to your hair."
He went a lot slower this time, and I could hear that lots of hair was being cut. I was watching him closely, and I didn’t see the difference until he made the second swath from the front to back. Suddenly I was aware I had a lot of white skin under my hair. I hadn’t thought about how white my scalp was.
After 5-6 swipes down the center of my head, he raised the height on his black leather barber’s chair, I guess to make it more comfortable for him to reach my sides. He put his hand on the top of my head, and shoved my chin deep into my neck. The feel of his hand on my almost bald head was extremely strange. The next thing I felt was the clippers running from the base of my neck all the way over the top of my head. After the first run of the clippers up the back of my head, he dumped what looked like a huge lump of hair onto the floor where I could see it. He said, "The floor of a barber shop is where long hair like this belongs, not on the head of a nice boy like you." Then he finished up the back, and moved to the sides.
He turned the clippers off and said, "Do you want to keep your sideburns?"
He gave an evil grin, and continued before I had really processed what he had said. "If you do, put out your hands to catch them. They’re next."
He shoved my head to the side, and ruthlessly pushed the clippers up my sideburn. I almost cried. I was proud of my sideburns. I was the first guy in my class would could grow them. I thought, "D**n, my sideburns had just started coming in, and now they’re going away. Oh well, it was exciting to have some long sideburns for a little while."
It seemed like he had stripped all the hair off my head in seconds. I reached up and felt it. I wasn’t surprised that there was nothing left but stubble, but I was surprised about how much noise the stubble made when I rubbed it. I was even more shocked that I liked the way it felt. I thought, "Why did I hate this so much last time? It feels cool."
Once he had finished up with the clippers, Mr. Callahan looked at Dad, and said, "Al, are you sure you want it shaved? I can stop here, and the boy will still be punished."
I thought, "Who the hell is this man? He’s never passed up an opportunity to get rid of every hair he could."
Dad looked like he was thinking, and I piped up before he could say anything. I said, "Yes, sir. Go ahead and shave it. Like Dad said, get rid of all that s**t!" (I’ll never know what made me say it, but I did say it. I can only think that by then, I had realized I was looking forward to it.)
Dad shook his head, like he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. However, he said, "You heard the boy. Do it."
Mr. Callahan exhaled a bunch of cigar smoke, and I took a deep breath. I could taste it. I thought, "What was I complaining about. I like the smell of that, and I think I like the taste of it too."
I wondered if Mr. Callahan would let me have one of his King Edward cigars if I came in the shop without Dad. I’d seen one kid take one, and Mr. Callahan hadn’t said anything, but the kid’s father had been with him. I thought I might try it someday.
I heard the swooshing of his chrome-plated shaving cream dispenser, and soon he was spreading white foam all over my head. I liked the way his hands felt on my head.
Then he took a hot, damp towel and wrapped it around my head, saying, "Just relax for a few minutes while this steam softens up that stubble. Al and I will enjoy our cigars in the meantime."
Dad and Mr. Callahan got to talking, and soon they were just dim figures behind a thick cloud of cigar smoke. I think they were enjoying their conversation and cigars so much that they forgot about me. Once the towel started cooling off, I cleared my throat and they jumped.
Mr. Callahan came over, took the towel off, and I heard the sound of the shaving cream dispenser again. Soon more white foam covered my head. I then heard the sound of the razor on his strop, as he sharpened the razor.
Even though I was expecting it, the first stroke of the razor shocked me. I wasn’t expecting to hear the rasping sound as the razor went over my head. I instantly decided I liked the sound, and just relaxed and enjoyed it, even thinking, "I could get used to this. Who knows? I might do this again! I wonder if I’ll have the nerve to ask for it, or if I’ll have to piss Dad off enough that he’ll punish me with another head shave?"
Once Mr. Callahan had finished shaving my head, he put some kind of tonic on my now shorn head. I could see that it made my white scalp glisten.
I said, "Mmm. That smells good. I like it."
Once he was finished rubbing the stuff on my head (I enjoyed the feel of his hands on my shaved head more than I did on my buzzed head), he said, "Russell, feel of this. I love the feel, and you might too."
Out of the blue, Dad said, "Russell, I’m so ashamed of myself. I can’t believe I did this to you. Please forgive me."
I rubbed my head, and I could feel a smile spreading across my face. I looked at Dad, and said, "Dad, you’ve got to come feel this. It’s incredible. I love it. Thank you!"
Dad looked like he was going to pass out. He stood there for a minute, and then said, "Well, let me put this smelly old cigar down. I don’t want to choke you."
"It’s OK. I don’t mind, and anyway, Mr. Callahan is smoking. What’s one more cigar? Hurry and feel my head."
He came over like a man in a daze, and stood beside me for a long time, just rubbing my head. He then stepped back and looked me straight in the eyes, and said, "You really like it? You don’t mind?"
"Nope! I actually think I like it. If it’s OK with you, I might keep it for a while. I could ride my bike out here a few days a week and have Mr. Callahan keep it shaved if you don’t mind." (Mentally I was already preparing to get a cigar every time I came.)
"Mind? No, I don’t mind, but are you sure you want to keep your hair this extreme? I really was wrong to do this. I know it, and I want you to know it. I don’t want you making the same mistake with your kids that I’ve made with you."
"Don’t worry, Dad. It’s OK. I’m not sure I’ll keep it forever, but it’s kinda fun for right now. I just don’t know if Mom is going to understand, or like it!"
Mr. Callahan spoke up. "I can say I ever expected you to act like this, Russell. I think you’re showing more god-d**ned maturity than Al did today. He really was a complete ass to act like this, but I can’t say I’m not glad he did. I’ll tell you what, I’ll give you a week of free shaves, just so you can see if you really like it. If you hate it, I won’t let Al make you shave it again. Deal?"
"Deal—if Dad’s OK with it."
Dad shook his head again, and said, "Then it’s a deal. You’ve got my support. I’d much rather see you looking like Kojak than looking like a hippy."
Mr. Callahan took the cape off me, and said, "Go look at yourself. I think you look a helluva lot better than you did when you walked into the god-d**ned shop."
I admired myself in the mirror for a long time, all the while exploring the feel of it.
Finally Mr. Callahan said, "God-d**n it. You’ve looked at yourself long enough. Get your sorry ass out of here, and bring your ass back in here next week for a refresher."
As we were leaving, Mr. Callahan said, "Russell, I’d normally say you look ten years younger, but I can’t say that this time. I honestly believe you look ten years older now. Al, you’ve got a real handsome son there. You should be proud of him. Not because of the way he looks, but because of the way he acted today. It took a real god-d**ned man to do what he’s done."
"I can’t argue with you, Sarge, and you’re right. I’m extremely proud of him."
Once we were outside, Dad gave me an awkward, one-armed hug, while he rubbed my head with the other hand. "I’m really sorry, Russell. I can’t believe I acted so irrationally. Do you really like it, son, or are you just being the bigger person, and letting me think you like it?"
"No, Dad. I honestly think I like it. It's a big change, and it'll take a while to get used to it. I'll give it a chance to grow on me though."
Dad laughed. "If you keep it shaved, nothing’s going to grow on you, at least not on your head."
He paused, and then continued, "I won't tell you that you have to keep it shaved, or even real short. I'll leave that up to you now, but I would ask you to think about at least keeping it somewhat shorter than it was a few minutes ago."
"I tell you what, Dad. It's the middle of November. I'm not promising I'll keep it shaved, but I'll keep it short until New Years. Deal?"
We got in the truck and headed out. We drove a few minutes in silence, and then I said, "I have a question for you, Dad. I was watching you and Mr. Callahan smoke your cigars, and was wondering if they taste anything like they smell? If they taste like they smell, I don’t understand why you like them."
"I've never thought about it that way. Would you like to see for yourself? If you promise not to tell your mother, I'll let you taste it. I won't let you smoke it, but I'll let you taste it."
I gave a typical teen, non-committal answer. "I guess so. It might be cool."
"OK. Let’s do it. I'm going to pull over first. Let me tell you though, I'm doing this for two reasons. First, I'm hoping it makes you as sick as my first one made me so you don't pick up the habit. I don't want you ever picking up the habit. Secondly, I don't want you puking in my truck."
He parked the truck on the side of the road and we got out. He rubbed my head (again) and grinned at me. "I’m sorry. I can’t seem to keep my hands off your head. I like it. I really like it. I hope you do too. I don't ever want to hear you say you hate me again. I really am sorry I let my temper get the best of me. I know saying I'm sorry doesn't put the hair back on your head, but if there's something else I can do to atone, just let me know. I'll gladly do it. Hell, I'd cut my arm off if I thought it would help."
"Don't sweat it Dad. I really am ok. The last time you got my hair cut off I was mad at you until it grew back. This time, it's kinda cool. I think I'm gonna like it."
I grinned at him, and he smiled back at me. I thought, "He's really regretting this. I may be able to use this to get out of trouble for a long time to come." Then I looked at the ground and almost whispered, "Did forget why we stopped? Did you really mean it when you said I could try your cigar? It was really obvious that you and Mr Callahan were enjoying your cigar, and it made me curious. Can I try it now?"
He then said, "Son, always look a man in the eyes when you're asking for something."
I tried to look him in the eye, and mumbled, " Yes, sir. I'll try to remember that."
He put his hand under my chin, and made me look at him. He said, "Try again. You know I said it was ok, and you know I always keep my word. However, if you're gonna be man enough to try to smoke a cigar, you've got to be man enough to ask for it correctly. Just to be clear though, I'm not making you do this, and would really prefer it if you didn't. I’m only letting you do this because I remember being your age and being curious. Go ahead and try it if you want to."
I mustered my courage, and looked him square in the eye and said, "Dad,I don't think I want to be a smoker, but I want to try it. May I taste your cigar?"
He said, "That was much better." and handed me what was left of the huge cigar he had started before we got to the barber shop. It wasn’t much more than a nub at that point. "Don't try to inhale. Just draw some into your mouth and let it out. You'll be much less likely to get sick if you do it that way."
I felt really clumsy as I took my first draw on a cigar. It just didn't feel natural. Dad and Mr. Callahan looked looked like a cigar (or pipe, in Dad's case) was a natural extension of who they were.
Dad looked at me. "Well? What do you think?"
Inside I was thinking, "This is really cool. I like it!" I said, "I don't know. It's not what I thought it would be like. Can I try again?"
"Sure. Go ahead. Just remember not to inhale."
I tried the second time, and liked it even more. I couldn't believe I was smoking a cigar in front of Dad. I had never even thought about being able to smoke with him, and wouldn’t have thought it was a possibility if I had thought about it. I tried a third draw without asking.
"Can I go see how I looked in the mirror of the truck? It feels weird, and I want to see if I look as weird as I feel."
Dad nodded, so I walked to the truck, smoking as I went.
I looked at myself for a few minutes, trying to absorb the fact that I had a completely shaved head and was smoking a cigar. I thought the cigar looked a lot cooler than Kojak's lollipop. Somehow the cigar seemed like it went with the shaved head. I was really digging it, and even fantasized about asking Dad if I could start smoking with him. Then I thought about what Mom would say, and decided against it. She whined about Dad's smoke getting into her drapes. I knew she wouldn't be happy if there was another smoker in the house. I looked at myself a few more minutes, and then decided that even if my shaved head made me look older, I still looked like a kid with a cigar in his mouth. Plus, I figured I'd get too much s**t from the kids at school to make it worthwhile.
I walked back to Dad and handed him his cigar back. He looked at me and said, "Any thoughts?"
I thought for a minute and then said, "I still don't get it. It doesn't taste as bad as I thought it would, but I don't like it. I guess I still think of a cigar as ‘a smelly old thing'. I'll leave the smoking to you. Thanks for letting me try it though. That's pretty cool!"
Dad gave a long sigh of relief. "I can't say I'm not glad to hear that. I've got enough explaining to do to your mother without trying to tell her why I let you come home with a cigar in your mouth. Speaking of your mother, are you ready to go home and help me face the music?"
I grimaced, and said, "Not really. Are you?"
"Hell no! I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for that. What do you think about riding around for a while, and let me try to think of something to say to your mother that might keep her from killing me?"
"That sounds good to me. Let’s do it."
He kept apologizing while we were driving around, and it took me a while to convince Dad that I really didn't mind having my head shaved. Once he finally started believing me, we fake fought over who’s turn it was to rub my head. He said, "You've got to feel it long enough. It's my turn. After all, I'm the one who decided to shave your head!"
"But it's my head, and anyway, you get your sides shaved every week. You should be used to how it feels."
"it feels different on your head. Anyway, you can feel it all night long. I can't... I imagine I'll be dealing with your mother for a long time. Be a sport. Let me rub your head!"
After he’d rubbed my head a bit, I said, "It ain’t your head, it’s mine. Let me feel it again!"
There was very little of the time that we were driving around that one of us didn't have a hand on my head. It was fun, and funny. We continued our "fight" for a long time.
Suddenly, I thought of something that had never occurred to me. I said, "Dad, do you mind if I ask you a question?"
"Son, after what I just put you through, you can do just about anything you want to me. Ask away."
"I just wondered, what made you decide to keep your hair so short? Grandpa didn’t have particularly short hair."
He thought a bit. "Well, for me, it started when I was fourteen, and went to spend the summer on Uncle Charles’ farm. I had normal hair for the time, but Uncle Charles didn’t like it. When he picked me up at the bus station, he took one look at me, and said, ’That hair will never do on the farm. We’re going to the barber shop before I take you home.’ Well, he did, and the barber followed Uncle Charles’ directions. He cut my hair like I used to cut yours. He peeled the sides, and left just enough on the top to comb. I hated it at first, and probably felt like you did. Uncle Charles made me keep it cut all summer, and before the summer was over, I decided I liked it. I just kept it cut like that afterwards, at least until I went in the Marines. My favorite drill instructor had a horseshoe flattop. I copied it, and I’ve kept it."
I said, "I can understand you liking your own hair short, but what made you decide you didn’t like hair on everyone else?"
He smoked his cigar for a few minutes, and then said, "I’ve never really thought about why I hate hair on men. I just don’t like it."
"Oh, really? I’ve never noticed that you’re a hair hater!"
He laughed, and we changed the topic, but I kept thinking about it. I wondered if I would ever be like Dad when it came to hair. I couldn’t imagine it happening to me.
The conversation had changed topics several times when Dad said, "I had forgot how awful I felt when Uncle Charles made me get that haircut--and how horrible I felt about not having any say in the matter. Forgive me for not remembering. I would’ve never made you feel like I did back then, if I had thought about it."
Just as we got home, I looked at Dad—and then I started laughing. He said, "What’s so funny?"
I laughed harder. I finally was able to say, "I’ve never known you to let a Saturday go by without getting a haircut. You’ve got up when you were so sick you could barely stand to get a haircut on Saturday, but you forgot to get your hair cut today."
He rubbed his head, and said, "Well, I’ll be d**ned. You’re right. I’ve had a fresh haircut every Saturday since I was fourteen. Let me go deal with your mother, and then I’ll go back and get it cut."
"Can I go with you?"
"Sure…if I’m still alive. I’m afraid Hazel might kill me first."
Mom started in on Dad as soon as we walked in the door. "Al, what in the world did you do to my son and why?"
"Well, Hazel, I really messed up. I thought I was trying to teach the boy some discipline. He broke our agreement, and at the time, I thought he had to pay for his crime. I realize now I was wrong, and I’ve already apologized to him. I told him I was flat wrong."
She literally screamed. "Wrong?! You call that wrong? It’s so far beyond wrong that I can’t even comprehend it. You might call that discipline, but I call it a Nazi tactic. I’m shocked at your barbarity. I never dreamed I was married to someone with absolutely no sense of right and wrong. I’m ashamed to admit I know you, much less admit that I’m married to you."
She started crying. Dad started toward her, and she screamed, "Don’t touch me! I would've preferred it if you had bullied me into shaving my head rather than him. Are you so wrapped up in yourself that you don't see what's going on around you?"
Dad started to say something, and she cut him off. "I think you’re so selfish that you don’t think about anything but what you want, and you’re a big enough bully to make everyone else do what you want! Are you so oblivious to others that you don't realize how your actions affect others? Do you realize what you’ve done to poor Russell? Well, I’ll tell you what you’ve done with you stubbornness and insensitivity. You have ruined this boy's life for months and probably scarred him for eternity. If you want to be out of step with the rest of the world, that's your option, and I support you in that. You chose it, and that’s OK. Russell didn't get a choice. You forced your outdated beliefs on him and that's wrong. I'm ashamed of you."
I tried to deflect some of Mom's anger by saying, "Mom, it's ok. I'm not upset. I deserved it."
I heard my mother cuss for the first time in my life. She said, "Russell, that's absolute bull s**t! There's no excuse for your father's actions. He left me in charge of you, and I did what I thought was right. He had absolutely no right to take his anger at me out on you."
She turned to Dad, pointed her finger at him and said, "Al, I’m telling you right now, and I mean it, you will have absolutely nothing to do with his hair from now on. If the boy wants to let his hair grow to his ass, he's going to let it grow and you won't say a word to him. Do you understand me?"
"Mom, don't be so mad at Dad. I'm not. I'm fact, I made a deal with him to keep my hair short until New Years Day. We agreed to talk about future haircuts then. This is something I want to do for him, and myself. I broke my word to him, and I need to pay for my actions."
"You'll do no such a thing! The only one who needs to pay for his actions is your father. He was despicable and the thought of him disgusts me."
She turned to Dad again and said, "Don't even think you're going to sleep in my bed, tonight or any time in the near future. I will not sleep with an unprincipled bully. You're always harping about people taking responsibility for their actions. Well, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Now it's your turn to accept the consequences of your behavior." She started walking out of the room, and turned to glare at Dad. "I'm done with you for the time being. I can't stand the sight of you. I might throw up if I have to look at you any more."
I've never been more shocked than I was in that moment. She had never spoken to Dad like that, or in that tone—at least not where I could hear her. I blurted out, "Mom! I can't believe you said that!"
Dad was contrite for a while, and when that didn’t work, he tried to argue with Mom about me letting my hair grow out (or keeping my hair short--depending on who was talking). After weeks of "discussions" with Mom, he finally gave in.
While they were fighting over my hair, I kept going to see Mr. Callahan three times a week--once with Dad on Saturdays, and then every Tuesday and Thursday on my way home from school.
The first time I went to the barber shop by myself, Mr. Callahan said, "I really didn't think you'd be back, but I'm glad you are. Am I going to have the god-d**ned pleasure of shaving your head again? "
"Yes sir. Like Dad said last time, let's get this s**t off my head."
He went into his familiar litany of, "Well, how the hell am I going to shave your god-da**ed head when your ugly ass is over there? Sit your ass down here!"
Before I sat down, I got one of Mr. Callahan’s free cigars and lit it. He raised an eyebrow and said, "Am I supposed to let Al know about this?"
I said, "I'd really appreciate it if you didn't!"
"That's what I thought. Ok, it's our secret. I guess I'm old-fashioned. I'd rather see you with a cigar than a cigarette. Have you given any thought to smoking a pipe like Al does? After all, imitation is the best form of flattery."
"Yes sir. I've thought about, but haven't decided yet. Anyway, I can't afford a pipe right now."
"If you ever decide you want to smoke a pipe I've got some pretty nice ones I'll give you. It's been years since I've smoked one of them."
"Thanks! I'll think about it."
That was all that was said. After the first discussion with Mr. Callahan, I'd just walk in, grab a cigar, light it and then wait for my turn in the chair. I really enjoyed sitting in the chair and getting my head shaved while smoking a cigar.
On every visit after that, when he was ready for me, he'd give some version of "Russell, I can't cut your hair way over there. Get your god-d**ned ass in the chair." He never asked what I wanted. He'd cape me up, put some shaving cream on my head, wrapped the familiar hot towel around my head and talk to me while I waited a few minutes before he started shaving my head. I loved the rasping sound of the razor clearing off the stubble. Each time I went to get my head shaved, my hair would’ve grown back enough that I'd I already be missing the familiar smoothness of a bald head.
Sometimes I felt the same emotions I'd felt when I was a kid. I wished my hair didn't grow so fast. When I was little, I wished it wouldn't grow fast so I wouldn't have to get it cut so often. Now I wished it'd slow down for a completely different reason. I really wanted to enjoy the sensation of my smooth head.
My first day back at school went a lot better than I had expected. Sure,I endured some wisecracks. Several people asked if I was crazy, on drugs, had joined the Marines or what I had done so bad that made my parents punish me so severely. I also had to show a few bullies I wasn't going to put up with their crap. I used the muscles I had developed in the last year to show them that I meant business--if they wouldn’t listen to rational discussion. I’ll admit I enjoyed using my muscles on the bullies, and didn’t feel bad about it. If they wanted to make my life miserable, I didn’t mind making their lives miserable. (Before you start jumping on me about starting fights, know this. I didn’t start any of the fights, but if someone else started them, I didn’t back down. I also didn’t lose any of those fights.) I never had to say anything to anyone twice about it.
Overall going to school wasn't too bad, and there were actually a few pretty nice moments. I had quite a few guys tell me they admired me for being brave enough to try it. One girl said she thought it was sexy. A few guys even went so far as to say they wished they had the balls to follow my example.... But of course no one did. After all, it was the Seventies.
The stares bugged me at first, but I decided the people staring were admiring me. I started enjoying the looks. The first week or so I had to deal with people wanting to feel my head, and some did it without asking. After that, it was no big deal.
That winter was one of the few really cold ones we had in Texas. I didn't keep my head shaved after New Years (I was proud of myself though. I had kept my promise to Dad, despite Mom trying to get me to forget it). I enjoyed the shaved head while it lasted, and was a little sad when I lost that smooth feeling, but decided I liked the bristly stage. Once it got past the bristly stage I really missed the feel of my short hair, but for some stupid reason I kept letting it grow. Who knows? Maybe I was wanting to pay Dad back for making me so miserable the first time he made me get that short high and tight. Anyway, after my hair got a little length, I decided I liked it. I just kept letting it grow. It seemed like it took forever, but eventually my hair got long enough to completely cover my ears, and the back covered the bottom of my collar. I started having to flip my hair out of my eyes.
Once I knew that Dad was going to keep his word, I really started letting it grow. After a year or so, I decided to let it grow long enough to look like a rocker. By the time I had been letting it grow for two years, it was down the middle of my back. My hair was thick enough that it looked good at that length, and I enjoyed the attention it got me--until I ran into Mr. Callahan one day. He cussed me out, and told me what he thought of me. For the first time, I felt ashamed of my long hair. (I had often wanted to cut my long hair, but I had never been ashamed of it.)
After seeing the barber, I really started wanting to cut it short again. I didn't because I feared peoples’ reactions.
I never could figure out why I was afraid. I knew I had already managed to deal with people's reactions twice, and that it was easier each time. I just knew it wasn't something I wanted to go through again. However, I was really regretting letting it grow out again, and I got mad at Mom for "making" me grow my hair out. It seemed like my present dilemma with wanting a short haircut was all her fault--even though I knew that letting my hair grow was something I had chosen to do. (Now I know that's totally illogical, but I was a teenager at the time, and there are very few logical teens.)
I made a deal with myself, thinking, "Russell, you've had your hair peeled twice at the start of winter, and you know how cold it is. At least wait until summer. That way you won't have to deal with the idiots at school."
Summer (and the end of school) came. The last day of school I tried to talk myself into going to see Mr. Callahan, but somehow I couldn't. I broke out into a cold sweat at the thought of a pair of clippers in the hands of a bona fide hater of hair. My heart was racing so hard I thought it'd jumped out of my chest.
I got my nerve back when I said to myself, "Get a grip Russell. It's just hair!" I started driving toward Mr. Callahan's, and then the fear hit me again. I got so breathless I had to pull over. Finally I thought, "F**k it! It ain't worth all of this." I pulled my hair back into a ponytail, turned around and went home. For the rest of the summer I kept letting my hair grow, all the while wishing I had nerve enough to get it cut.
Dad grumbled about my hair some, but one look from Mom usually squelched his complaints. Honestly, he never said anything to me, but I heard him fussing to Mom and some of his friends.
The day before school started I went to a salon and got 4" cut off my hair. I thought that might take the edge off the angst I was feeling. I was wrong. It looked like a lot of hair on the floor of the salon, but when I looked in the mirror, it didn't look like much was missing. My ears were still covered, and it was still long enough I could still put it in a ponytail. As I was looking at it, I had a deep longing to run out of the salon and go see Mr. Callahan.
I quickly squelched that thought and started home. As I was walking home, and feeling the wind blow my hair this way and that, I wondered (for about the millionth time) what it would be like to have that wind blowing over a horseshoe flattop. Then I wondered what it would be like to be walking down the street with a pipe in my mouth and a flattop. After wondering a while, I began imagining it. I really liked the thought. I kept thinking, "Someday. Hopefully sooner rather than later!"
Even though I was scared to death of it, I knew that eventually the desire for short hair would win... And I'd probably get it cut off without any help from Dad.