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Reserving Judgement by Deke Cutter


“Oh, for pity sake calm down Gail! It was just good-natured teasing. Your brother-in-law is just too good a target." And so, the argument went. My wife’s sister and her husband had come over for dinner. He’s in the Reserves and wears one of those tightly clipped haircuts, with some thinned out wispy hair neatly combed over and off his forehead. Gail’s sister Donna dresses him in those color coordinated outfits, so he looks like he just stepped out of a store catalog. If he wears shorts, their Bermuda shorts, down to the knee with calf high socks and even his sandals are polished to a shine. I’ve always been a much more laid-back guy. I’ve always had a nice long head of hair. I’ve had my own business, so I can dress as I please too. I’m not a slob and I’m not a slacker. In fact, I’ve been designing and renovating homes and offices for the last 8 years. I am a certified electrical engineer too.

“I don’t care Will. This time I think you went too far. I’m proud of Jimmy’s service and so is Gail. There is nothing wrong with his appearance and for goodness sake, his haircut meets his military regulations. He is successful and generous. You could do worse than be kind to him." This usually blew over, but Gail stayed angry for a couple of days. So, on the third day, when she got off her shift at the hospital where she was a nurse, I picked her up and drove over to her sister’s. We went in and I apologized to Jimmy for giving him a hard time and promised to do better in the future.

Jimmy, being everything that Gail said he was, simply took my hand and said, “we’re family, of course you are forgiven."

Two weeks later, my world turned upside down. I had accepted a big job with a well-known real estate developer in our town to renovate a classic old apartment house. I was doing the lighting and wiring. It was a huge job and I turned several other clients away because I thought that this job would get me big notice and a step up. I spent way more than I should have and finished the job on time. Then I waited. The guy turned out to be a deadbeat! Can you believe it? This big deal real estate mogul told me “I’ll pay you, when I pay you. Here’s a grand, now go away. Sue me I you can’t wait." I was so overextended and had my workers and contractors to try to pay that by the end of the month, I was out of business, as he knew, that I didn’t have the deep pockets for a long legal battle.

Life doesn’t stand still. A bunch of people had warned me about doing business with Dirty Don, but I hadn’t listened. The suppliers who I couldn’t pay were angry with me and most of the reliable workers had been picked up by other businesses that were still operating. Gail was not going to let me wallow in self-pity. She had always been aggressive in the bedroom, but I was surprised to see her taking charge about my job. At breakfast on Friday morning, she told me “Donna told me that Jimmy thinks he can get you an interview for a job at his company. It’s a supervisory electrical engineer and it will save us financially."

“I don’t know, babe, it’s sort of an uptight place and…."

“Stop right there! Jimmy didn’t have to lift a finger for you, let alone risk his reputation to get you an interview. After all the crap you’ve given him, he
could have sat back and enjoyed your discomfort. You are going to show him your gratitude."

“Of course, I am, but…"

“This is what you are going to do…."

An hour later, I was walking into a barbershop I had never been to before. I had not been to any barbershop in about 15 years. I was not happy to be there. But Gail had made it clear. This was not up for discussion. She had distrusted “Dirty Don." She also went over our financial details and said that I would do everything necessary to get this job. The barber in the first chair greeted me and said he would be with me shortly. I took a seat. Two other barber chairs were occupied with young guys who didn’t look like they needed haircuts. I looked around the shop and tried not to think about anything at all. Finally, the barber called me to his chair. He introduced himself as Frank and asked what he could do for me. I thought about the words my wife had instructed me to say and tried to make them sound natural: “I believe that you are my brother-in-law Jim Gunther’s barber. My wife has admired his clean short haircut, for quite some time, and I’ve decided it’s time that I adopt that same no-nonsense look."

“Jim, you say? He’s a nice guy! That’s an Army regulation cut that Jim has. He’s in every two weeks to keep it fresh, whether he has drill or not. It’s a funny thing. When Jim was getting ready to start college and joining the R.O.T.C. program, he had hair almost as long as yours. He told me he knew he was going to have to have a short haircut, but could I just give him a trim to sort of ease him into it. I was going to do just that when the gentleman in the next chair who was getting his flat top tightened up spoke.

“Young man, I know your not asking for my advice, but I’d show up with a regulation haircut I I were you. Its what you’ll be expected to maintain, and it will show your committed to the program. And it will help you get used to your new look."

“You seem to know what you’re talking about sir, Jim said to him. “Are you in the military?"

Frank smiled as he continued his recollection. “The gentleman smiled and said I served in the Marines in the First Gulf War. The two types of recruits our D.I.s hated were the long hairs and the ones that came to the Induction barber shop shaved bald. The fellows that came in with short hair were looked upon better. If you start off with a good short haircut, who knows, you may end up like I did, with short hair for life."


Frank said, “Jim decided then and there. He asked me, “Frank, do you know how to cut a regulation Army haircut?" I told him that I sure did and went to work. He must have like it because he’s still coming back. Not all Reservists are as concerned about their hair as Jim. But, he says, the haircut seems to fit his personality. It will be quite a change for you." With that he caped me up and swung the chair round so I was facing the row of chairs I had just been sitting in. “Now I’ll be taking most of this off from the sides and back" he said as he ran his comb through my hair. “I’ll start right in with the clippers to clear it off." Starting about an inch below my part on the left side of my head, he ran the clippers back, leaving a line of velvety bristles where my light brown hair had been. Then he started on the back of my head and seemed to be clearing off about half of the hair back there, before coming back to tackle the rest of the left side. I felt him zipping off my sideburn and I thought I was going to cry. I loved my full thick ‘burns. Now one was history. Soon he had the other half of my head buzzed down to a downy fluff that I knew was not the finished length.

Frank the barber turned off the clippers and hung them up. He picked up a spray bottle and started to wet the remnants of my crowning glory on top of my head. He combed everything forward and proceeded cut me some very short angled bangs that started well above my eyebrow and ended just below my hairline. He then began lifting and cutting the remining long hair to a very short length. It didn’t seem like much was left at all, but still, he went after it next with the thinning shears, making sure my formerly thick and healthy-looking mop was thin and flat. He made sure the pitiful bangs had that wispy look that Jimmy’s did. Then he picked up another pair of clippers and went back to work reducing the back and sides down to a very tight taper. He went to work with shaving cream and a straight razor cleaning my neck and erasing any sign of my sideburns. For the coup de grace, he applied some Vitalis to my hair and combed it neatly into place. He turned the chair around, and I got the first look at my new haircut. I looked like I could be Jimmy’s brother. I ran my hands up the sides of my head, first hitting only air when I placed my hands where my hair used to be. Oh, it was so short! And it was me!
When I got home, I thought Gail was going to give me a load of earache about deserving this and so on. Instead, she looked at me in stunned silence. “Gail, come on, quit joking around. Is it that bad?"

“This was meant to serve as a wake-up call for you, but oh my gosh, you look so hot. I want you to take me right now." She literally tore off her cloths and mine and again said “take me." Like I said, she was usually the aggressive one in this department, but suddenly, I let free, and I did as she asked. She rubbed the back of my head and screamed “that is so sexy." We had a wild afternoon, unlike anything we had experienced before.

After that, we showered. I had to admit, a drop of shampoo was all I needed. Gail had even bought me a new comb and a bottle of Vitalis. In seconds my short wispy hair was back in place. “Now let’s get you dressed, before we head over to Jimmy and Donna’s." Gail’s second surprise for me was a color coordinated pair of trousers with a button-down short sleeve shirt, matching socks and Weejuns. A few minutes later, fully “dorked out,"I got in the car with Gail and headed to Jimmy and Donna’s. When we arrived, we saw Jimmy was in the back lighting the barbecue, so I headed back there, and Gail went in the house to see Donna.

“Hey Jimmy, I wanted t thank you for setting…."

Jimmy turned around and saw me and did an almost comical double-take. “Will, what the heck? I mean you look good, I mean….
I think I liked Jimmy more at that instant than I even had. “Its OK, Jim, Gail thought that I ought to demonstrate how grateful we are to you for your getting me this interview after I’ve been such a jerk to you. So, I went to your barber Frank and he did a pretty good job of matching your haircut. And Gail picked out the duds. The haircut’s going to take me some getting used to, but if I get the job, I figure you can be in charge of making sure I don’t slack off on visits to Frank."

“Well Will, I have to admit, I’ve always been kind of jealous of your freewheeling ways, but I know you probably are still freaking out over losing your locks, but, I think the haircut looks good on you and I really think it will impress the guys you’re interviewing with. After dinner, Jimmy spent some time preparing me for the interview and we met again over the weekend. It turned out that we had a lot more in common than I had ever been willing to see, until I started to look more like he did. I aced the interviews, the guys I met with were pretty conservative in their dress and one complimented me on my appropriate business attire and fine haircut.

Jimmy and I enjoy working together and I’ve adjusted to having this short haircut. In fact, Gail is urging me to go shorter! I told her that when Jimmy goes away for his summer Reserves Duty, I’ll ask Frank to give me a crewcut. If she likes it (and I survive the first night), who knows where it could lead.



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