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A Dime A Dozen by Just_Me
I woke up with the thought, "This is it! I’m tired of thinking about. It’s time for some action!"
I wondered what friends and family would say. Doing something radical was definitely out of character for me.
Even though I’d woken up thinking, "Today’s the day," All day long I found one excuse after the other to postpone. I was antsy and growled at everyone who looked at me. I finally said, "Brett, if you're going to do it, you've gotta leave now. The shop will be closing soon."
I went into the kitchen to tell Mom I was going out. My father (I call him Pops) was sitting at the table. I hadn’t planned on him going with me, but I said, "Hey, Pops. I'm gonna run a few errands. Wanna go with me?"
"Sure. Where are we going?"
"I wanna go look at some rims for my truck, and I've got a few other stops to make too. "
"Sure! Let's go."
As we got near the barbershop, I casually said, "Hey Pops. I need a haircut. Do you mind waiting while I get one?"
I thought he’d jump at the idea. Pops didn’t like my hair. He never said anything to me about it, but I’d heard him grumble to Mom.
My hair wasn't long. I kept the sides cut over my ears, and sometimes even had a medium taper. Pops was cool with that, but he didn’t like my long bangs. I was always flipping them back so I could see, or even tucking them behind my ear. (Yes. My bangs were that long.) I combed them in a pompadour, but no matter how much gel I put in, they fell in my eyes.
On the other hand, Mom loved my hair. It seemed like every other day she was saying something like, "Brett, I love your hair. It’s so pretty and thick. I would kill to have your hair." She freaked the one time I mentioned getting my hair cut shorter. "I won't speak to you until your hair grows out if you do something stupid like that. Don't you dare do it." (I didn’t believe she wouldn’t speak to me. I knew she’d get mad, get her feelings hurt and cry. Then she’d get over. She always did.)
Despite what Mom said, I had decided I was going to get my hair cut, and have it cut short--unless I chickened out. I was scared to death.
Pops agreed to wait while I got a haircut, and threw a "I hope you do something with that mess that's always falling in your eyes" at me.
I said, "Maybe. I haven't decided yet."
"Well, let me know what I can do to help you decide!" Then he said, "I’m sorry I said that. You know I like short hair on men, but this is your decision. You do what’s right for you."
I thought, "This would be a lot easier on me if you’d just tell me to do it. I wish you were like the fathers in some of the stories I’ve read and say, ‘If you’re gonna live under my roof, you’re gonna follow my rules. Get your butt in that barbershop now’." I knew he wouldn’t do that. He hadn’t said anything to me about my hair since I was about eight.
Pops had always kept his hair short (family pictures told me he wore a flattop through most of the Seventies. Then he let it grow into a short taper with enough hair to comb back on the top).
Let me tell you a little bit about how I came to the decision to get my hair cut. One day I realized I had nothing exciting about me. I thought, "Brett, you’re so average. You’re not dumb, but you’re not really smart. You’re not tall, and you’re not short. You’re not fat, but you’re not skinny. You’re not popular, and you’re not a nerd. Face it, you’re just boring and average."
I went and looked in the mirror and it confirmed my thoughts. "My god, there’s nothing there to make anyone look at me twice. Even my looks are average. I’m not ugly, but I’m not good-looking. I’ve only got three redeeming qualities: my hair, my eyes and the potential of my beard. That’s all I’ve got. What am I going to do with them?" (My hair was thick, and had great texture. It was a medium blonde, but it got some great streaks of lighter color when I was out in the sun. My eyes weren’t a fascinating blue or green, but they were an interesting hazel with flecks of gold in them, and they had a gleam I liked. My beard was a lot darker than my hair, and I didn’t like that, but at least it was thick. I knew I could’ve grown a nice beard--even though I’d never tried it.)
I wanted something about me to be different. I wanted to draw some attention to myself--to make myself less average, less boring--and hopefully better.
I started looking at every man I passed, trying to figure out what made the interesting ones stand out. I soon realized the men I liked looking at all had something about their hair that drew my attention. Long hair, or really short, it caught my eye. That’s when I started wanting to cut my hair.
To be honest, I’ve had a thing for men with short hair since I was a kid. I loved seeing a man with some scalp showing, and after I reached a certain age, a man with really short hair could bring me to attention--if you know what I mean. I had realized a long time ago that I had a haircut fetish. However, I’d never thought about a short haircut for myself until I started wanting to bring some attention to myself.
I spent months trying to figure out what I wanted. I grew long sideburns, hoping it would give me the change I wanted. I liked the look, but it wasn’t enough of a change. I had a "Been there-Done that" attitude about letting my hair grow out again. (I’d let my hair get pretty long a few years back. I hadn’t kept it long though. It was too much trouble). Plus, I didn't want to wait that long. I thought, "If I don’t want to let my hair grow out I only have one choice: go shorter."
I looked at guys with short hair all the time to satisfy my fetish, but I started looking at them for a different reason. I was hoping I’d get an inspiration for a short style I liked. It didn’t take me long to realize I really wanted to go all the way and shave my head--but I was afraid to. I thought, "Well, if you’re too scared, you could take it in steps, gradually go shorter." Then I thought, "Grow a pair, Brett. If you’re gonna do something, do it. Go big, or go home!"
Anyway, back to me and Pops at the barbershop. We walked in and the barber (Dale) yelled, "Be with you in a minute."
(I thought, "He’s just like me--average. If he didn’t have a great haircut, you’d never look at him twice.)
Dale grinned at me. "Hey, Brett, How did the barber win the race?"
"I don’t know."
"He took a short cut!"
I groaned and said, "Dale, how can one man find every bad joke on the planet? I'd have a heart attack if you ever told a funny joke."
He smiled. "I guess I know what you think of me!"
He was trimming a typical business cut--nothing exciting to watch. I was disappointed. Dale was known for giving short cuts, and I’d hoped he’d be doing something drastic, just to give me courage.
Finally it was my turn. After he'd put the cape on me, he told another bad joke. "A man walks into a barber shop and asks, ‘Hey, Bob Peters here?’ The barber looks at him and says, ’No, we just cut hair.’"
I couldn’t even muster a fake smile for that joke.
Dale said, "Was my joke that bad?"
"Well, I guess I’ll have to find another one for the next time you’re here." Finally he got down to business. He picked up a comb and combed my bangs straight forward. They went way below my chin. He said, " Holy crap, those are long. I wish you’d let me whack them off." He combed them back into the pompadour I tried to keep them in.
Pops chimed in. "Me too!"
Dale ignored Pops. "You want the usual today?"
I really wanted to say, "Shave it" but couldn’t. What I did say was, "I’ve been thinking of doing something different, but I'm not sure what I want."
"Different is good. What've you thought about?"
Pops' jaw dropped and his eyes bugged when I said, "I think I want something drastic that'll make me stand out in a crowd. I've thought about a buzz cut, a fade or even shaving my head."
Pops shook his head. "Did I just hear you right? You want your hair that short? I can’t believe I’m hearing this. Finally!" Dazed looking, he said, "Dale, get busy before he changes his mind."
Dale looked at me for a second. "Holy cow! You are wanting to go different, but in my opinion, you won’t stand out of the crowd with any of those cuts. Shaved heads are a dime a dozen, and so are buzz cuts. There's at least five fades on every street corner."
Well, that let the air out of my balloon and I didn’t know what to say. I’d really hoped he’d jump on the idea of shaving my head, but what he said took root in my brain. "Shaved heads are a dime a dozen. Shaved heads are a dime a dozen. Shaved heads are a dime a dozen."
I thought, "He’s right. I won’t look that different from hundreds of men out there." I asked, "What would you suggest?"
"If you really want to be different, I'd suggest a horseshoe flattop or a recon. Fair warning though. It takes a lot of balls to wear one. You don't see ‘em that often, and you’ll stand out like a sore thumb."
I was intrigued. "I know what a horseshoe is because I've seen a picture of Pops with one, but I don't really know what a recon is. It’s some kind of military cut, isn’t it?"
He asked, "Do you know what a high and tight is?"
I replied, "It's kinda like a high fade, isn't it?"
"Sorta. They're pretty close. A recon is a shorter, more extreme version of a high and tight but the top is almost completely disconnected from the sides. Here, left me show you."
He went ruffling through the before and after pictures on his wall and brought a picture over. At first I was repulsed by it. Then I took another look. I was fascinated, and ultimately captivated. I thought, "This is just what I wanted. It would definitely get me some attention, and it’s not what everyone else is wearing. Dale’s right. It'd take a lot of balls to go out looking like that." I looked myself in the eye (or in the mirror) and I asked myself. "Do you have enough balls to do it, Brett?" I thought, "Dang right I do. I’m going for it!"
"What do you think, Pops? What look do you think I should go for?" (I don’t know if I was hoping he’d say do it, or if I was hoping he’d say don’t do it.) I know my eyes were shining with mischief when I said, "Of course, if you think Dale’s ideas are too extreme I could keep my hair like it is."
Pops grinned. He knew I was teasing him. "I'd vote for a recon, just so you can experience it--if you’re brave enough." He laughed, "You're only young once. Go extreme while you can--and while you still have enough hair to do it." He rubbed his bald spot. "I couldn’t pull it off now but you can. If you want something different, do a recon. You can always shave your head when you’re balding like me, or for that matter, if you hate the recon you can shave your head afterwards."
I blurted out, "Ok, Dale. Do a recon before I change my mind!" Then I thought, "Did I really just say that?"
Pops said, "That’s the way to get ahead in life. See what you want, and go for it!" Then he got a strange look on his face. "I don’t mean to put a damper on things, but remember. You have to deal with your mother, and she's not thrilled with short hair. She griped the whole time I was wearing a flattop. In fact, she almost refused to marry me because of it."
Thinking about Mom almost made me back out. She was sweet, kind and loving, but she could give a pretty mean tongue-lashing when she got her dander up. Visions of all the times she’d told me how much she liked my hair rushed through my mind--and the hundreds of times she’d shake her head sorrowfully and say something like, "Why would a man do that to himself? He’d look so much better with some hair on his head."
I took a deep breath, and for the first time in my life I swore in front of my father. "Oh, to hell with it. I’m legally an adult now. She’ll just have to deal with it. A recon it is. Go for it, Dale."
He went for it. He pulled my bangs back when he pulled head back. I was looking at the ceiling before I knew what was happening (I saw he needed to change a ceiling tile). He turned the clippers on as he picked them up, and very, very slowly went straight down the middle of my head with them. I thought, "Knowing Dale, he’s going slow just to torment me."
He dumped the hair he’d cut off in my lap, and a tear formed in my eyes. My crowning glory--the one thing that made me different from others--was going. I looked and saw the damage that one pass of the clippers had done. I had a long buzzed streak down the middle of my head, where a few seconds before my beautiful hair had been.
Dale said, "It’s not short enough."
I was so shocked I couldn’t say anything. All I could think was, "Not short enough?" He switched the guard. Then he took another slow swipe over my head. It was quite a bit shorter than the first cut. I thought, "You can’t blame anyone but yourself. You got yourself into this situation, now man up and deal with it."
He took the third swatch of hair off my head, and this time he moved quickly. It seemed like it only took him a few seconds to get all of the hair off the top of my head. I thought, "I knew he was messing with me when he went so slow. He thinks he’s so funny."
I watched every move he made. At first my heart sank. "I wonder if Pops will let me live in the basement for six months while my hair’s growing back?" A pause, "Heck, I don’t know if I could grow my hair back in six months!" The next minute I was ecstatic, thinking, "God, I’m going to love this!" Then, "I should post a picture of my haircut online. Maybe some of the fetishers would enjoy it despite my average looks."
I was so wrapped up in my bounding emotions (elation to depression, then back to elation) that I missed it when Dale switched to the sides. What he was doing brought me into focus. "Oh, my god! He’s shaving a circle around the top of my head!" The distinct line between the sides and the top of my head looked bizarre. I realized what I’d committed myself to. "Holy flying flip-flops, Batman. I look like a freaking clown. What have I done to myself?"
I shivered when he took the clippers to the left sideburn. "Oh crap! I didn’t think about him shaving my sideburns. I really liked them!" He took the clippers all the way to the shaved circle, and then did it again. "Brett, if you decide to keep this cut it’s going to take some getting used to."
Dale stopped. "This is the point where you’re probably feeling the overwhelming urge to see what it feels like. Go ahead. I think you’ll like it." (He was right. I’d been dying to rub my head.) I rubbed my hands over the peeled top and almost shaved sides. Then I felt where I still had hair. I’m pretty sure my smile went from ear to ear, and I felt a reaction between my legs.
Dale said, "That’s enough. You’ll still be rubbing your head next week if I don’t stop you."
I looked at Pops. He looked thrilled, and I knew I’d done something that made him happy. Seeing his smile calmed me down. I wasn’t scared any more. I said, "Hey, Pops. Are you glad I included you?"
"Nah, I’d rather be at home watching a game." He grinned. "Of course I’m glad, you dumbbutt! I wouldn’t have missed this for the world."
I wasn’t expecting it when Dale put the shaving cream on my head. I’d thought the clippers had got it short enough but didn’t argue. I figured there was only a day’s difference between the clipper cut and the shave. After he finished shaving, he said, "Feel it now."
"Holy donkey eggs, Batman. That’s amazing." I kept rubbing it, fascinated by the difference between the smooth, smooth sides, and the plush, velvety top. The contrast was intriguing.
Even though I’d watched him the whole time he was cutting my hair, I was surprised by how I looked after he finished. I honestly didn’t recognize myself.
I don’t know how long I sat there before Pops said, "Don’t keep us in suspense. Do you like it?"
"My god, I wanted different, and I got different. I won’t blend into the crowd now. I really like it." I popped off before I thought. "It looks like someone plopped some velvet on a shaved head."
Dale and Pops chuckled. Dale said, "Well, that’s a new description, and it’s funnier than any joke I’ve ever told. I’m gonna use it."
I got up, paid Dale and got my coat without ever taking my eyes off myself.
Pops came over and rubbed my head. I wondered if I was going to be putting up with a lot of head rubs, but had to admit I liked the way it felt.
"Brett, Joyce is gonna be so upset about your haircut I figure I can get a short haircut and slide under the radar without getting in trouble. Do you mind waiting for me to get a haircut too?" His eyes were twinkling.
He turned around. "Hey, Dale. My son has inspired me. I know it’s closing time, but would you mind doing another cut?"
Dale laughed. "The way you watched Brett’s cut made me think you might say something like that. I have no outside life, so I’ll be happy to do another cut You’ll be charged my extra-high after hours rate though."
"Heck, you should give me a discounted rate, since you won’t have to cut nearly as much off my head as you did Brett’s. Maybe you should just charge him more!"
I piped up, "I’d pay it."
Dale said, "I was just messing with you, Greg. Get over here, and plop it. What are you thinking about for your hair? Wanna follow in your son’s footsteps?"
Pops said, "My bald spot would look silly with a recon, but I definitely want to go short too. After all, I can’t have Brett looking better than I do. Buzz it off."
Dale had Pops caped up in a second, then clippers in hand, Dale bent Pops head forward. Pops stopped him. "Hang on a second, Dale. Forget the buzz, I’m going to join the "dime a dozen" club. Shave it slick as a marble. I was right about getting to slide by Joyce because of Brett’s haircut. She probably won’t notice for a week."
My jaw dropped. Pops had always been so conservative in the way he dressed and acted that I’d never imagined him doing something radical like shaving his head. I thought, "Well, he never thought you’d do something radical like getting a recon."
Watching Pops get his head shaved was quite...stimulating? Interesting? Shocking? Weird? It was all of that, and fun too.
Once Dale had wiped the shaving cream off Pops’ head, I rubbed his head. "You look awesome, Pops! Way to go!" He looked like he was in shock at first, then he reached up and touched his head. He grinned ear to ear. So did I.
Dale said, "I was about to ask you what you thought, Greg, but I think your smile tells me what I need to know. You know, Brett’s right. You look awesome. Your head is the perfect shape for this."
I did a fist pump when we got outside, and yelled, "I did it! I really did it!"
After we got in the truck, Pops reached over and rubbed my head. "I like it. You look really sharp. This is so much better than all that crap hanging in your face. Your fist pump told me you like it, but tell me what you’re thinking about it?"
"Well, I think I’m thrilled with the decision but I’m still a little dazed that I actually went through with it." I shook my head. "Wow! No more bangs." I looked at Pops. "One minute I didn’t know what a recon was. The next minute I was getting one. I still can’t figure out how that happened."
He rubbed his head and gave me a rueful smile. "I can understand that. I don’t know what came over me. I just did it without thinking, but I’m glad I did it. I’ll look good in my coffin when your mother kills me."
"Hey, Pops. I don’t feel like going and looking at rims. Do you mind if we just go home?"
"Sure, son, but do you mind stopping at Wal-Mart? I need to pick up a few things." I wasn’t happy. I didn’t want to shop. I wanted to go home and admire myself. To be honest, I wanted to jack off. I hadn’t expected to be so turned on by getting a haircut.
I parked the truck and sat there. I was scared out of my gourd and didn’t want to go in. "How will people react?" "What will they say?" I didn’t know why I was so scared. I had dreamed about having people finally notice me. It was what I wanted, and why I had got the recon.
I realized I’d been living in a fantasy, and that reality was now slapping me in the face. I hadn’t really thought about the day-to-day ramifications of dealing with my new look. I was petrified.
I tried talking to myself. "Brett, I’m disgusted with you for being a lily-livered chicken. You know you can’t hide from the world, so get yourself out of the truck." I got out. I thought, "So far, so good. Now take another step." I took another step, and gained a little confidence. The world hadn’t fallen off its axis. I had a conversation with my inner self. "I like the way I look. It’s not my problem if someone else doesn’t like it. Go forth and conquer." "You’re right, Brett. This is what you wanted, go enjoy it." I almost reached back in the truck to get my hat, but my inner voice stopped me. "Nope, Brett--no hat. You can wear a hat later. Wear it when you want to, not to hide. You got yourself into this, and you’re going to have to deal with. Get your ass in there."
We wandered around the store for a while, and I didn’t endure anything worse than some laughter from a group of "long-hairs." It didn’t bother me much. I got some strange looks. A few people stared. I saw a woman point at me, and whisper to the person with her. I also had a man stop me to tell me how much he liked my haircut, and how he’d worn a recon when he was in the Marines.
A little boy barreled by me, and then stopped and said, "Excuse me, sir. I’m sorry."
No one had ever called me "sir". I liked it.
I was proud of myself for not giving in to my fears.
Later I figured that Pops had probably had me stop at Wal-Mart so he could be there for moral support during my first trip out into the world with my new haircut.
On our way out Pops said, "How do you feel about going to town and walking around. I’m not ready to deal with your mother yet."
"Sounds good to me."
As we were driving to town, I couldn’t help it. I admired my new look in the mirror almost all the way. I couldn’t keep my hands off my haircut. I was still in shock, but completely enamored with the way it felt and looked. "My god, it’s so weird. There’s no long, soft hair." I kept trying to adjust to the absence of my long bangs. I shook my head like I was trying to get the hair out of my eyes. "Wow! What a strange feeling. Nothing moved. I wonder when I’ll get used to that?" I could still feel the bangs, even though they weren’t there. I guess it was a case of old habits die hard.
My eyes were never on the road, and I don’t know how I managed to get into town without having a wreck. Every time I was able to tear my gaze away from myself, I’d see Pops looking at me. I’ll bet he told me how much he liked my haircut at least thirty times. He rubbed the side of my head again, "Don’t you like the way that feels?" I felt his smooth head more than once too.
I was thrilled with his response. I didn’t know exactly why or how, but I knew Pops and I had done something that bonded us together in a way that we had never bonded—and in a way that few fathers and sons probably ever did bond. It made me feel like a man, and like I had done something special for us.
We stopped at a convenience store to get a soft drink. I saw Pops looking at the beer. He grinned at me. "I should probably get a case of that beer. I’ll need it after your mother gets through with me."
I laughed, "You’d better get three. I’ll probably need two cases!"
He said, "You know, we shouldn’t pick on your mother so much. She’s not mean, she’s just opinionated. She won’t hurt us...but she might think about it!" We both laughed.
I saw the clerk staring at me. He was a little older than me, and extremely cute, even if he didn’t have short hair. I started watching him watch me. He looked fascinated. "Brett, does he like your haircut, or is he just fascinated by the strangeness of it?" I saw him looking at me again, and thought, "Maybe it’s not your haircut. Maybe it’s you he’s interested in." (I had admitted to myself I was attracted to men as well as women, but hadn’t acted on it.) He looked repulsed the next time I saw him looking at me. I rubbed my head to see how he’d react--and he reacted. He looked at me like a dog looks at a big bone. I thought, "He's got a haircut ‘thing’."
I picked up some chips and a candy bar, just to prolong my time in the store. I saw the clerk glance my way again, I thought, "Yep! He's got a haircut 'thing' too. I'm going to keep coming in here, and see if I can ease him into a trip to Dale’s." I tried to justify it by saying, "I don't want him suffering from indecision like I did. It's for his own good." I chuckled. "Don't BS yourself, Brett. You wanna see his hair on a barbershop floor!"
I knew my thoughts were shallow, but I didn't care. I was turned on by the thought of recruiting him.
Pops called me, and I forgot about my dirty thoughts for a while. The clerk was out-and-out staring when I looked at him again. He walked behind the counter and rearranged his family jewels. I expected him to pull his shirt tail out next. "Oh, he's got a fetish for sure! I wonder how many times I've pulled my shirt tail out for the same reason?" I got aroused thinking about him being aroused.
I flashed him a big smile, and rubbed my head again. He smiled back. As I was leaving, I made sure to say, "See you soon. I’ll be a regular now." His smile got bigger. I thought, "I’m learning the art of flirting. Not too bad for my first try."
Pops stopped my daydreaming. "Brett, we oughta head to the house but I’m not ready. Your mother’s probably getting worried by now."
I said, "I’m not ready either. I’m enjoying spending time with you. Why don’t you call Mom and buy us a few more hours?"
Dad’s phone rang before he could call Mom. He answered, and I could tell it was her. She asked lots of questions and Pops was evasive about answering. "Joyce, we’re in the truck driving, going nowhere in particular." "No, we haven’t done anything except get a haircut and go to Wal-Mart." He said, "I don’t know what we’re going to do, where we’ll wind up or when we’ll get home. It could be a while. Brett and I are having a guy’s day out. We’re enjoying ourselves, so we’re going to keep having fun. Don’t worry about us, we’re not chasing girls and getting drunk. We’ll be home when we get home."
I could almost feel Mom’s blood pressure rising. She hated being kept in the dark. I knew Pops was going to catch holy hell when we got home.
After he hung up the phone, he said, "What do you want to do now?"
"I don’t know. What do you want to do?"
"I don’t know. Let’s walk through town and see if something strikes our fancy." I didn’t know what could catch our fancy in a little town like ours (it was about ten blocks of small businesses) but I was game.
We passed a bunch of hippy types who looked startled, and moved away from us, as if short haircuts were a virus they could catch. We passed a bunch of normal people who didn’t seem to notice us.
It was a weird evening. I don’t know why, but it seemed like every fourth man had some sort of short haircut: flattops, crewcuts, shaved heads, short backs and sides and a high and tight. I saw more flattops that afternoon than I’d seen in the last six months. I was in fetisher’s heaven.
We talked to a few of the men we passed, and I started a lifelong habit of asking them about their hair. How long had they worn it that way? Did they still like it? Had they tried another style and came back to what they were wearing? What made them decide to keep it? What did their friends and family say?
At some point I said, "Pops, I’m seeing lots of short hair today, but I don't think any of them look as good as we do."
He laughed. "Part of me wants to chastise you, and tell you a little humility is in order. Another part of me wants to agree with you."
A youngish man (maybe late twenties or early thirties), walked by and gave us a smile and said, "Hello". He also looked at our hair. Although he had a baseball cap on, I could tell he had a really short cut. "Nice haircut. Let me guess, Dale?" I queried.
He lifted his cap, revealing a short flattop (not a horseshoe, but pretty close). He rubbed his head, and said, "Unfortunately! He took me completely by surprise!"
Curious, I said, "You're not the first one he's shocked with an unexpectedly short haircut, but it sounds like there's a story behind that. What happened?"
He gave me a rueful smile, and replied, "You've got that right. There's a story behind it!"
Pops said, "If you've got the time, we'd love to hear about it! Wanna grab some coffee while we're talking? By the way, I'm Greg and this is my son, Brett."
"I'm Mark. Nice to meet both of you."
Mark was a very good looking man: tall, with dark hair and the shadow of a heavy beard, green eyes, muscular--all that I enjoyed when looking at a man--and I enjoyed looking at him. I thought, "He’s handsome, but the flattop makes him look even better. I wish he’d take that cap off."
We got coffee and sat down. Mark said, "Thursday morning, I had pretty normal hair, not too short, but not too long. I woke up that morning to a really bad hair day. Nothing I did would make it do anything but stick straight up. I was past due for a haircut and decided to get it cut. I didn't feel like driving into town (in our neck of the woods, ‘driving into town’ meant a forty mile drive to the next town of any size), so I decided I'd go see Dale." After a laugh that was almost a snort, he said, "I'd heard stories about him, but I thought they were exaggerated "
Pops and I laughed. Pops said, "Any story you heard probably underrated him. That man is a true hater of long hair on a man."
Mark lifted his cap again. "I know that now!"
I asked him to tell us the rest of his story.
"Before I knew what was happening, he had a paper strip around my neck, and a cape that seemed too tight."
"Dale said, 'Obviously it's been a long time since you've been in a barbershop. What can I do for you?’"
"I explained. ‘I woke up with my hair looking like the offspring of a porcupine that had mated with a pin cushion. To make it easier to manage, I think I'd like to go a little shorter, maybe even over the ears.’ Then I said, ‘Short, but nothing too short.’"
"He said, 'I got it. Short, right?"
"I clarified my request. 'Short, but not too short’."
"He replied, 'One short haircut coming up!'"
"I laughed at Mark, and said, 'I can tell you where you made your mistake. You used the word ‘short’. As long as you don’t use that word, he’ll do what you want. Once he hears ‘short" all reason leaves the man, and he becomes Super Psychotic Clipper Man, able to clip all the hair from a man’s head in one swipe." Mark laughed. I kept going. "I'll bet I can tell you the rest of the story. Before you knew what was happening, your head was shoved to the side, the clippers were on, and you had a big wad of hair in your lap. Left sideburn first?"
"You got it, and the rest of the sides and back were peeled before I could comprehend what was happening. Maybe you’re right and he is Super Psychotic Clipper Man. How does that old fart move so fast?"
I said, "Welcome to the Dale's Club. Now that you've lived with it a few days, how do you feel about it?"
"I wish I knew the answer to that question. There's no doubt that it's easy to care for, and I like that. However, when I look at myself in the mirror I want to wringe the old fart's neck. Today is the first day I've dared go out in public, and as you can see, I put a baseball cap on first. I don't know if I'll be able to stand it until it grows back." He sighed softly, and almost whispered, " I guess I have to stand it though."
Pops said, "Give it a chance, and you might learn to like it. I wore a flattop for years. I would still have one if I had enough hair to pull it off."
"I don't know. I think hell will freeze over before I learn to like this. I'm just hoping I can endure it until I have enough hair to comb."
Pops continued, "Maybe it'll be easier if you don't feel like the only man on the planet with short hair. Take that cap off and sit with us a while."
Mark grimaced, but took the cap off. "Greg, I don’t know why I’m so freaked out about it. People don’t get weird about short hair now like I’ve heard they did in the Seventies. Hell, half of the kids on the planet have short hair now. Maybe it’s just because someone else made the decision for me, and I didn’t get to choose. Let me tell you, it was a big shock to my system."
The conversation moved on to other topics, and we sat and talked for a long time. I noticed that the whole time we were talking at least one of us was rubbing our head.
Mark put his cap back on as he got ready to leave. "Greg, you were right. It wasn't as hard to deal with when all three of us were sitting here. Now, if you could only go with me everywhere I might be able to deal with it."
Pops pulled out one of his business cards, wrote his cell number on it and said, "Call anytime you need moral support."
"I might do that. I'm probably gonna need some moral support. My girlfriend hasn't spoken to me since she saw my hair."
Pops said, "Mark, it's really none of my business, but a great guy like you doesn't need a girl who's that shallow. Get rid of her and find someone who'll accept you as you are."
I thought, "I'd love to be that someone who accepted him." Of course I said nothing even vaguely resembling that.
It was like Pops was reading my mind. He kept talking, "We'll be the family who cares about you--short hair or long, and you might be a good influence on this ruffian I call a son. Seriously, call any time and we'll have you over."
Mark called the next day, and he wound up having dinner with us...and he's been there many times since. Although he did let his hair hair grow back, Pops and I are trying to convince him to get another flattop.
Pops and I started walking again and suddenly he stopped right in the middle of the sidewalk, oblivious to the people who were walking behind him. He looked at me, and said, "Damn son, I’m still trying to wrap my head around all of this. What in the world were we thinking?"
"I don’t know, Pops. Maybe we weren’t thinking, but at least you look really good with a shaved head. Even though I like my hair, I’m still trying to figure out if I look like a circus freak or a lunatic."
Pops went on a tirade about my looks, and told me...well, he told me all kinds of stuff. He kinda read me the riot act. Then he said, "That said, Thanks for today. I haven’t said anything to you about your long hair, but I hated it. You made me very happy today, and you look wonderful. Just accept the fact you look good, and get on with it. Besides, if you hadn’t shown the courage you did, I would’ve never been brave enough to get rid of my hair. I’ve been wanting to for a long time, and was afraid of Joyce’s reaction."
I slapped myself on the forehead. "Dang it!"
"What's the matter son?"
"Pops, I’m really pissed off at myself."
"Why son? I think you look great."
"No, Pops. I’m not mad because I got the haircut. I’m pissed off because I was such a chicken for so long. If I’d cut it when I first started thinking about it, I could’ve been enjoying this haircut for a few months now!"
Pops didn’t say anything. He just laughed at me.
We talked for a long time.
While we were talking, my mind was whirling. I was only halfway listening to what Pops was saying.
Out of the blue, I interrupted him. "Hey, Pops, I’ve got an idea I want to run by you."
"Sure, son. What’s on your mind."
I told him how I had decided my three best points were my hair, eyes and beard. "I want your opinion. I was thinking about how you can see my eyes now, and my hair draws lots of attention. I wondered what I could do to draw attention to my beard. I don’t think I’d like a beard with my hair, but what do you think I’d look like with a moustache. Would it help create a frame that would draw attention to my eyes?"
"Well, I’ve never been a fan of facial hair, but you may be right. There’s only one way to find out. Grow one. If you don’t like it, you can always shave."
"Thanks. I’m gonna do it. Maybe you should too. I’ve always liked a bald head a moustache." He shook his head. A second later I asked, "What would I look like with a big handlebar moustache and a recon? If I’m going to be different, I might as well go whole hog."
"Brett, you’re getting a little ahead of yourself, aren’t you? I don’t think you’ve had your haircut long enough to even know if you’re going to like it, and it’s going to take a while to grow a moustache. Like I said, try it and see if you like it."
I shook my head. "I think you’re wrong about the haircut. I think I’m going to like it."
"Well, don’t do something foolish like join the Marines just to fit in. I don’t mind you enlisting, but I want you to do it for the right reasons."
"Oh, I’ve never thought about joining the Marines. I might have to think about that."
Pops groaned. "Me and my big mouth! If you join, please don’t tell your mother I gave you the idea."
"If I enlist, it wouldn’t be to fit in. I got this haircut to stand out. I’d join to serve my country...and maybe to make you proud of me. I want to be the kind of man you’ll be proud to call your son."
"Son, I’ve always been proud of you. Don’t ever forget that."
We fell into a comfortable silence for a few minutes. I could tell Pops was trying to figure out how to say something, and I said, "Pops, it’s obvious you want to ask me something. Go ahead."
He gave a nervous laugh. He finally said, "To be honest, I’m a little concerned about what you said about only having three strong points. Tell me more about how you came to that conclusion."
I went into my spiel about just being average.
He went into the expected parental spiel about me being above average. Then he said, "I wish I’d known you were struggling with this. Maybe I could’ve helped you make sense of it."
"Pops, you can’t help with something you don’t know is happening, but you're wrong. You did help me. By the way you live you’ve shown me to do what’s right for myself, be polite to others and not worry about what they think. Basically, I'm following your lead."
I said, "It’s kinda strange for me to say, but I want to be the type of man you are, and set the same example for my kids that you’ve set for me.''
Pops ruffled what was left of my hair, and said, "I still can’t believe you finally cut all that mess off." He thought a bit. "Thank you for saying that, son. I sure as hell can’t explain why you feel that way, but I’ll go with it. I love you, and I’m proud of you." He sighed, "I guess we’ve spent enough time out now. We’d better get home and deal with your mother—and hopefully she won’t be too pissed to feed us. I’m as hungry as a horse." He laughed. "Of course, I won’t have to worry about being hungry if she kills me."
I got up, but Pops kept sitting. "Speaking of your mother, have you given any thought to what you’re gonna tell her? I think we’re both going to have to do some serious explaining."
"Honestly, I haven’t. I didn’t think about talking to anyone, or how they’d react. I was just thinking about what I wanted."
"Son, you might should’ve given her a thought or two, and I have no ideas to help you get through it." He chuckled. "Wanna make a bet? I’ll bet you $100 that she says, ‘Brett, I’ve got to tell you, I’m not very happy with you right now’."
"Nope! No way I’m taking that bet. That’s exactly what she’ll say, and she’ll probably bop me upside the head when she says it."
When we got home I said, "Pops, wait here. Let me handle this. I got us into this, and I’ll talk to Mom first."
"Son, I’m not sure if I think that’s a good idea, or a bad one, but I respect the fact that you’re going to face it head on. Now, get in there, before I have a nervous breakdown."
As I was opening the truck door, and Pops said, "Brett, are you sure this is what you want? It might be easier to deal with Joyce if you tell her it was just a spur of the moment thing, or that Dale made a mistake and it’s not permanent."
I spoke with a firm conviction. "Absolutely, Pops. I like my haircut, and I want to keep it for the foreseeable future."
Pops sighed, and said, "I was afraid you’d say that, but I fully understand. I’m feeling the same way." He rubbed his slick head. "I’m also wondering if a shaved head is worth the price of a divorce." He laughed, "Now, get going—but hurry up. I’m going to be sitting out here on pins and needles, waiting to find out how it goes. But, before you go, I want to tell you I’m really proud of the way you’re handling this. You’re being a man, and taking responsibility for your actions. I admire that."
After I got out of the truck I stuck my head back in and said, "Wish me luck. If I’m still alive after I talk to Mom, I’ll come get you."
He laughed. "It won’t be that bad...I hope."
As I walked in the house, I thought, "This is going to be hard, but I’ve got no choice now."
When Mom heard me at the door, she came into the foyer saying, "Where in the world have you two been?" Then she looked at me, and grabbed her heart, and whispered, "Greg?"
I said, "No, Mom. It’s me."
Her shock showed in her voice. She whispered, "Oh my god in heavens to Betsy, what in the world did your father do to you and why in the world did he do it?" Then in a firmer voice she said, "I’m going to kill that man!"
I couldn’t help but laugh at her. I said, "Well, Mom, in case you didn’t notice, I got a haircut, and it was my idea, not Pops. We had a long talk today. I’m going to stop worrying so much about what others think and do what I feel is right for me."
She looked at me suspiciously, like she thought I was being disrespectful. I wasn’t sure what to say, so I just stood there looking as innocent as I possibly could.
"What? This was your idea? Somebody please tell me what’s going on here."
I went to grab Mom’s hand, and she pulled away from me. I said, "Come on, Mom. Let’s go sit down, and we can talk about it."
Pops came in right then. I guess he hadn’t been able to stand the suspense, or maybe he’d decided to come in while Mom was mad at me, and hope she wouldn’t get mad at him.
Mom was yelling at Pops before he even got the door fully opened, and her voice had a lot of fire in it. "Gregory Ray Richardson, you’ve got a lot of explaining to do. You could've at least told me something was going on when I called. I've never been more shocked than I am right now."
Pops winked at me and said, "You’re probably right, Joyce, but I didn’t know how to tackle this over the phone. I’m here now. We’ll deal with it."
He looked like he’d rather be anywhere else.
I felt sorry for him. I spoke up, and said, "Sorry, Pops. I didn’t realize my decision was going to come back on you. Mom, give him a break. He had nothing to do with the decision. Honestly, I think he was as shocked as you are. This is all my doings."
She sounded heartbroken. "Your doings? What in the world could you have possibly been thinking? You had all that beautiful hair, and you come home with…" She pointed at my head, "You come home with this mess. I can’t even dignify it with the name ‘haircut’. It’s depressing!" Tears filled her eyes, and she sat down. Very quietly she said, "The idea of your gorgeous hair being swept up and thrown in a trash can make me sad. Oh, Brett, how could you do this to yourself?"
Pops squared his shoulders, and said, "Joyce, settle down. Brett, you’ve faced the firing squad now. Let me do some explaining, and then you can answer any questions your mother might have."
She touched my head and said, ''Am I dreaming? Is this real?''
Pops and I kept talking to her, and after a while her attitude started changing—a little. I knew things were going to be OK when she said, "I can't believe it, Brett. It's like having a younger version of your father sitting here, even though he never had hair as short as this. When I first saw you I thought I’d stepped into a time warp, and was seeing your father. You look just like he did the first time I saw him. I’m going to have to dig some old pictures out to show you."
Pops made a shoo-ing motion, and I started to leave the room. Mom’s voice stopped me. She sounded sad. "Brett, I can’t believe you did this! This is really going to take a while to get used to." She got some fire in her voice. "Don’t you ever give me a shock like this again. In the future, if you decide to do something drastic like this, please tell me BEFORE you do it. I thought I was going crazy—and Brett, I’ve got to tell you, I’m not very happy with you right now."
She looked at us like we were crazy when Pops and I burst into laughter. Pops said, "I wish you’d taken that bet. I’d be a $100 richer."
After we’d stopped laughing, Pops looked at me. "Go on now, and let me and your mother talk this out."
I roamed for a while before I finally settled down in the den. I sat there rubbing my hair (it still gave me a thrill) while my conscience ate on me. I could understand why Mom was so surprised and I felt bad for not including her. I regretted getting Pops into hot water with Mom.
After what seemed like an eternity, they came into the den. I could tell Mom was still upset, but she said, "Brett, I apologize for my reaction. I didn’t mean to disappoint you. Greg told me how excited you were about your haircut. I was wrong to over-react." The tears start again. "After all, you’re an adult now, and you can wear any hairstyle you want. You look as nice as you can, but I expect it's going to take a while for me to adjust to it. Don't be surprised if I call you ‘Greg’."
I thought, "She really means I look as nice as I can with this messed up haircut." I wisely kept my mouth shut though.
Pops said, "Joyce, think about it. The boy’s never done drugs, we don’t have any unexpected grandkids and the sheriff has never called us to get him out of jail. You’re a pretty lucky mother if the worst thing he does is surprise you with a haircut--even if it is a pretty radical haircut. Not many mothers get that lucky."
Mom smiled, "Well, when you put it that way, I guess I can’t complain too much. I guess I’ll deal with it —whether I like it or not."
Things eventually settled down, and we sat and talked it all through. At one point, Mom looked at me and said, "My God, son. You look just like your father. I swear, you didn’t get anything from me!"
Pops started to say something, but I interrupted. "I’ve got this, Pops."
"Mom, I mean no disrespect, but you’re dead wrong. I may look like Pops, but on the inside, I’m mostly you. I got so much from you, and I’m glad I did. I got your sense of humor. I got the heart of an artist from you. For that matter, I got my heart of compassion from you."
I looked at Pops and said, "Pops, I don’t mean you don’t have compassion. I’ve watched you help more people in a year than most people help in a lifetime, but Mom and I have a different heart, and we feel things more deeply, so we’re moved to help others in a different way."
Pops looked at Mom and said, "Joyce, you know he’s right. Inside, he’s just like you—and I can’t think of anyone in the world I’d rather he take after."
Mom wiped a few tears out of her eyes, and then said, "I think I made a liar out of you today, son. I didn’t show you much compassion. I’m sorry, Brett. I really am." She wiped a few more tears. "I have to thank you both for what you just said, but I know you’re nothing but charmers. I’m choosing not to believe a single word either of you said…but, Brett, I’ve got to tell you, your wife’s going to be one very happy woman if you talk to her as kindly as you just talked to me."
She wiped another tear, and then said, "Now, y'all get on outa here. I’ve got work to do, and I ain’t gonna get it done sitting here flapping my jaws."
I was walking out when Mom grabbed me, and pulled me into a big hug. She held me for a long time, and finally pushed me away as she whispered, "I love you, son. Don’t you ever forget it."
She hurried out of the room. I couldn’t see to get out of the room because of the tears in my eyes. Pops walked up and gave me a hug too. As he let me go, he said, "Ditto to what your mother just said. I love you, son."
Pops looked to make sure Mom was gone, and then he whispered, "You were right son, you got all those wonderful traits from your Mom. I’m just glad you didn’t get her temper."
I couldn’t help but laugh.
After things calmed down a bit, I walked into the den, and Pops was sitting with his feet on his desk, and staring at the ceiling while he smoked a pipe. I sat down, and said, "How’d it go with Mom about your hair, or lack of hair?"
"Huh?" He laughed, "Well, I’ll be damned. I don’t think she noticed. At least she hasn’t said anything."
I got a big chuckle out of Pops when I said, "Oh, she would’ve said something if she’d noticed!"
"Let’s take her to dinner, just to apologize for shocking her so." He yelled, "Hey, Joyce. Put some nice clothes on. Brett and I are gonna take you out for a fancy dinner." Then he looked at me, "Why don’t you go put on some nice clothes too. That’ll make Joyce feel better."
Dad and I were waiting for Mom when she finally got dressed. She walked in and said, "You look nice." Then she looked again. "Oh, my god. Greg, what did you do with your hair? Have you gone nuts?"
For the second time that day, Mom stood looking at us like we were crazy while Pops and I laughed.
We were sitting in the den after dinner, and Pops excused himself. He came back a few minutes later, and put a beer in my hand. He said, "I don’t know about you, but I need a beer, or two, to help me wind down. This day wore me out emotionally, but I’d be happy to go through it again to see you looking so nice, and so happy."
He sat down beside Mom. It wasn’t long before I noticed Mom rubbing Pops’ head. She had a smile on her face.