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Operation: 21st Century by Just_Me


Dad was born in 1970, and he never transitioned out of the Seventies. In 2012, at the age of forty-two, he was still a poster boy for feathered hair. His hair covered his ears and brushed his shoulders on the sides and went down his back. He looked like he should be in a disco dancing to the music of the BeeGees...or maybe he should've been on the stage with the BeeGees. His long blondish hair and beard would’ve fit in with the band.

I tried to talk to Dad about his hair from time to time, but I finally gave up. I knew it was a waste of time, so I didn’t say anything else to him about it.

I often bitched to my best friend (Chris) about Dad’s hair, but he had it worse. Chris' dad was stuck in the eighties, and had a flattop in the front, and the hair on the back of his head was so long that it hung past his shoulder blades (Yep! The classic mullet. Business in the front, party in the back). If I hadn’t known better, I’d have said he lived on the corner of Redneck Avenue and Hicksville Drive, in Hillbilly Township. (I come from a long line of rednecks and country hicks and I love them, so don’t go accusing me of being biased against hillbillies.)

Just for the record, I don't understand how a mullet every became fashionable--especially those really long ones. I’ve always thought a mullet was one of the stupidest haircuts on the planet!

Anyway, after he'd had a few drinks (which happened fairly often) Jack, Chris' dad, would start in on Dad about his hair. Jack was always trying to get my dad to "get rid of your old-fashioned hairstyle and get with the times. Get a mullet. You'll look great in one!"

I shuddered every time I heard Jack suggest it. I always wanted to scream, "Shut up, Jack! Your hair is no better than Dad's. In fact, it's worse!"

One night as we were leaving Chris's house, Dad said, "What do you think? Is Jack right? How would I look with a mullet?"

I was stunned. "Oh my god! Just thinking about it makes me want to puke! I’m truly nauseated at the thought. Why would you even think about it?"

"I don’t know why, I just think it’d be fun. I've had the same haircut for thirty-five years. Maybe it's time to switch things up and do what I want."

"Dad, it's definitely time to switch things up, but why don't you try coming into the 21st century instead of going into the Eighties?"

"Do you really think a mullet is that outdated?"

I thought (but didn’t say), "My god. How can a person be so oblivious to what’s going on around him?" I said, "Dad, they were outdated in the Nineties. Think about it. When was the last time you saw someone besides Jack with a mullet?"

"Hmm. Maybe you're right, but I still like the look. I may try it. Jack and I could be the only two men in town with a mullet."

"Seriously, Dad, please don’t. I’d die of embarrassment!"

"I might do it. Jack really sold me on the idea tonight."

"Before you do something crazy like that, buy me a ticket to Siberia. I don’t want to be anywhere around when you do this...this stupid thing!"

I was pulling my phone out of my pocket as I walked into my room. "Oh my god, Chris! You've got to help me figure out a way to bring our fathers into the 21st century. Dad is seriously considering a mullet!"

"I don’t know what we could do, Ethan. They’re both stubborn as jackasses. There’s nothing short of tying them up and buzzing their hair off that would persuade those two. God! I wish I could do that!"

The thought of buzzing their long hair off gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling. "Wouldn’t that be fun?!"

After imagining our dads with matching buzz cuts, I said, "Any ideas, Chris? I’ll consider anything, even tying them up. We'd be grounded the rest of our lives if we tied ‘em up and buzz ‘em down, but it might be worth it. Let's try to think of something less drastic before we resort to kidnapping and assault. Knowing my luck, Jack would file charges against me, and a lawyer could probably make a case that a pair of clippers was a deadly weapon. I’d get a life sentence."

We started tossing ideas around: "What kind of bet can we make with them that we’re sure to win?

Neither of us had any thoughts on that.

"I know. We could empty our savings accounts and pay their hairdressers to mess up their haircuts?"

"I don’t have enough in my savings account to entice a hairdresser. Do you?"

"Ok, bad idea. What’s your next thought?"

Chris asked, "Do you get your hair buzzed if you’re thrown in jail? Maybe we could get them arrested. It’d be worth it."

"I don’t know, but let’s check into it." I stopped to think. "What did we do so bad that Karma decided we deserved fathers who are so stuck in the past?"

Chris giggled when I said that. I was irritated. "What are you laughing about? This is serious business."

"I just thought you’re right. They’re stuck in the past, and we’re trying to bring them up to date. We should call what we’re doing ‘Operation: 21st Century’."

I had to laugh then. "Ok, ‘Operation: 21st Century’ it is. Now, let’s get to trying to figure out what we can do to get those two into the 21st century."

We thought we’d found the answer when Chris said, "What if we could get our mothers to say they wouldn’t have sex with our dads until they did something with their hair?"

"Cool idea! I love it! It’s got real potential." Then I thought some more. "Chris, that just ain’t gonna work unless you can figure out a way to talk to our moms. Personally, I don't think there’s a way in this world for a teenaged boy to ask his mom to not have sex."

"Damn! You’re right. I could never do that." He chuckled. "I know I wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t had sex, but the idea of Mom and Dad doing ‘it’ is disgusting. There ain’t no way I could talk to Mom about it. What’s our next idea?"

"I don’t know. Maybe an accident? What can we do to ‘accidentally’ cut their hair?"

Then we started trying to figure out how we could arrange an accident that involved our dads' hair. We weren’t smart enough to figure anything out. We only had two ideas, and both of them could’ve caused serious bodily injury. Fire was too dangerous. Getting their hair caught in a fan could rip a chunk of hide off. I thought of something that might work on Dad. He was always working on the car, and I wondered if I could "accidentally" make the hood fall on his head. I thought, "Maybe it would split his scalp, and the doctor would have to shave his head to do stitches." I decided that was too iffy, and anyway, I really didn’t want to hurt Dad. I regretfully threw that idea way.

"What could we "accidentally" drop in their hair?"

"I don’t know. Gum won’t work. Someone threw a piece of gum in my hair, and Mom got it out with peanut butter."

"What about rubber cement?"

"It might work if you can figure out how to get above his head, and drop the cement on him. What could you do?"

I was blank. "Dang it, another useless idea!"

We gave up on accidents. "What can we do to blackmail them, or bribe them?"

"Dunno."

"I wish I could think of something where I could say, 'I won’t tell Mom (or even better, the cops) you did that if you'll get a haircut’."

"Won’t work. Both of our fathers’ are too boring for that to work. I’ve never known Dad to do anything bad. He’s never even had a speeding ticket. The worst thing Jack does is get drunk, and your mom already knows about that."

"What if we talked to their bosses?"

"Sorry to burst your bubble, but that's not going to work with my dad. His boss started riding him about his haircut and Dad went to HR. The company dress code only says his hair has to be neat. There’s no reference to length."

"Hey, I know. One time Dad got his hair caught in a brush, and thought he was going to have to cut it out. What if we put some glue in their brushes?"

"That's a dumb idea. How would we get the glue to dry instantly?"

"Well, if you're so smart, you figure out something!"

"I'm trying. I'm trying."

The frustration finally got the best of us, and we gave up...for the moment.

The next morning we were sitting in the den, watching the news before Dad had to go to work. He was absently running his fingers through his hair. I thought I was having a nightmare when I heard him say, "I think I’m going to do it. I’m getting a mullet the next time I get a haircut."

I snapped. I couldn’t take it any more. In a complete role reversal, I said, "Dad, sit down, shut up and listen to me. I’m going to talk to you man-to-man. This hair thing of yours has gone on entirely too long. FIrst of all, your hair is absurd. You don’t fit into our society. No adult man should have to get up an hour early to fix his hair. Most men spend less than five minutes combing their hair. Secondly, a mullet is a horrible choice. It’s outdated and tacky. It opens you up for ridicule. It says you have no taste. Furthermore, you're a good-looking man. You’ve been blessed with those beautiful baby blue eyes but you're hiding them behind that hair, which is a ridiculous waste of a fabulous asset. I’d kill to have your eyes, and I’m sick of seeing you not use them to your advantage. Men and women would melt if they could just see them. Your sales would probably double if you’d just let your eyes show."

I took a breath. "Do you want to be eighty-years old and be sitting in a nursing home thinking, 'I'm sorry I squandered some of the best years of my life, hiding my best asset behind some ridiculous hair?' Don’t think I won’t put you in a nursing home either, just to get away from your stupid long hair!"

I was so mad I had tears streaming down my face. I tried to calm down. I took another deep breath and kept going. "On top of that, I'm tired of being embarrassed to be seen with you. You're a great man, but you're so archaic-looking that people can't get past the hair to see the real you. We're going to my barber, and he's going to give you a new look. Got it? Let's go! Now!"

Dad looked crestfallen. "Do you really think my hair is that bad? Are you really embarrassed to be seen with me?"

"Honestly, yes. I get picked on all the time. Guys at school make fun of you, and make fun of me for having such an out-dated father. It’s embarrassing when people stare, and I know they’re staring in disgust, rather than the envy you think it is. They’re wondering why an apparently young man is thirty years behind the times. Seriously, NO one feathers their hair anymore. VERY few men have long hair any more, and even the guys with long hair don’t feather it."

"Oh! I had no idea. Do you really get flack because of my hair? I don’t want you to suffer because of me." (I really didn’t get picked on. I just wanted to use every bit of ammo I could against Dad in this battle to bring him into the 21st century.)

I thought, "Aha! I’ve got his attention. I’m finally getting through to him."

He thought a minute. "Would you be less embarrassed if I stopped feathering it, and let it grow to an even length? I could put it in a ponytail."

"Get real, Dad. A ponytail is disgusting, and it’s very unprofessional. I’m not letting you have a man bun either, so forget that if you’re thinking about it. You’re getting a real haircut, and you’re going to do it right. Over the ears. I might let you keep some length on the top, but the rest is going on the floor of a barbershop--and yes, we’re going to a barbershop, not one of your wimpy salons. You’re coming into the 21st century, if I have to drag you there kicking and screaming. You can do it one of two ways. You can be a wimp, or you can take it like a man. Let’s go." ("Take it like a man" was a weapon I was fairly certain would get to him. Dad was proud of taking responsibility for himself, and I knew it would hurt his pride if I thought he was a wimp.)

"Dad-gum it, Ethan, you’re hitting below the belt. Even if I wanted to (which I don’t), I can’t go now. I have a really important appointment this morning. How about this? I’ll think about it, and if I decide to go through with it, I’ll go to the barbershop with you next Saturday." He smiled. "Maybe that’ll give me time to figure a way out of this."

"If you want to wimp out, and wait that long, I guess I’m OK with it." I thought, "Ethan, slow down on the wimp references. You might piss him off."

He looked me square in the eyes. "Does this haircut you’re proposing really mean that much to you?"

"Dear god in heaven, why do you think I’m so passionate about it? Yes, sir, it means that much to me and honestly, I think it means that much to you. You’re going to be taken much more seriously than you are now if you cut your outrageous hair. I think most people just see you as an overgrown kid and a Seventies-reject--which is only slightly better than being a Sixties-reject."

"Ouch, that hurts. You’re really playing for keeps."

Tears filled my eyes when he said, "Ok. Yes. If it means that much to you, I'll get a haircut. You mean more to me than my hair." He teased, "It's a close call but you win, but only by a hair--pun intended." he laughed like his pun was the funniest thing in the world. "I'll let you choose my style for me, since you know more about fashion than I do. Just don't forget I'm a businessman and I have to look professional."

I thought, "As if your long hair has ever looked professional."

He turned serious. "I can’t do it today. I’ve got to have some time to prepare myself for this. I’ll tell you what. We’ll go Wednesday, since I have a late appointment that day."

I almost laughed when I thought, "Dad, get ready to surprise your customer. You’re going in looking a lot different than you do today."

I couldn’t wait to tell Chris.

Tuesday night I walked into the den. "Dad, it’s going to happen tomorrow. We’re leaving at 6:30, so we can be there when the barber opens at 7:00."

"Dear Lord, Ethan. You’re killing me. I haven’t had my second cup of coffee by that time."

"Well, you’d better drink it fast in the morning. I told my barber we’ll be there at 7:00."

I lied to Dad that night. I hadn’t told my barber. I had gone to see Tony, a barber notorious for taking off a lot more hair than you asked for, and told him what I wanted. Tony had been more than happy to go along with my ruse and help me out with Dad. In fact, he had been downright gleeful, and even offered to come in before normal hours, so he could give Dad "special treatment" without being interrupted.

When I pulled up in front of the shop, Dad looked nervous. "Are you sure this is where you go? I’ve heard stories about this barber."

"Don’t worry, Dad. I’ve heard the stories too, and I don’t know where they come from. He’s always done exactly what I asked, and I’m sure he’ll do just what I tell him to do today." Then I thought, "You just don’t know what I’ve told him to do!"

We walked in and Dad looked around the very traditional barbershop like he was looking at a gas chamber.

Tony greeted us. He played his role perfectly. He started by saying, "Welcome in. You must be Dale. Ethan’s told me great things about you. I'm Tony." He shook Dad’s hand and brushed the barber chair off with a cape. "Go ahead and have a seat." He put the cape and paper strip on, and started combing Dad's hair. "Ethan told me what you're wanting. Have no fear. I’ll follow his instructions to a ‘T’. Your thick head of hair is perfect for the look he’s going for. By the way, you're lucky to have a son who cares for you so much. Not many men can say that about their teen-aged sons."

I thought, "Slow it down, Tony. You don't want to overplay your hand."

It was like he read my mind. "Ok. Before I get started on your hair, what am I going to do with the beard? It’ll affect how I cut the rest of your hair."

"Huh? My beard? I’d assumed I’d keep it, but let me ask the boss."

He looked at me. "By the way, Ethan, how did I completely lose control of this, and leave you in charge?"

"I dunno."

"Me either, but that’s not really the question at hand. What about the beard?"

I was surprised. I hadn’t thought about his beard. I looked at his face. ""Do you have any preferences?"

"Well, I’d like to keep the beard. If you decide I can’t, I’d like to keep a moustache. I don’t think I’m ready to face the world with short hair and clean shaven."

"No moustache. You’d be keeping your Seventies look. I’d prefer a clean shave, but how about we meet in the middle? Does a trim goatee work for you?"

"Tony, it sounds like it’s going to be goatee...but fair warning, Ethan. If I don’t like it, we’re doing a moustache. Got it?"

"Ok, Dad. If you want to be stuck in the Dark Ages, it’s your call."

He grinned.

Tony said, "Ok, now that that’s settled, let's get started. Are you ready?"

Dad said, "I don't know if I'll ever be ready for this. I never dreamed I'd be sitting in a barber chair at my son's instigation. However, I gave him my word, so I have to do this. Go ahead."

Then Dad looked at Tony. "Ethan will have a fit when he hears this, but can I get you to do a mullet first? I want to see what it looks like and maybe take a picture, so I can remember it." Then he used my words against. He grinned and said, "That way I won't be that eighty-year-old man who’d been committed to a nursing home against his will saying, 'I wish I had worn a mullet, just once'."

Dad looked at me. "I know I can't keep it, but let me try it."

I shook my head, and Dad said, "Why not, Ethan? I'm giving you what you want. You can at least give me this."

I thought, "Ethan, he’s right. It’s only fair." I said, "What do you think, Tony. Can you do a mullet?" (I was shaking my head at him.)

"I've never done one, but I can try. However, I’d have to charge you for two separate cuts, if I did that."

I gave Tony two thumbs up. I figured that would shut Dad down. He wasn't cheap, but he didn't like wasting money.

"It would be worth the price. I've wanted a mullet since I was a teen."

"OK, Dad. If you insist, but it's going to be the shortest-lasting mullet in the universe. You'll get to look just like Jack for about two seconds. I'll take one picture, and then it's coming off. Got it?"

"Got it... Unless I decide I like it." He thought that was funny and laughed.

I didn't see anything amusing about it.

Tony picked up the clippers and I saw the look on Dad’s face when he heard the clippers. He was pale and looked scared to death. I guess I could say he also looked resigned. I almost felt sorry for Dad--almost, but not quite. I was proud of him for bearing up so well though. I thought, "It can’t be easy for him to face losing what he thought was his best feature." I sympathized, but knew he’d be better off following my route.

I was ready to see his hair hit the floor.

Tony said, "All right, here we go. I’ll start with the beard." He tilted Dad’s head back, and started taking all the hair off under the chin. Then he shaped the goatee and took the sides off. The sideburns were the last thing he define. It wasn’t anything special. It just looked like a goatee, but I was surprised by the amount of hair on the cape. I didn’t think Dad’s beard was that long. I did think Dad looked much better without the beard. After the beard was cut, Tony said, "I’ll shave your face later. I wanna get your hair cut first."

I was getting more and more excited, thinking about what was to come.

Tony said, "Ethan told me all about Jack’s mullet. I’ll give you mullet just like his, and then finish off with a major makeover for you, Dale."

I’d told Tony to do the most damage he could with the first pass of the clippers, just in case Dad tried to back out of his deal. Tony did what he’d said he’d do. He put a large guard on the clippers, and sorta zig-zagged all over the top of Dad's hair.

"What the f**k?! How is this going to get me to a mullet?" (I was shocked. My father is not a profane man. I’ve only hear him say a swear word three times in my life.)

"Well, you've admired Jack's haircut and wanted one like his, so Tony’s doing a mullet just like Jack’s--flattop in the front, long in the back."

"Oh, I didn’t think about him cutting the top into a flattop."

"That’s what you said you wanted. A mullet like Jack’s, and it’s too late to change your mind now, Dad. Anyway, it fits into my plans. You said you want to look professional, so I'm having Tony give you the business part of Jack's mullet. You're getting a flattop. It meets your requirement. It’s a very professional look, and I think it'll work for you."

"A flattop? Really?"

"A flattop. Definitely."

"I’ve never thought about a flattop for myself. To me, that’s something my uncles used to wear."

Dad reached up and touched his head. "Holy s**t! That’s short!"

I thought, "What? Did my father just swear again? The sky is falling! He must be more shaken up than I thought."

Tony picked up the clippers, and said, "Enough chit-chat. Let’s finish this up."

He finished taking the bulk off the top of Dad’s hair with the clippers, and then took the sides fairly short. When his clippers revealed an ear, I thought, "For the first time in my life I’m seeing my Dad’s ears." Tony kept going, blending the sides into the top. More and more hair fell. I was ecstatic!

I swear, Tony was throwing hair around the shop like it was confetti. He threw it in the air, on the cape so Dad could see it, on the floor...it was obvious he was having fun, but poor Dad looked miserable. I didn’t care how sad Dad looked. I was thrilled to see all that hair gone, and looking forward to seeing the rest fall.

Tony started the flattop part. He used a spray bottle to wet Dad’s hair, and then took a hair dryer and brush to make it stand up. It wasn’t an easy chore. Even with Dad’s hair as short as it was, his thirty-five year old center part didn’t want to give up. Tony finally gave up, and put some greasy looking stuff in Dad’s hair. After that, a few strokes with the brush had Dad’s hair standing straight up.

Tony picked up a big, wide comb, and started taking the clippers over the comb. It was mesmerizing. The clippers went from the front to the back, and then back to the front. Little bits of hair kept falling to the cape. The boxy shape of a flattop started appearing. Then Tony changed methods. Once he had the basic form of the flattop, he put the comb down, and started freehanding the top.

To me, a flattop had looked like it would be a simple thing to do. I’d never dreamed it would take so long, and that so much effort went into a flattop.

I said, "Tony, you’re truly an artist...but I have to give Dad credit due. His thick hair really gives you a perfect palette to work with."

A wide smile crossed over Tony’s face. "I can’t argue with you about either of those things. I won’t pretend to be modest. I know I’m very damned good with these clippers, and Dale has perfect hair for a flattop. It’s been years since I’ve been this excited about a haircut."

Once Tony was satisfied with the top and sides, he bent Dad’s ears, and took the clippers and made a high arch around the ears.

He combed the long back, and said, "Ta-da! One perfect mullet done. What do you think, Ethan?"

Dad looked upset. "Why are you asking Ethan? I’m the one who needs to see!"

"Oh, hold your horses. I’ll get to you in a moment. What do you think, Ethan?"

"Dad, don’t get your hopes up. You’re not going to get to keep it, but I have to admit, it’s not as bad as I'd thought it’d be. It’s bad enough, but not horrible. Ok, Tony, let him see, before he has a heart attack."

Tony turned the chair around, and of course Dad was enchanted by his (as he called it) "magnificent mullet". He admired himself long after I'd taken the required picture (actually I took several, from all angles, at his insistence). He made Tony take the cape off, so he could see himself in normal clothes and a mullet. Dad wanted more pictures. I was getting sick of all of his carrying on.

I thought, "I’m gonna freak Chris out. I’ll send him a picture of Dad wearing his mullet, with a caption that says, "Look what your father caused! :("

I sent the text.

Chris immediately texted back. "Dear god. WTF? I thought you had a flattop planned!"

Just to keep Chris in an uproar, I texted, "Jack happened! Dad's keeping this!!!"

"Dude! I'm so sorry. I know how hard it is to deal with a mullet-wearing father."

"PSYCHE! Dad insisted on a mullet first, but he’s not keeping it. One full [;-) coming up now."

Chris responded with two dirty words that related to Mom and me doing something bad.

Dad asked Tony if he had a fan. Tony looked surprised. "Why?"

"I want to see what this feels like blowing in the wind. I think it’d be cool."

Finally, I got tired of Dad preening in the mirror, and flipping his hair around. I looked at Dad and said, "I know what you’re doing. You’re procrastinating." I looked at Tony and said, "This has gone on long enough. Get it done."

Tony put the cape back on, and had a dreamy look in his eyes when he got to take the clippers up the back of Dad’s neck. One swipe, and about a foot of hair fell. Just to be mean, I picked up that long swatch of hair, and put it in Dad’s hands. A few seconds later a second swipe of the clippers took off more hair. Tony gave me a devilish look, and grabbed the second swatch of hair, and dangled in front of Dad’s face.

The more Tony cut, the better Dad looked. It didn’t take long for all of Dad’s hair to be peeled off the back. The sides of his head looked like brown velvet.

There was so much hair on the floor that Tony stopped to sweep some of it up.

I started getting bored though--and anxious. I wanted to see the final results, but Tony seemed determined to never finish Dad’s haircut. Every time I’d think it was done, Tony would pick up a pair of clippers to even something out, or mutter about an offending hair sticking up before he whacked it off with his scissors. Finally, he pronounced it done by saying, "Damn, I’m good. Dale, this looks even better than I thought. I still need to shave you. Do you want to wait until I’m done, or are you ready to see the new you now?"

"I’m not sure. Ethan, you’ve seen it. Will I even recognize myself?"

"Dad, it depends on how long it’s been since you’ve seen your eyes and ears. They’re both on full display now, and they look pretty good, I’d say."

Tony turned the chair around so Dad could see. Tony said, "This is a basic flattop. I can go shorter if you want."

Dad looked startled. "Umm, no. I’m sure this is short enough." He sat there looking at himself, while Tony held a hand mirror so Dad could see the back. The look of dread on Dad’s face slowly changed to a big, big smile. He didn’t say anything for a long time. He just sat there grinning like a Cheshire cat.

His next comment caught me off guard. "How much shorter would it be if you went shorter?"

"Actually, I could go quite a bit shorter. This is a 1-½" top. I can go down in ¼" intervals, all the way down to ¼". If I went that short, you’d have shaved sides, and a wide landing strip shaved in the center of your head. Wanna try it?"

Dad looked startled. "No! Definitely not. I was just curious."

"Dad, I think you should consider going one step shorter. Your hair grows like a weed. You’ll be needing another haircut in a few days if you keep it this length. Why not go for it?"

His eyes gleamed, but he was hesitant. "I’m not sure."

Tony said, "Well, I’m sure. Sit back down. It won’t take as long this time, since I finally got all that shi...er...crap off your head. You’ll be happier with it."

"Well, I don’t want it too short. This is enough of a shock to my system."

"Go for it, Dad. After all, you’ll only ever get a first-time flattop once in your life. You might as well make it memorable. Let him take you down to one inch."

"I’m probably gonna regret it, but go for it--unless you’re gonna charge me for a third haircut."

Tony grinned, "I’m not charging you for a second cut, much less the third. I just said that to try and talk you out of the mullet. You seemed so hell-bent on having it that I didn’t trust you to let me finish the job."

Dad smiled, "Well, you were probably right. If it hadn’t been for that knucklehead over there, I probably would’ve stopped. I liked the mullet, but it seems I’m in the minority about it."

Tony and I said, at the same time, "You’re definitely in the minority."

I kept on. "I’m probably gonna have nightmares about seeing you in that mullet. You’re paying for it if I have to go into therapy!"

Dad thought that was funny.

"Well, I ain’t got all day, let’s get you finished up." Tony took the clippers up the back and sides, peeling more hair off--shorter and shorter (and better and better, at least from my perspective). Then he started the now familiar process of taking the clippers from the front to the back. He didn’t use a comb this time, except to occasionally brush the hair back. His movements were almost hypnotic...and I was surprised by how it affected my nether regions.

Tony was taking off more than the ½" we’d talked about. I figured it was ¾" in the front now. It didn’t look like much when Tony flipped the hair onto the cape, but I was surprised by what a big difference that little bit made. Dad definitely looked different than he had with the first cut. The shape was more square and looked better on him.

Tony looked surprised too. He said, "Damn! Your hair is thick. Normally I’d be seeing a little bit of a landing strip by the time a man’s hair is this short. Your hair’s so damned thick no scalp is coming through. I’d probably have to shave it to get the skin to show up."

Dad looked panicked. "You’re not going anywhere near the top of my head with a razor. I’m scared enough of the idea of you taking a straight razor to my face."

"Don’t worry, Dale. I didn’t mean I was going to. I was just talking to myself, which probably isn’t a good habit for a barber to have. You’d be surprised the thoughts that cross my head, and pop out of my mouth."

"Tony, I have the same problem. It gets me into trouble all the time."

Tony kept cutting, and finally seemed done. The he did some final touch-ups, snipping a hair here and there, combing the top to make sure it was standing straight up, using the brush to get all the loose hairs off, and then looked at Dad one more time.

He said, "Those sideburns are too damned long. I’m taking them off when I shave you. Get ready." He leaned the chair back, and put some hot towels around the lower part of Dad’s head. "Gotta let that steam soften up the whiskers."

While he was waiting for Dad’s beard to soften up, Tony asked, "Well, Ethan, What do you think so far?"

Dad spoke for me. "He thinks you’ve done a mighty fine job, don’t you, Ethan?"

"Yes sir, I do. He’s transformed my hippy-wanna-be father into a respectable looking gentleman." I put my hand out to shake Tony’s hand. Tears were in my eyes when I said, "Thank you, Tony. I can’t express how grateful I am."

I think I saw tears in Tony’s eyes too. He cleared his throat. "OK, enough chit-chat. I’ve wasted enough of my time on the two of you. Let’s get your Dad shaved, and get you out of here."

He took the towels off, and spread some shaving cream on Dad’s face. With smooth, practice strokes, he removed all the stubble off Dad’s face--and he removed the sideburns up to the top of Dad’s ears. He laughed at me. "I did that for a reminder to Dale. When the mullets were popular, not many guys had sideburns."

After he went over Dad’s face a second time, and cleaned up around the ears and neck, he turned Dad to the mirror.

Dad glowed. "Damn, I think I like it!" His vanity took over, and he preened in front of the mirror a bit. "Damn, I really, really think I like it! Who’d’ve thunk it? Me with a flattop!"

Dad got up and tried to pay Tony. I stepped in, "Nope, Dad. This was my idea. I’m paying." I insisted on paying for two haircuts, and a shave, as well as leaving a big tip.

Tony gave a final word of warning. "Dale, don’t let your hair get away from you. I expect to see you in a week, or at the most ten days. If you wait any longer than that you’ll look shabby, and my reputation will go down the drain."

Dad ignored Tony. His next comment surprised me. "What the hell is Jack going to say? I’m dreading seeing him more than I am your mother."

"You mean you didn’t tell Mom?"

"No, I thought I’d figure a way to get out of this. I never dreamed I’d actually sit in a barber chair."

I gave Dad a big smirk. "Fortunately for you, you have a son with a big mouth. I told Mom when you first agreed. She gave me the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on her, hugged me tight and said, ‘Thank god! Ethan, I’m so happy you’ve finally made him see the light.’ Then she embarrassed me so badly I lit the room up with my red face." I looked down. "I can’t even look at you and say this. She said, ‘He’s gonna look HOT! I can’t wait to get my hands on him after you send him home. If he looks as good as I think he will, I’m taking him straight to the bedroom’."

"Did she really say that?"

"Yes, sir."

He pulled his phone out. "I’m cancelling my appointment this morning, and going home. Who knows? It sounds like I might get lucky! Ethan, get in the car."

I blushed bright red again. Tony gave Dad a knowing grin and said, "Good luck, Dale."

Once we were in the car, I reached over and felt Dad's hair. It was an amazing feeling: velvety, plush and prickly, depending on where I touched.

Dad said, "What do you think?"

"More importantly, what do you think, Dad?"

He grinned. "I asked first. You answer me, and then I'll answer you."

"My god, I love it on you, and I was right. Your baby blues are twinkling, and you look years younger. Honestly, I think it fits your personality." I laughed. "Whoo-hoo! I can’t believe it! You finally have short hair. You’ve been different all my life, and I’m kinda glad your doing short hair your own way and not the trendy way. Now, your turn to answer."

He rubbed his head. "Wait just a cotton-picking minute. Did you say I’m doing it ‘my’ way? I think this was your way! If I remember correctly, I didn’t want to do this."

"Well, you’re right, but never mind about that. What do you think?"

He smiled and rubbed the nape of his neck. "In my wildest imagination I would’ve never thought I'd say this, but I think I like it. Heck, I might even love it! It still feels strange, but I think I can get used to it." He stopped. "Seriously, when I first told you I'd cut my hair, I thought I’d do it once for you, and then start letting my hair grow again and never go short again. However, I’m already thinking I might keep this cut. Give me a day of two to decide." Another rub of his head. "It does feel pretty good, and I can imagine your mother rubbing my head. Her reaction is probably going to be the deciding factor."

I said, "From what she said to me, you’d better get ready to wear a flattop the rest of your life."

He grinned, and then stroked his chin. "I’m not positive what I think about the goatee. I’ll talk to your mother about it." He laughed. "I’m sure she won’t mind telling me what she thinks."

A few seconds later he said, "I'm still amazed you coerced me into a flattop. That's as big a miracle as a flying pig."

I started laughing. "What in the world is so funny?"

"I was just thinking. I've heard you cuss more today than I've heard you cuss in my whole life."

"I didn’t cuss today, did I?"

"Yes, sir. You did. Don’t threaten to wash my mouth out with soap when I say this. I’m quoting you. You said, ‘What the f**k’ when Tony took the clippers down the center of his head. Then you said, ‘Holy s**t! That’s short’ when you felt your hair after Tony took that first swipe. After admiring yourself in the mirror for about an hour, you said, ‘Damn, I think I like it!’ Your final profanity was when you said, ‘What the hell is Jack going to say?’"

"I did?"

"You did."

"Well, I’ll be dogged. I don’t think I’ve ever used that many ‘wordy dirds’ in one day." ("Wordy dirds" was his way of saying "dirty words.")

I texted Chris. "Operation: 21st Century complete. On our way home."

He was waiting in the driveway when we pulled up. "Wowzer, Dale! You look awesome. I almost didn’t recognize you. What do you think?"

"I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s pretty dam…" He looked at me. "It’s pretty danged cool." He bent over. "Here, feel. It feels great!"

After Chris obligingly rubbed Dad’s head, Dad gave me a lecherous smile and winked at me. "Get out of here. I wanna talk to your mother--alone."

I blushed again.

Chris was ebullient. "I can’t believe you did it! You actually got him to go through with it! I didn’t believe you when you told me Dale was going to cut his hair. Ethan, you’re the man."

The he looked sad. "God, how I wish we could talk Dad into losing his mullet."

"Don’t despair, Chris. We’ll think of something. We got my Dad to get rid of his long hair when it didn’t seem possible. We’ll find a way to make Jack see the light."

That night, Dad and I were sitting in the den, watching TV while Dad absently rubbed his head. I said, "Let’s go next door, and see what Jack thinks."

"I’d rather stay here and watch TV."

In another flip-flop of normal parent/child relations, I said, "Come on Dad. Get up. We’re going next door. You might as well face him, and get it over with. Avoiding Jack isn’t going to make it any easier. You know you’ll just dread it until you do it."

He grimaced, but said, "When did you get so smart?"

He reached for a hat. I shook my finger at him and said, "No-no. Bad boy."

Dad walked to the door.

To say Jack was shocked would be an understatement. He was furious. Jack screamed, "What the hell happened to you? Why did you wimp out, and join the fashion clones? I’m disgusted with you. I thought you had more balls than that. You're a traitor to the long hair club. How could you?"

Then he said, "I’ll be back." He walked into the house. He came out a minute later with a glass filled with what I assumed was whiskey. "I’ve gotta have some booze in my hand to be able to talk to a loser like you."

"Jack, the boys are getting flack because of what we’re doing. I couldn’t stand being responsible for it. I’m not ashamed of helping Ethan out."

"Well, I’ve showed Chris to do what’s right for himself by my setting a good example. I don’t give a damn what others think. I ain’t ashamed of teaching Chris that. He ain’t a damned coward. He’s not some limp-dick like you who’ll give in to every Tom, Dick and Harry. I’m proud I’ve taught Chris to stand on his own two feet."

With quiet dignity, Dad pointed to Jack’s whiskey glass, "Jack, are really teaching Chris to stand on his own? You can’t even face me over a simple matter like a haircut without some liquid courage. I think that’s what you’re teaching Chris by your example." He shook his head. "I know what I did is right for my relationship with Ethan. He now knows that I value him above all things. Good night."

He turned to me. "Come on, Ethan. Let’s go home."

Chris texted. "So much for Dad getting inspiration from Dale."

I texted back. "Don’t give up, dude. We’ll figure out something. Call me."

Chris and I talked for a long time, and couldn’t figure out a way to get Jack in a barbershop. Since we couldn't think of anything else, we went back to our original harebrained scheme of cutting chunks out of his hair. It seemed like the only way. If we did it, there wouldn't be anything Jack could do at that point but get a flattop that matched Dad's.

The first firm decision we made in our battle against Jack’s mullet was to do it at night, in a sneak attack. Chris questioned that decision. "I don’t know Ethan. Are we being chickens by not just tackling him, and doing it in daylight?"

"I don’t think that’s chicken. I think it’s smart!" I changed the subject. "Hopefully Jack’ll have too much to drink the night before, so he’ll sleep better. Maybe you should offer to get him another beer or refill his glass if you can."

"I’m glad Dad sleeps with a fan on. That'll help keep him from hearing us, but we’ll have to move the scissors slowly. We don’t want him hearing them."

After a few days of plotting, I said, "Ok. It's official. You, Dad and I will be leaving for our camping trip by 5:00 A.M., and there's no way Jack will be up at that hour. I’ll be here at 4:30 and we'll do it then. We'll be done and gone before Jack discovers he’s missing a lot of his hair. Our asses will be safe...at least until we get home. My Dad’s gonna kill me when he finds out, probably before Jack kills you."

As we were reviewing our final plans, Chris started shaking. "Ethan, I’m serious. We’ve been joking about our dads killing us, but I’m scared Dad will kill me, beat me or at the least, he’ll kick me out."

"Don’t worry, Chris. I don’t think it’ll be that bad. We’ll be gone for two weeks, and Jack’ll have plenty of time to calm down before we get home. I know he loves you, and I think he loves you more than his hair, but I’m not sure about that. I am pretty sure he doesn’t love his hair enough to go to prison for the rest of his life over it. If he does kick you out, we’ll take you in. We have a spare bedroom. Mom and Dad love you, and you’re family."

To make sure we were equally culpable, we’d planned for both of us to cut one lock of hair off. We gave our customary oath to one another. "One for all, and all for one. Let's do this 'thang'!"

At 4:30 that morning we were ready for action. We had planned on Chris going first, but he was shaking so much he had to sit down. "Ethan, I think I’m going to be sick. I can’t do it. You go first." I honestly thought he was going to pass out, and I was a little scared about leaving him.

"Ok. I’ll go first. I’ll show you how it’s done, and then you can go."

"I think I’ll be able to stand up by the time you get back."

I’ll admit I was so scared I was shaking, but I was determined. I went in. Seeing Jack’s mullet spread across his pillow calmed my nerves. Ever so slowly, I quietly cut one lock of hair. I laid the hair by the pillow, hoping it'd be the first thing Jack saw when he woke up. I thought, "That's for Chris." The devil jumped on my shoulder, and I picked up another, larger clump of hair and cut again. I cut closer to the scalp the second time. "This one is for trying to talk Dad into getting a stupid mullet." I laid the second swatch of hair on the first one and snuck out.

I had the hardest time not giggling when I handed the scissors to Chris. I whispered, "That was fun! Go do it. You need this. You deserve it, but don't forget to cut slowly! You sure as hell don't want him waking up."

I've never seen Chris look happier than he was when he started tiptoeing into Jack's bedroom.

He came out of the bedroom with a radiant smile and we ran out the door.

I stopped when we got outside. Chris whispered, "What's the matter?"

"Oh, I was thinking I wish I could be a fly on the wall when Jack wakes up. I'd love to see his expression... And I'm also regretting the fact that I won't be able to watch him get what’s left of his ‘party in the back' cut off--not that there’s much left."

"I'm glad I won’t be here. Dad would kill me if I was." He smiled. "Knowing Dad won't have a mullet to wear to my funeral is absolutely worth getting killed for!"

We were heading out of town when I started giggling. Dad and Chris looked at me like I was crazy, and then I burst out laughing. I laughed so hard I was crying. They both kept saying, "What’s so funny?"

I finally got my breath, and said, "Dad, it’s a private joke." Then I whispered to Chris, "I’m laughing at us. We started Operation: 21st Century to bring our father’s out of the Seventies and Eighties into modern times. We did the opposite. We sent them backwards in time. They’re stuck in the 1950’s now."






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