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Cals Big Decision by P.J.
Cals Big Decision
Disclaimer: If you're looking for a buzz cut story guys, this isn't it.
I'm Pete, of Pete's Cuts. I have a 1 chair shop located in Northern New York State. Near a military base and 3 well known Universities, giving me a non-stop clientele who ask for the widest variety of cuts you can imagine. Not to mention all the regulars from town. Heaven on earth for a barber. I do everything from razor shaved high n tights to long pony tails.
It was a late Saturday afternoon in January, just about closing time. I was in the middle of a modest transformation cut on one of my regular high school seniors. They had just finished baseball tryouts for the varsity team this week. I knew from the past several years that the coach was rather strict about how he wanted his team to look. He wanted a unified appearance, but was trying to be at least reasonable, no hair over the ears, clearly shorter than the team uniform jersey collar, and no bangs longer than the eyebrows. There was, of course, no restriction on how short you could wear it.
The young man in the chair was Mike, a senior who's hair I'd cut ever since I'd moved here and opened the shop. Mike was a sunshine blondie. As he'd matured, he'd turned into a tall strapping handsome sunshine blondie. He had come in today with a shoulder length wavy blonde mane, I was currently reducing it to rubble by yours truly to comply with coaches length restrictions for the aforementioned varsity baseball team. Mike and I had had a bit of a debate over the ultimate cut length and coaches intentions. Since the coach was a regular in my shop too, I knew exactly what the boys could and couldn't get away with, I stretched the limits where ever I could for the guys that wanted me to.
I was just finishing removing the last of the shoulder length bulk on the sides of Mikes head, having already removed the bulk of his gorgeous thick mane in the back with an 8 guard on my fast feed Osters. Tapering it u[p nicely to a generous inch and a half or so at the ridges. He'd practically swooned when the fast feed Osters made their first assault on the back of his head and a gorgeous mound of blonde locks cascaded into his lap. ( Head down, chin to chest of course. That guaranteed that most of the hair removed landed in the clients lap.) Consequently Mikes lap was now full of his recently severed locks. As the last 8 inch long lock landed in his lap, he exhaled heavily. God Pete, this better be worth it. This haircut is killing me, man. His thoughts strayed to the tryouts and the possibilities for this years team. Geeze Pate, Mike lamented, we need a couple more key players in the infield this year if we have a chance. I don't want to look ridiculous and have a losing year to boot. We lost most of the infield after last year, they were seniors. I really hope Cal decides to play with us instead of the town league this year. He tried out, he's an awesome second baseman, and he can hit a long ball too. He's really wrestling with cutting his hair though. His lush locks make, correct that made, mine look like a brush cut.
I knew exactly who he was referring to. I'd cut Cal's hair since I'd moved here also. He and his dad were two of my favorite customers. They both had plush auburn manes, my most favorite color hair for a guy. His dads was cut in a shaggy businessman's cut. Cal had stopped getting his cut short in Junior High and had grown it out, LONG. He now had a shoulder blade length mane, lush and thick, just dark enough to call it auburn, and not strawberry blonde. To his credit, he'd come in every four to six weeks and have me check to see if he had any split ends. He'd been quite defiant through his first three years of high school when the baseball coach had almost begged him to play. He'd played town ball instead, and gotten a reputation as a great second baseman. He told the coach every year that he'd only play if the coach relaxed his hair cut rules, and not just for him, but the whole team. They'd been in a standoff for the last three years. Cal knew how bad the varsity team needed him. He also knew that is would be his very last chance to play for his school. A few of his friends had also petitioned the coach, , to relax his strict hair length rules, all to no avail.
Mike sat with the long thick bang locks hanging forlornly down, past chin length. Want me to cut this, I said, gently giggling his thick locks. NO, not yet Pete, I already know this isn't going to be good.
I did a bit of scissor work around his ears , just to give him a little growing time before his hair hits the tops of his ears again. I'd left a nice thick heavy weight line on the taper, up near the ridge, all the way around , resulting in a nice full heavy taper on the sides and back. Next I cleaned up his nape and side burns with the peanut clippers. I knew I was pushing it with the eight guard on the back for length but we'd see. I was pretty sure that with Mikes nice long neck, he was well out of danger of it touching the jersey collar. Coach had never said the boys had to be clipper shaved up, just off the collar of the team jersey. Mike hadn't worn one in with him so we had to guess.
I finally set to work reducing the overall length of Mikes bangs. Before I wet them, I cut the length to a bit below the bottom of his eye. I knew this was about as long as I could get away with for the coach. Actually too long but with careful instructions I thought Mike would be O.K. On the guys who really didn't want to cut their hair, I'd left the bangs long, and brushed them to the side. I'd also given strict instructions that they were to push them back before putting on their ball caps. Mike groaned when I finished snipping across. The last of the long thick bang locks landing on the top of the huge pile in his lap. I massaged his shoulder, saying don' worry, the worst is over now. Want to look, while I texturize the top? NO, that's O.K. thanks anyway, Mike responded, dejectedly. Even though this was plenty short for Mike, I knew this would end up being a HOT looking cut, at least in my book.
I was judiciously trimming some of the overall length on top when the door chimed and in walked Cal, of all people, as if he'd been summoned. I heard Mike murmur HOLY S**T under his breath.
Hi Pete, Cal Eeked out. He took off his jacket, revealing a spanky new varsity baseball jersey, and also took off a brand new team cap, hanging them both on a hook. He hadn't even looked our way yet to see who I was working on. Glancing up at the clock, I asked him to flip the latch on the door, and turn the sign to closed and pull the shade. Sure thing, he replied quietly. Mikes whole demeanor had changed in the minute or so after Cal walked in. He went from forlorn and dejected, to surprised and hopeful.
Hey Cal, Mike ventured. Cal finally looked over. Mike was facing him. I was just finishing up on Mikes thick fringe and heavily disconnected parting. Cal stared blankly at Mike for a minute. HIs brows shot up in surprise, Oh, no, Mike, what have you done, Cal said, approaching the chair. Mike gave a sad smile. What do you think Cal, he said, turning his head from side to side. How bad is it Cal, Mike asked? I jumped in with, now stop Mike, it looks fine, just short for you is all. I glared over Mikes shoulder at Cal as if to say ...tell him he looks good , or else man. Cal stared for a few seconds. That bad huh, Mike murmured. Call took in the huge pile of hair in Mikes lap, glancing back up has his head. Mike had tensed up, I looked around at his face, I saw a tear forming in his eye. Cal noticed it too, Cal quickly said, wow dude, doesn't look half bad actually. You sure it'll pass inspection from coach?
I promptly replied, yes, I guarantee it, no sweat. If coach has an issue , come back and I'll fix it no charge.
As Cal flopped into one of the waiting area chairs, he reached back and pulled his thick pony tail around and over his shoulder, in front of him. Combing through the soft silky bulk with his fingers. I've always had a soft spot for auburn hair, Cal's looked particularly good , lighter highlights being picked up in the shop lighting. Cal sighed deeply. Mike piped up with, does your being here in the team jersey mean you're going to play? Well, I had a long talk with coach, Cal said, he reminded me, repeatedly, that I didn't have to get a buzz cut, just comply with the off the collar, off the ears, and not below the eyebrows rules. He surprisingly said that as long as it didn't touch my collar, he wouldn't make me cut it again once season started. He also reminded me that I've already had senior pics taken, with this long mane, and by June graduation I'll have grown it back out 2 or 3 inches, and another couple before I leave for college in the fall. He REALLY wants me on the team, just like every other year, but he clearly stated that he wasn't going to relax the rules either. I really want to play, and I know the rest of the guys on the team really want me to also. I'd pretty much accepted my fate, until I walked in and saw you. Now I'm having second thoughts. My mane is my trademark. Everyone knows it's me by the auburn hair. I'm called the red tailed hawk, he smirked grimly.
I finished up with Mike, brushing the thick bangs and top over to one sides. Grabbing the hand mirror, I showed him how it looked all around. He nodded, saying nothing. Running his hands through the short nubbins on the lower part of the back. Phew, he exhaled, huh. I uncapped him, the huge mound of hair sliding to the floor. He sighed again. I thought I detected his eyes getting a bit moist, Well, I guess what's done is done right Pete? Mike, I said, keep in mind this is coming from a gay guy, you look HOT dude, I replied. Mike shrugged his shoulders but I at least got a smirk out of him. Ah, Pete, if only man. Hmm, I thought. now what was that supposed to mean.
I'd forgotten one thing. Speaking up I said, now remember, technically your bangs are too long. Before you start practice, and really quick when you put a batting helmet on, you need to gather them and push them back before you put the hat or helmet on, so they stay out of your eyes.
I cleaned up quick from the carnage of mikes divestiture while keeping a loose eye on the two guys. I watched as teenage drama played out in the shop. I wasn't that old, 27 actually, that I didn't remember what it was like to be a 17 or 18 year old guy obsessed over his appearance. Looks were everything. We were all preening peacocks at that age. Didn't matter what others thought, your own self image was absolutely everything.
Cal was staring at Mikes head. Mike kept glancing in the mirror, then at Cal. Cal finally offered, wow, Mike, that's really really short man. Cal looked pensively at me, then got up and started walking toward the coat rack. Quietly Cal said, I don't think I can do this, I thought I could but... Mike walked over to him then and touched his shoulder lightly. Cal, I know what's going on in your head, believe me I do, Mike said, gesturing to the huge pile of hair on the floor. I'd really, really like you to play, Mike stated quietly. Us catchers need to have a second baseman for the throw downs. We'd be great together man. Pete, Mike inquired, do you have to cut his as short as mine is?
I asked Cal to come sit in the chair. He hesitated, His mental battler he was waging with himself was painfully evident in his facial expression, he began slowly walking over and sliding into the chair. Mike looked hopefully at me.
Cal reached back and undid the leather and wood clasp that held the thick mane into the low ponytail. He'd made it himself , explaining that it didn't damage his hair like the elastic bands did. I knew , probably as well as his team mates , that Cal was REALLY into his long hair. I also knew I wasn't going to be the one to tell him what to do here. This was a personal wrestling match that he alone would decide.
I turned him towards the big mirror along the wall behind the chair. Since he was already wearing the team jersey, I knew exactly how much of this glorious mane he would have to lose to be compliant with the coaches demands for the season. Fortunately, he was also another well built, tall strapping guy with a nice long neck. I reached for a brush, and stroked it through his mane. I reveled inthe soft silky texture, and the hear volume of hair, I had to reel myself back in, His locks felt divine. I brought myself back to reality and I asked him to lean forward, his hair was long enough that it fell below the head rest of the big barber chair, making it difficult while he was leaning back , to see just how long it really was. I made him look up, into the mirror and sit straight up tall. I slid my fingers in at the approximate length and indicated I'd be cutting at the top of my finger. He sagged. Wow, really, that much? I would be cutting almost a foot of thick heavenly bulk off. But, I indicated, I didn't have to cut it any shorter than that either. Wiggling my finger, I indicated that he would still have a significant amount hanging below his ears even. He asked, can I leave it all that length and tuck it behind my ears like this. I sighed, sadly, no dude, I replied, the sides and fringe will have to be cut roughly the same length as Mikes. I'll go as long as possible but, the coaches rules are the coaches rules. You do not want to be escorted back here after practice with coach so he can give more exacting instructions, trust me on that one. I'd participated in that once, the poor guy left with a miserably tight short back and sides, and a smiling coach.
Yeah, I know Cal said dejectedly. Mike looked at him hopefully, pointing out, Cal, you'll still have an impressive amount of hair man. It'll grow out in no time, there'll be enough below the cap so they can still call you the red tailed hawk, right Pete? Cal looked grimly at Pete, Hmm, Pete, can you cut it so it doesn't look like a mullet?
Mike gave a tentative smile at Cal. Does mean that you're getting a haircut Cal? Cal Looked plaintively at Pete, no mullet, right? I nodded solemnly at Cal, no mullet , I promise man. Cal continued, and you'll leave it as long as you can get away with for the rest, even if it's cheating on coaches orders a bit, please, Pete. I assured him I would do my best, as always.
Then sure Mike, I guess, Cal said, looking dejectedly at Mike. Would you like to get started then Cal, I asked softly. I guess, let's do this before I change my mind again, said Cal. Mike and I looked at one another with wrinkled brows. O.K., I said, reaching for one of the waiting room chairs. Come and sit here for a minute first please. Cal got up, and as he moved to the chair, he got an ah, hah, look in his eyes. Digging in his pocket he started to hand his cell phone to Mike. He unlocked it and futzed with it a minute for Mike. Mike, please, take some pics of me, before Pete goes to work on me. Mike smiled, nodding understanding, Cal sat in the chair, and proceeded to pose for several model quality shots with his impressive mane. Mike even got a smile out of him in a couple of them. What a handsome dude he was, mane or no mane.
I stood back, giving the guys some space. When the impromptu photo shoot was over , I stepped in. I taped and caped Cal. Cal asked, why am I not sitting in your big barber chair Pete? Well, I said, I want to do the initial length cutting where I can brush it down and get a good cut, it's too long for good access while your sitting in the big barber chair. This will only take a minute, then you can hop back in the big chair.
Seeing me brushing out Cals amazing mane, getting set up to make the first traumatic cuts Mike started to make for the door, saying, I'll leave the money for my cut on the counter Pete. Cal immediately piped up, NO, NO, please stay Mike, I'll feel better if I know someone's watching this , besides Pete, that is. Thanks a lot Cal, I barked. No, no, sorry Pete, it's not that I don't trust you, it's just, well, misery loves company I guess. Mike gave a smirk, glancing at himself in the big mirror again. Well, when you put it that way, sure, Mike said, and laughed softly.
I suddenly realized something. I said, Cal, I'm going to be cutting enough off that you could donate it if you wanted to. Cal brightened up, really Pete, I could? That would make this a little more worthwhile I guess Cal said softly. Sure, I said, I went back and got a hair band, wrestling with his impressive mane, I adjusted it to a generous length, leaving some room for me to do a final trim and leave it as long as possible in back. The best way for me to cut quickly through a thick mane like this is with my cordless Osters, so I fired 'em up and proceeded to remove a healthy 10 inches of Cal's glorious auburn mane. Once the tail was severed, Cal seemed to deflate, his thick sillky bulk, now loosely wrapping the back and sides of his head as it was freed from the pony tail, it just cleared his shoulders. Mike had a pained expression on his face as he looked between Cal and me. Cal had a tear in his eye again. Mike came up behind him and gently rubbed his shoulders. Cal, that's really the worst of it man. I had stepped away and set the huge tail aside. I beckoned him to come back and sit back in the big barber chair. He dejectedly stood , wandered over, and slid into the chair. I tried to be quick and turn him away from the big mirror before he could look but wasn't quick enough. Seeing his reflection, Cal immediately reached up and ran a hand down the back of his head. As his hand quickly slid to nothing above his collar line, he gasped. I thought I heard a small whimper as I quickly turned him away from the mirror. Mike piped up, Cal, let Pete work his magic , it'll be O.K.
Mike sat back in the waiting area chair, watching Cal closely. Cal lamented, God, this sucks, caving to coach like this. Talk about taking one for the team. Well, if it's any consolation Mike said, indicating his recently shorn head, you won't be the only one looking naked and afraid come Monday practice time. Both guys chuckled at Mikes reference. Yeah, really Cal said exhaling loudly. It's not practice time I'm worried about , its first period Monday that'll be the worst. Nobody's going to recognize me.
O.K. boys, are we ready to do this, I said, reaching for my favorite detailing shears and snagging a comb from the jar of blue goo, as everyone called it.
I sectioned his thick bangs off, covering his face and continued the section wide all around the top of his head. I wanted a wide thick disconnected look on the top. That done, I decided to finish roughing out the cut first. I slid the scissors in above his right ear, and made a quick chop, severing all the hair covering that ear. I'm pretty sure that ear hadn't seen the full light of day in several years. I quickly maneuvered to the left side and repeated the bulk removal on that side. Cal seemed to shrink a bit with each cut. Long handfuls of thick locks deposited in his lap each time. I did feel a tiny bit bad for him, and I felt a little privileged too, he'd clearly done a lot of growing up in the last couple of days. He was doing remarkably well, considering.
I dampened him down with cutting spray, then set to work with said detail scissors. I began the tedious process of scissor layering all that thick silky hair on the sides and back of Cal's head, leaving a heavy weight line about an inch and a half below the ridge line and crown all around the sides and back. His cut was now taking shape. He had perfect hair for this, very thick, fine hair, pretty straight too. I had to take my time because I wanted it to look perfect for him. I needed to blend the sides into the slightly longer area in back, where I'd left it longer than Mikes. Cal and Mike had been exchanging small talk, Cal watching Mikes expression closely as Pete snipped away, a significant pile of shorter hair accumulating in Cal's lap. Finally, everything layered to my OCD standards, I stepped back, glancing at Mike. Cal sensed something passing between Mike and I. Cal....how does it look? Well... hmm, Mike started with. I raised by brows and shook my comb at Mike silently and sternly. Mike continued, well it's a lot different than mine actually, Cal. Mike was studying himself in the big mirror, then comparing to Cal's cut. Cal squirmed in the chair, different how? Good , bad? Cal was getting anxious. Cal, dude, it looks great man, really, it does, Mike chirped back at him, smiling. I like it, and I'm a bit jealous too. My head swiveled around to look over at Mike, jealous, why, I asked?
Mike ran his hand over the short hair on the back of his head. Why did you cut mine so short in back Pete? My necks every bit as long as Cal's. Well, I said...pausing for effect, if memory serves me correctly, you were lamenting the fact that the catcher's mask worked very well with either short, or very long locks in back, right. Mike sighed, oh, yeah, I forgot. And since long wasn't an option, I suggested the length you have and you grudgingly agreed. Cal gave a sad smile, looking up at Mike, sorry dude, I really loved your blonde mane too, man. Mike pawed sadly at his short cut. I noticed that his once bright blonde hair was now a little darker shade everywhere but the top. The contrast was interesting to say the least. I knew once he spent some time in the sun it would even out again though. I loved how the thickly cut textured top and deconstructed parting hung just over the sides a tiny bit. Very casual and handsome, especially with the thick fringe.
I was getting closer now with Cal, I used the peanut clippers, my absolute favorite piece of equipment in my arsenal, they could do tiny detail work to perfection,(or shave you bald ) and trimmed the neck fuzzies and nipped his side burns shorter. Normally I'd have used a bit of shaving butter and a straight razor for this but I didn't want to further traumatize Cal with the straight razor treatment right now. I'd save that treat for a later cut.
Now for the top and fringe. Studying him critically for a minute, I realized, Cal hadn't had a fringe to speak of in a very long time. O.K. dude, I said, this is the last bit of pain. I unclipped the bang mop, and combed it straight down. God what a gorgeous shank of hair. Without a word of warning, I started snipping just below the bottom of his eyes. Cal moaned softly. Quickly snipping, I removed the rest of the long length, letting it thud into the pile in his lap. I could see Cal sag a bit further. I shattered the thick line just a little to remove the bluntness of the cut, then combed it all to see if they'd brush to the side at all. I was a little concerned because his hair was more or less straight. Mikes had a bit of wave to it and laid over very easily so I could leave them on the longer side.
Cal looked me in the eye, inquisitively. Pete, he squeaked, I hope nothing's going to get any shorter. I smiled, and gave a sigh of relief, Cal's fringe did exactly as I wanted. Sweeping to the side, just at his eye brows. I patted him on the shoulder, nope dude, the worst is over, relax. I did a little judicious snipping on the top, giving it a bit of texture leaving it thickly disconnected along the ridges, no defined parting, other than the abrupt change in length from side to top. Mike was smiling now, nodding his head in approval. Cal, man, it looks good, Mike said quietly, walking up behind him.
I turned Cal towards the mirror. As I turned him, he looked up at me in horror. Pete, no, please, I can't look. He shook his head. It feels like I have no hair man. I forced him to look. He got an upset look on his face. I knew that look well. I could usually do a count down to when the water works were going to start just from that look. His hands and arms appeared from under the cape. He brushed the thick fringe out of his eyes, and ran his hand over the top of his head. Cal sighed loudly again. Oh god, wow, saying it more to himself than either of us. He turned his head from side to side. Then a hand went to the back, and started at the bottom, brushing upwards through the short plush thickly layered hair. His brows shot up. Wow Pete, somehow I expected to feel stubble back here like when you used to buzz me when I was little. There's actually a lot of hair back there. I got the hand mirror and showed him the back, pointing out that you could still see hair behind the bottom of his ears. He moved his head again, nodding it up and down.
Now I said, I already warned Mike, and I'm telling you the same. Your fringes technically aren't short enough for coach. What he doesn't know won't hurt him though right? Please make sure you push the fringe back when you go to put your hats on, the hat, or the batting helmet, once its firmly on your head, will keep it out of your eyes, that's what coach is watching for. I've left most of the top thickly layered and long on both of you, It'll help make you feel less like you've been skinned, and will grow out nicely. So, also make sure that you keep the longer top section in general tucked under your hats, its long enough to look weird if its allowed to hang down on the sides. It'll stick out from under your hat and you'll get busted. I smiled at both of them. I do this a lot with coaches guys, and for the most part they are appreciative that they still have a lot of hair but look neat and tidy when the hats on.
Smiling devilishly at both of them I stated, if you want, I can always clip you guys down to a short back and sides, coaches favorite, if you want to play it safe. Cal and Mike looked at one another in surprise, and shaking their heads no. Cal spoke first. Pete, I think you did a great job. I'm still incredibly bummed at getting chopped, it'll take a lot of getting used to.
Mike smiled wanly. Yes, thanks Pete, I think this is the best of the worst , so to speak. Lets settle up Pete, Cal said, starting to walk to the front of the shop, might as well face the music at home. I'm sure you'll hear dad laugh all the way down here. He'll be ecstatic, of course. I laughed. oh, yeah, I said, , we'll have a lot to talk about next time he's in for a cut, I'm sure, same with your dad Mike. Mike smiled sadly, yes, don't I know it Pete. By the way guys, I said, win one for me, the cuts are on the house, with one qualifier. The guys turned in unison, brows raised questioningly. What's that Pete, they said in unison? I smiled again, I get to trim you both up before you leave for college in the fall. They both nodded and smiled, and out the door they went. Each was ruffling the back of the others hair with their hand ,massaging the short length in the back. Hmm.
Monday practice time came. The team was lined up on the bench. Coach was surveying this years varsity team. He was smiling, he liked what he saw. He said, before we start practice today, I'd like to acknowledge the fact that several of you, and you know who you are, have made varying degrees of sacrifice to be on this team. I do appreciate the effort. Mike and Cal smiled knowingly at one another.
Every catcher needed to be in sync with his second base man.