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A Lurker's Redemption by Deke Cutter

This is Part 2 of "Where Pampering at a Ladies Salon Leads"

On the Monday after his visit to "Betty’s Beauty Box," the young man known only as "the lurker" to Betty and her staff faced the challenge of returning to his job. He dreaded the teasing he feared he would take. Mother had warned him that his hair was his only real asset and now it was mostly gone. Mother had told him that other children were cruel and that they would disappoint him. When he was older, Mother had told him that no girl or woman would find him attractive. So, he had grown into a self-absorbed young man with few friends and fewer interests outside work and now, finally escaped from his mother’s clutches, he faced the world alone.

He arrived at his office and uncharacteristically was greeted by the security guard. "Hey fresh cut man, almost didn’t recognize you. Looking good." His face reddened as he mumbled a "thank you" and moved toward the elevators. As he looked at the other men in the elevator, he noticed that his haircut really was not outré. Still, he worried what people would think or say. He hoped that Louise, that nice woman who did the human interface work was in. She was the only person he really spoke to about anything but work.

Once he arrived at his desk, he picked up his coffee cup and hurried to the kitchen. There were two of his colleagues there. Neither were people he normally interacted with. The woman who was his senior by several years smiled and said, "who is that handsome stranger using our normally shaggy colleague’s coffee cup?"

His other colleague, a male of his own age, replied, "nice high and tight man. That takes the right stuff to make a change like this. I’m Dennis, by the way. What barber did you go to? I may check him out when I get my summer cut."

The lurker was a bit overwhelmed to receive such positive reinforcement from his colleagues. He surprised himself by replying, "my name is Alphonso, but I go by Al (he had never been allowed to use a diminutive of his name by his mother). My barber’s name is Frank, he works weekends at Joe’s Sharp Cuts. I have his card if you ever need his information." Alphonso, the lurker, realized he had just spoken more to any coworker other than Louise than he ever had before.

"Thanks Al, I’ll see you around, you too Mary. Hope you both have a good day."

When he returned to his desk, "Al" began to work and was surprised to see that two hours had passed before Louise stopped by for a natter. "Alphonso," she said, as she sat in his visitor’s chair, I heard a rumor that you had cut your hair, but I didn’t believe it. I thought you only went to salons that would carefully maintain your curls." Alphonso told her the sad tale of what happened but found himself not laying very much blame on Betty or her staff at Betty’s Beauty Box. He was beginning to have an epiphany. His mother had diminished his self-worth so much that instead of focusing outward, he had developed a stinted inner fixation on getting pampered in ladies hair salons, spending hours and money on ridiculous girly hairstyles that he obsessed over. No wonder women didn’t take him seriously and the guys never included him in things. He concluded his tale to Louise by saying that he was actually grateful to Betty and her staff for letting him see that his life did not have to revolve around his curls.

"In fact, when my hair gets long again, I will probably go to the first barber I find and get it cut there. And Louise, would you mind calling me ‘Al" from now on. I think it will make me seem more approachable." Louise was happy to hear this news because she had been tasked by the company president to befriend the strange young fellow who did good work but was not much of a team player and had "that weird hair." She would be reporting to the boss on this progress and watching for more.

The next day in the company cafeteria, Al was in line in front of Dennis. Dennis said to him "hey all, why don’t you come sit with me and the gang." And so, Al did. The gang include three other men and two women. They were all very pleasant and fun. Al was sitting next to one of the women, named Jennie. She said that she loved ‘military haircuts on men’ and asked Al if she could run her hand up his neck. Al was a bit surprised as he was not used to attention of this kind from attractive women but he agreed and found the experience very pleasant and disturbing in a way that he had not expected because another of his mother’s cruel lies was being exposed and he was starting to experience what most of his contemporaries had experienced at a much younger age but, the pleasure of the touch outweighed any negatives.

As the work week was winding down, Dennis stopped by Al’s desk and asked him to join a group of coworkers who were meeting for a Happy Hour after work at a pub near the office. Before this, Fridays had been Alphonso’s day for a wash and set at some girly salon. But the new liberated Al rubbed his tightly buzzed head and said he would look forward to it. Al found the experience to be great. He had never really drunk much beer, his mother said it was coarse and common and only louts who would be out to bully him drank beer. His new friends were not like that and he enjoyed the beer and the comradery. As the evening went on, the guys made plans to watch a couple of English soccer games on TV on Sunday at Jake’s apartment. Jake said, "you in Al?" Al, who had always thought that the beautiful game was a great sport, but, of course, mother had never let him play competitive sports. He was thrilled to go and mentioned that he had recently purchased the current version of the FIFA game for his X-box. Jake, who was the only other member of the group with hair anywhere near as short as Al’s shook his head and said, "I knew a guy with an outstanding haircut would be a FIFA fan!"

As the evening would down Al and Dennis were the last to leave. Dennis went to the bar and came back with two small glasses. "Here you go buddy, let’s finish off the night with some top shelf Single Malt." Al was excited to try something else new and thanked his friend. Then Dennis said, so dude, why haven’t you asked Jennie out yet? She was so into you at lunch. She expected to hear from you now. Look if you’re gay, its OK." I asked around and made sure you and Louise weren’t a thing. Al turned very red.

"Oh no, its not that. Look Dennis, this has been one of the greatest weeks of my life. It all started with this haircut. I had a very sheltered upbringing. I didn’t have a very normal time. I’m pretty inexperienced with women."

"Hey buddy, as much I want to see you get your rocks off, I can tell you, Jennie is a nice girl. Take her out to dinner, go to a movie. Heck, bro, I’ll coach you. I’m hoping you’ll join the company softball team this spring and I’m thinking I’ll be coaching you for that too,"

Sunday, Dennis picked up Al and they prepared to go to Jakes. "Should I bring anything?" Al asked.

"Yeah, we’ll stop at the supermarket and get some beers and maybe some munchies."

When they arrived, one of the other guys, Paul was already there. They asked where the host was. "He’s in the bathroom, trimming up the fade on his ivy."

At that moment, Jake appeared holding his clippers. "Hey men," he said, "Al, come on into the bathroom, let me trim up those sides for you, it will keep your cut fresh for an extra week or two." Al, assuming this was another regular ‘guy’ thing readily agreed. Al asked Jake how he had learned to cut hair, thinking of Frank who was both a barber and a cosmetician. Jake smiled and said that he started cutting his own hair in high school and got pretty good at it. Soon his friends started asking him. It became an easy way to make money at college. The he said, "you’re new to short hair, and if you decide to keep it short, you’ll soon find out how quick a short cut loses its crispness. I don’t know about you, but half the fun is feeling the fresh stubble on the back of my neck." With that, he turned on the clippers and quickly cleaned up Al’s sides and back and Al emerged a few moments later with his sides freshly back to a Number 1.

The next Monday found a tongue-tied Al trying to form the words to ask Jennie out on a date. Luckily, Dennis had mentioned to Jennie that Al could be "a little backward in coming forward" as Dennis’s mother liked to say. So, Jennie said to Al, "I would love to invite to you come to my place for dinner on Thursday evening, Al." Al readily agreed.

When Al told his best friend Dennis that he had a date with Jennie, Dennis broke into a big smile. "My dude!" Dennis exclaimed. He went on to say, now listen, you know what I’ve told you about how to dress. Bring her some flowers and take your cues from her."

Al arrived at Jennie’s apartment and knocked. He was struck by how lovely she looked in a casual, but elegant way. "Flowers, how lovely, thank you Al. Please sit down while put these in a vase." She returned having put the flowers on the dining table and then offered Al a glass of wine. I’m afraid dinner won’t be ready for a while. I’m roasting a chicken." She sat down on the couch beside him and said, Al, you seem a little tense, do I make you nervous?"

"Oh, um, no Jennie, you are lovely, its just that, um, I…." Jennie put her finger to her lips and began to gently massage his shoulders.

"You just relax because I think you are lovely too." And she moved her hands up to massage his closely clipped hair. "Oh Al, this is so sensual. You must promise me you will consider keeping your hair short if we become a couple." As she said this, she turned took his face in her hands and kissed him.

Al thought he had died and gone to heaven. When he "came up for air," he assured her that his hair would stay short. And, indeed, they did become a couple.

When a month had passed since his visit to Betty’s Beauty Box, Al realized that he needed to start thinking about getting to a barbershop. He remembered Frank’s card and decided he would go to see him on Saturday just in case Dennis or any of the other guys ever turned up there. He approached the shop with some trepidation as he didn’t know how Frank would react to seeing the man he only knew as the weird lurker. Al entered the shop and found three young barbers at work and Frank at the final chair in the back. He was welcomed and asked to take a seat. Not sure of the protocol, he indicated that he was there for Frank and that was accepted without question.

When Frank was finished with his client, he came over to Al and said, "well hello pal, come on back, I almost didn’t recognize you."

Al sat down in the big comfortable chair and said, "First of all, I need to say thanks, your haircut started a series of events that have changed my life! My mother had filled my head with crazy ideas and had stunted my growth in so many ways. My crazy obsession with having my hair washed and set in a ladies’salon and being pampered was all tied up in her desire to control my life. You and your colleagues really gave me the wake-up call I needed. I have friends now, I’m playing on their softball team, and I have a girlfriend for the first time in my life and she loves short hair on men. So, Frank, how about giving me a 3 on top this time because in a few weeks, I’m bringing the softball team in for team flat tops."

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