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On Manbuns and Marriage by Manny

A continuing story. Previous chapters include:

Chapter 1 - Jack Opts for Change
Chapter 2 - Mr. B or Mr. Baldy
Chapter 3 - Rev. Battersea: Barber, Buddy or Both
Chapter 4 - Jeremy's Raven Locks Raise Funds
Chapter 5 - Coach’s MPB Fringe Falls Amid the Fun
Chapter 6 - Erik Gets to Know and Look Like the Locals
Chapter 7 - Rev. Battersea Makes the Cap Fit
Chapter 8 - Edward's Executive Coif and Career Ends
Chapter 9 - Vic's Visitation
Chapter 10 - New Barber Takes Charge
Chapter 11 - Barber Bud in the Chair


Rev. Battersea was just getting ready to slip into his pajamas when a loud knock came from his front door.

He opened it to find Grant Tilson pacing, fuming. "Sorry about the late hour, but I need some advice, some wise counsel, or you may not be performing that wedding ceremony in the afternoon."

"What happened? I thought the rehearsal this evening went just fine. There's always a lot of tension by this time. Believe me, I've seen it over and over. Come on in, Grant," the resigned Reverend replied.

All he wanted to do was get in bed....but a minister, as he well knew, is expected to be on call 24/7.

"I also thought things went fine. But, as we were leaving, Becky's father saddled up to me in the parking lot and tried to hand me a $20 bill to get a 'proper haircut' before the wedding. I told him to mind his own business -- I was marrying Becky, not him, and she liked my manbun," Grant explained. "So, he whirled away in a huff and said the last thing he intended to do was walk her up the aisle to hand her over to an asshole like me."

"Mr. Jeremiah is a difficult person, that's for sure," Rev. Battersea said, easily imagining the scene. "He's a grumpy geezer. Don't let him upset you!"

"Yes, but what's really eating away at me is that Becky thinks I should cut my hair to appease her father! I am adamant that we have to draw a line right here and now to send a message that interfering in our personal lives is NOT going to be tolerated. She may be his daughter, but she is going to be MY wife, and I intend to be the head of MY own household," Grant fumed. "Can you understand my point of view, Rev. Battersea?"

"That's an awful lot of MYs! Of course, I understand, and I agree that boundaries need to be set. But...." the mild-mannered Reverend began.

"Don't tell me....but!" Grant protested. "It's not about the manbun, by the way! I think Becky's brother or grandfather can walk her down the aisle. She's insisting she will walk down it alone! Why is she being so willful?!"

"You said you wanted wise counsel, not someone to tell you you're right!" Rev. Battersea replied.

Then, he continued, "Grant, marriage is a complex relationship with multiple dynamics. First of all, in the marriage is you and your feelings and thoughts as a person. Second, is the plural you -- you and Becky, you as a couple. And, third, is you and the extended families. Getting any of these three dimensions messed up is a recipe for heartache, resentment and bitterness. Protecting your precious manbun....is it worth it? I mean, 15 years from now you'll look at your wedding photos and scratch your head. 'That hair! I looked like a vagabond, stringy hair pulled back in that silly bun....but it was the style then.' And Becky will sigh, 'And, because of it, I walked down the aisle alone....' Is that really how you want your marriage to start or the ceremony to be remembered? Never mind all the tongues wagging....unnecessary drama!"

Grant heaved a sigh of resignation. "So, you think I should have just taken the $20 and popped over to Al's in the morning?"

"Husband and wife need to submit to each other. Do it for her. Shed the bun if that's what she wants. But, do make it clear to Mr. Jeremiah, once the wedding is over and you're back from honeymoon, that his input on most matters won't be welcomed. And chose your battles. If he's against you taking a promotion in another city because Becky will move away, remind him of the Biblical concept to 'leave and cleave'! If he's against vaccinating your child, make it clear that your son or daughter's health is your top concern and will guide your decision. Now, if he insists that they have always hosted Thanksgiving dinner, then go and fit into his extended family gathering."

"And if he wants me to get a proper haircut?" Grant asked pointedly.

"Not for him, but for Becky. She's probably ready to collapse from the stress that's developed between you and her father. It's unfair to her, frankly," Rev. Battersea counseled.

"There is so much going on in the morning with my parents hosting this pancake breakfast for all my relatives who are in town for the big day. Even if I wanted to, I mean, logistically there's no time for the big chop," Grant said.

Absentmindedly, Grant pulled the fastener off his bun and shook his head a bit. His chestnut-colored hair with natural auburn highlights tumbled in a glorious array past his shoulders. He tossed his hair about nervously and then mechanically pulled it all back together and remade the bun. It was a nervous habit he had to relieve stress.

Rev. Battersea said quietly, "I'm training as a barber. I've had a ton of experience from my days cutting hair in seminary. If you'd trust me....we could move our conversation into the kitchen. It's my makeshift barbershop."

"Vic told my you were the one who cut his hair," Grant said, obviously considering Rev. Battersea's proposal. "Amazing job!"

Grant paused and took a few deep breaths. He struggled to come to a decision. Finally, out of sheer exhaustion, he declared, "Okay, haircut time."

Rev. Battersea smiled and patted him shoulder tenderly.

Grant continued, "You're right, of course, Rev. Battersea. I mean, in 15 years I probably will be saying this manbun looked ridiculous!"

"Be thinking how you want it cut. I'll go get the barber kit upstairs. Just take a seat in the kitchen," Rev. Battersea said.

When Rev. Battersea walked into the kitchen, he was greeted by the sight of Grant's gorgeous tresses flowing unbound to just above his shoulder blades. They were thick, and slightly wavy. The natural highlights glowed with fiery brilliance beneath the track lighting.

"Such nice hair!" Rev. Battersea commented. "I can see why you don't want it cut."

Grant ran his fingers through it while the barber kit was unpacked.

"Have you decided on the length? I mean, should I unpack the clippers?" Rev. Battersea asked.

"Have you ever seen the movie, The Constant Gardener, with Ralph Fiennes? Becky and I were watching it the other day. A young couple very in love -- a sweet, but poignant, drama. Becky thought the main character was so handsome and kept commenting on his eyes and hair," Grant said. "I thought the cut looked a bit dated. I mean, the movie is a good 15 years old."

"Pull up some pictures on your phone. Ralph Fiennes has very fine, silken hair....and your hair is coarse and wavy," Rev. Battersea said.

He looked at a few stills from the movie.

"I guess I could try to pull this off. But, I think something much shorter would be better for you," Rev. Battersea recommended.

"How short?" Grant asked, with a hint of worry in his voice.

"The length of Mr. Jeremiah's hair," he said calmly.

"You have got to be kidding!!" Grant stammered.

Rev. Battersea grasped the thick chestnut hair with his hand. "We'll clip all of this off. Tight to the scalp! He'll be so proud of you as you stand at the altar sporting a flattop. He won't think twice about handing Becky over to you as he walks her down the aisle on his arm."

"You have got to be kidding!" Grant protested. "I am not getting a flattop to appease some grouch!"

"I'm just pulling your leg," Rev. Battersea laughed. "Of course, I can have you looking somewhat like Ralph Fiennes here in the movie. Your hair will be full and long on top -- probably puffy. A tidy taper around the ears and at the nape. It's a classic haircut. And 15 years from now, no one with be pointing to your wedding portrait and laughing themselves silly over your manbun!"

Grant felt relieved as Rev. Battersea caped him up. He was finally going to move on from the unpleasantness of the evening.

The minister brushed through the long locks. He brought the shears to the nape.

"First, I'll take off the length," he said as he slipped one blade under the thick mass to delivered the first snip. The sound of the blades coming together rang out in the silence and drama of the moment. Shanks of lovely chestnut-colored tresses tumbled down, collecting in piles on the kitchen floor around the minister's feet.

As he snipped around the ear, more sheaves of the shimmering locks slid down the front of the cape into Grant's lap.

Grant mournfully fondled a lock of his cut hair as Rev. Battersea continued reducing the length significantly.

Rev. Battersea brushed all the hair forward, so that it covered Grant's face like a thick curtain.

He paused the haircut with Grant veiled in darkness and said, "Perhaps you feel that having your hair cut is a sign of weakness, that you've given into a bully or that you're on your way to becoming a henpecked husband."

"You're right about that. In fact, it's exactly how I'm feeling," Grant murmured with a bitter edge.

Rev. Battersea snipped the thick chestnut hair off right below the eyebrow. Grant blinked some stray strands away.

"Trust me when I say having your hair cut is a sign of strength, of maturity, not of weakness. You are sending a message that you are putting the interests of your wife before your own," Rev. Battersea insisted.

There was silence in the kitchen as Rev. Battersea's point sunk in.

"When was the last time you did that, Reverend," Grant asked in a subtly defiant tone. "Or does preaching come easier than practicing?"

Rev. Battersea felt himself swelling with irritation. He paused to regain his composure. His tone was terse, barely masking his pique at the impertinence of it.

"When you knocked on my door twenty minutes ago, I was putting my pajamas on....desperate to get in bed. I felt exhausted. My day started at 4:00 a.m. Bill Henderson was hanging on for his life in the ICU, and his family asked that I come pray with him in his final moments. I came home to find a drug addict on the parsonage's front porch needing help. Those were the first two of several distressing situations in my day. People have complicated lives! Oh, and during the rehearsal, I also got trapped by Mr. Jeremiah. Your soon-to-be father-in-law told me since he was paying for the wedding, which included my stipend, he wanted the sermon to be no longer than five minutes! But your loud rapping on the door....the last thing I wanted to do was put on clothes and come down here. Listen to your problems, do some handholding, give you advice. And, now I'm cutting your hair!" Rev. Battersea snapped.

Then, he instantly regretted unloading like that. He had a sinking feeling that Grant Tilson was going to give Mr. Jeremiah a run for his money in the jerk contest. Poor Becky.....such a sweet girl.

"Five minutes sounds like a good length to me...." Grant quipped in a saucy tone.

Rev. Battersea snapped on the clippers! He forced Grant's head down. He felt like unleashing and mowing off the whole mane of precious locks. Instead, he curbed his urge that was fueled by aggravation and began tapering the nape.

He could feel the tension in Grant's body as he brought the clippers up through the lush mane, beginning to craft a crisp "low and tight" taper. Grant's hair was perfect for it. But, the top would need thinning. A lot of it! And the bulky bangs would also need reducing. Grant was going to emerge from the chair with a tidy, respectful business cut. A medium taper. Maybe he'd be less of a pill without the manbun.

The tapering continued around the ears. And then -- YIKES! -- the taper went a bit higher up the sides. Rev. Battersea stifled a gasp of dismay. It was a real misstep. The Reverend was feeling very tired. He surveyed the damage. Actually, the taper was quite short!

What could be done? Nothing, except to keep clipping! Rev. Battersea let out the throttle and returned his attention to the back. He tapered it tighter and higher! Oh, almost all the way to the crown! Grant would be upset. Too bad, he deserved it! But the short taper looked good on him.

Grant cleared his throat. With his head still bowed and still fully under Rev. Battersea's controlling hand, he said softly, "Uh, I've been thinking about what you said. I believe I owe you an apology, Reverend. I suppose I've always imagined ministers to have the cushiest job in the world. A few hours on Sunday, a bit of time composing the sermon during the week....and the rest of the time relaxing, golfing, reading."

"Thanks for saying that, Grant. It takes character to apologize, and I appreciated that," Rev. Battersea replied.

"And, now I have an apology to make. Uh, the Ralph Fiennes look is no longer an option. I guess I'm too tired -- I shouldn't have volunteered to cut your hair. It's going to come out quite short, but I think you'll like it," Rev. Battersea said.

"A flattop?" Grant asked skeptically.

"No, a tidy Ivy League," the minister replied. "Your haircut will be short, but not the sermon! It certainly will be a lot longer than five minutes! I hope you pay attention. 'Christ, the bridegroom' -- how he loved and sacrificed his whole life, everything for his bride, the church. I'm going to challenge you to be that kind of husband, Grant!" Rev. Battersea said.

"And what will be your message to Becky?" Grant asked.

"Don't you worry about Becky. I've known her all my life. If she has anything to do with it, your marriage will work," Rev. Battersea replied with a tone that conveyed 'end of discussion.'

Then he decided to tackle the top. Clipper over comb! The length started coming off in torrents. Mounds of lovely chestnut colored hair piling up on the cape and floor. He started taking it down, closer and closer.

"With your hair being so thick and coarse, it's going to end up a lot shorter than your Ralph Fiennes character in any event," Rev. Battersea rationalized.

Finally, the remaining length -- the bulky forelock! Lift, zip, and OFF it fell. Into Grant's lap!

Rev. Battersea snapped off the clippers and examined Grant's new look. A tight ivy! He took a pair of shears and snipped a bit more from the tufted fringe.

Off came the cape. The floor was covered in hair of all lengths. Grant felt his new haircut with curiosity.

"Go check it out in the mirror," Rev. Battersea said....nervous there would be an explosive reaction.

Grant slipped out of the kitchen while Rev. Battersea began sweeping up the cut hair. There would be at least 3-4 dustpan loads full!

After too long of a wait, Grant came back into the kitchen with a shy smile on his face.

"Well?" asked Rev. Battersea.

"I don't look like Ralph Fiennes," Grant said. Then he grinned, "But, you're a great barber! I like this haircut!"

Just then, his cellphone rang. "It's Becky!"

He listened for a bit....more smiles....then he whispered, "I love you too. Next time you see me, I'll be at the altar, watching you come down the aisle.....I love you so much, Becky!"

Grant couldn't wait to tell Rev. Battersea, "Becky said her father just called to apologize. He said he'd had one cocktail too many at dinner and might have made an ass of himself. He'll be proud to walk her down the aisle. He said he'll just have to get used to my manbun....and, get this, maybe he should grow one himself!"

"Mr. Jeremiah with a manbun! What a hoot," Rev. Battersea said.

Grant rubbed his hand up his tightly clipped back. "Wow, this is short!"

"Are you missing your manbun?" Rev. Battersea asked.

"Too late if I am," he laughed pointing to his cut hair in the trashcan. "How are you with flattops, Reverend?!"

Rev. Battersea replied, "Terrible! And, I'm tired! But, after you return from your honeymoon....I'll be at your disposal, Grant. Actually, I need a volunteer for a first time flat. It's the next skill I need to master in my barber apprenticeship with Rev. Brown."

"I'm your guinea pig!" Grant said, hand in air. "The idea of going flat is intriguing me. I mean, seeing all that hair in the trashcan, well....that's where it belongs."

"Cutting off your manbun was my gift to the wedding couple," the minister remarked.

"And, to the groom's father-in-law!" Grant said. Then, he added, "You know, we had talked about Becky joining my church and becoming a part of First Baptist. She was willing, of course, but felt bad that her little bird bath sprinkling wouldn't count and she'd have to get dunked. The truth is, you are such a kind, caring, gentle, wonderful man -- just like a pastor should be! I'm going to talk it over with Becky. Let me come over to her side and join Bethlehem Church."

"Well, discuss the matter with Rev. Brown, as well. I don't want him cross with me! Maybe you can attend one congregation in the morning and the other in the evening," Rev. Battersea suggested. "But, if you do 'come over', we won't toss you in the shower! Aspersion, immersion, pouring....we accept all forms of baptism!"

Instinctively, Grant embraced Rev. Battersea, who used the opportunity to feel the closely tapered nape. Crisp and clipped short, just like it should be!

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