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Vince grows up by Manny


It was the first time I was allowed to go to the barbershop on my own. Dad gave me enough for a haircut and tip with a curt, "And make sure it’s cut short enough to last a bit."

With my new driver's license and $15 in my pocket, I felt like a real adult. As I adjusted the seat and mirror in the family car, I looked at my shaggy dark brown locks. Not as long as some of the fellows in my class who had lenient parents, but not scalped like those whose parents were still holding on to the 1950s and 60s. My wavy hair tumbled across my eyes and covered my ears. In back, a luxurious flow blanketed the whole collar. It was a shame it was going to be cut — I rather it liked it just the way it was.

I had long thought about my first solo haircut. Of course, the ideal would have been to chose a modern unisex place that gave fashionable scissor styles. But, I didn’t have enough money for one of those trendy places in the mall. Plus, I was mindful that my hair needed to be cut short enough to please my parents. No way I wanted my newfound freedom clipped short by a trim that left more length than they felt their son should sport. They were middle-of-the-road parents -- hair on boys should neither be too long nor too short.

My friend Steve suggested I try his place — an updated version of the traditional barbershop with "barber stylists" who gave scissor cuts that left more length and bulk. Steve’s hair was tidy, covering half his ears and to mid-collar in back. His bangs were shorter than I cared for, trimmed quite short, completely off the brows.

I drove to the shop on Elm Street and was pleased to see some mod-lettering on "David’s Barber Salon". I walked with a spring of excitement to the door. Normally, I hated haircuts, but being on my own made me feel so grown up. I mean, just driving myself there was a bit of a thrill.

As I pulled the glass door open, I noted the two barbers busy at work — one looking very in the groove with hair blow dried into a very fashionable, full style, massive sideburns down to the base of his ear and a huge mustache. He was handsome too, sporting trendy bellbottoms and clunky mod shoes. He would be my barber!

The other man looked like an old-school barber with a very severe MPB with a wrap-around fringe of hair that let us know he once sported a nice mane. Poor guy! At first, I thought he was a geezer. However, upon closer inspection, I concluded he was actually quite young with wrinkle-free, smooth skin.

Both of the barbers gave me a perfunctory hello as I took a seat in the waiting area. There was another teen waiting his turn in front of me. In the chairs were two middle aged men. The mod-looking barber was giving one of them a light trim, sectioning off locks of wet hair, sending snippets to the cape.

The MPB barber was going to town with a pair of thinning shears on his client, whacking away at the man’s forelock. Then, with another set of shears and a few quick snips, he took it off, quite high up the forehead. No, Mr. MPB would not be getting anywhere near my hair!

I enjoyed exploring the shop as I waited, noting a few attempts to modernize. Photos of sleek male-models with blow-dried, feathered manes were framed and prominently displayed above the mirrors. A few trendy magazines like GQ for the older clients and Mad Magazine for those my age were on the little table. Some easy rock music could be heard softly in the background.

"How’s that, Mr. Quigley?" the MPB barber said, holding up a mirror to display the back.

"Got my money’s worth today," the man in the chair noted dryly, observing the short taper rather skeptically.

"Well, you did tell me to use the electric clippers," the barber replied defensively.

The man reached out from under the cape and felt the tapered nape. "Next time, let’s just stick with scissors. Tight tapers like this are really out of style."

I could tell the MPB barber did not like the remark and gave a half-hearted attempt to hide his annoyance.

The man emerged from the chair, still examining his short crop in the mirror, this time focusing on the truncated bangs. He tugged a bit at the pruned forelock, then gave a grimace of disapproval.

The MPB barber pre-empted a comment, "Yes, I’ll leave the bangs longer, as well, next time. No need to pay today, Mr. Quigley, since you don’t seem satisfied."

"Nonsense! Here you go," the client insisted, handing him a bill. "Let’s go, Tom!"

What?!?! The teen in front of me was not getting his hair cut?! I panicked. That meant I would be next!

The MPB barber stared at me. "Your turn. Take a seat," he instructed, pointing at me so there could be no doubt.

My heart raced. No way! "I, uh, um, I’m waiting for him!" I stammered, pointing to the mod-barber.

"Well, if that’s the way you want it, kid!" the MPB barber snapped, just short of fuming. "I’m going out for a smoke, Ted."

The mod-barber’s name was Ted! After his colleague stormed out in a huff, the mod-barber cracked a bit of a smile and commented to his client, "Poor Jeff, not his day. When a pimply teen disses you.... Oh my, Jeff will be grumpy all day!"

Then with a gentle hand he smoothed his client’s nice executive coif into place. A bit more work with a soft brush, and the haircut was done. A quick blast of hairspray cemented it into place. Oh, his hair looked so perfect. Nice and full. Trim — not at all shorn looking! My father should get his hair cut here, I thought to myself.

"How’s it looking, Mr. Saunders?" Ted asked. "If it’s too full on top, I can thin it out a little."

"It’s perfect!" the caped client said, beaming broadly as he surveyed the back via a hand mirror.

Ted uncaped him and led him to the cash machine to pay. "Oh, very generous of you, sir!" he exclaimed as Mr. Saunders told him to keep the change.

"Now, fellow, you were waiting for me. Hop up into the chair there. I just need to make a quick phone call in back. Two minutes. I promise!" Ted said.

I sat nervously in the chair, hoping the MPB barber didn’t come back while I was there alone. I fantasized about him storming in, caping me suffocatingly tight, and plowing a clippers through my thatch. He had seemed so upset! What if he inflicted an MPB-punishment cut on me! The thought of leaving, looking like a grandpa, suddenly made my groin stir! Nothing but a pathetic, wispy fringe wrapping around the sides and back....

Then, I saw him walking toward the door, with a quick pace. I was smack in the center of his radar! Before entering, he tossed down his cigarette butt and extinguished it ferociously with his foot. My heart beat wildly. I looked away, toward the back of the shop, hoping Ted would emerge to save me with his gentle hands and easy touch.

And he did! Both barbers reentered the shop simultaneously — one through the front door and the other from the back area.

Ted took a pin-striped cape, cast it, and pulled it tight round my neck before securing it with a big metal clip. Unexpectedly tight actually! I felt a bit faint.

"This is your first time here, uh, what’s the name?" he asked me.

"Vince," I replied. "Yes, first time. One of my friends from high school recommended it."

Ted yanked the comb through my hair. It hurt. Oh, what happened to his soft touch?

"Quite an overgrown mop here, Vince," he said, combing my bangs straight down. They completely covered my eyes. I sat there in a form of curtained darkness which he continued talking. "We’re glad for a new client, aren’t we Jeff?"

Jeff stifled a bit of a scoff. "Yes, I suppose."

I heard Ted priming the shears a few times. "So, a few tips for you, Vince. In this shop, we think it’s bad form to wait for a barber when the other one is unoccupied. Jeff and I are both professionals. Is that understood?"

I was terribly taken aback! The rebuke made me feel very insecure and uneasy. "Yes, sir. I understand." I squirmed in the chair.

Then, Ted took the shears to my long bangs. I could not believe what was happening!!

Right at the middle of my forehead, he began snipping...oh, so short!

SNIP, SNIP, SNIP!

I was aghast! In mere instants, my lap displayed a pile of shorn dark brown hair! He hadn't even asked me how to cut my hair! Then Ted came in for a second round -- even higher up.

SNIP, SNIP, SNIP!

Jeff suppressed another laugh. "I think he's learned his lesson, Ted."

Now my bangs were very, very short....two thirds of my forehead exposed. I looked awful

Ted reached for the fastfeed electric hair clippers. "Well, just in case Vince didn’t get my point….."

He snapped them on and pushed my head down, like I was an eight-year old kid!

The clippers came up super tight through my nape. I was being scalped! An utter humiliation!

Jeff did not try to conceal his glee at my impromptu humiliation, chuckling loudly from the sideline. "Perhaps we won't have a new client after all," he smirked.

In my mind I followed the path of the clippers, straight and tight up the back, all the way to the crown.

"Stay still in the chair!" Ted snapped. "How come your father didn't bring you in for a haircut?"

I whimpered softly, utterly humiliated, "Because I'm old enough to come on my own. I drove here myself."

"That sounds like a tall tale," Jeff piped up from the sidelines. "Little fellows who lie are not the kind of clients we want here. Isn't that right, Ted?"

Ted went into high gear with clipper-over-comb, taking the top down shorter and shorter. Almost nothing was left on top. My haircut was showing all signs of a classic crewcut in the making. Finally, with the flourish, came the end. The remaining bangs snipped off at the top of my forehead. I was just short of a baldy!

Hair covered the whole cape. The barbers were both laughing over the new look. Ted stroked my head with mock tenderness. "It's the look all fifth graders go for!"

Strangely, I found myself hard, near exploding.

"Give him arches!" Jeff suddenly ordered.

I watched Ted run some lather around my ears and then carve away the remaining short pelt, leaving me with a pair of exaggerated arches.

Finally, the cape came off!

"No charge for you today, Vince. And, don't come back unless you are quite ready to follow our barbershop etiquette," Ted said.

"I'm very sorry, sir," I stammered. "I will take the first available barber, I promise."

Jeff stepped in front of me to block my exit. It almost seemed like he was going to order me into his chair. "Before you leave, fellow, I want you to watch something. Go ahead, take a seat in the waiting area."

Jeff turned to his colleague. "Ted, you had your fun shearing Vince down. Now, it's my turn! I'm tired of being passed over by guys like our new teen client. I just can't compete with your groovy, mod look in today's world, and so I'm going to do something about it. Ted, take a seat! Vince will be the judge: who cuts the best classic crewcut with arches, Ted or me?"

Ted's face blanched, turning a pale, sickly white. "Jeff, you can't mean it," he pled.

"Come on! Hop up in the chair! The first thing coming off is that mustache!" Jeff said, striking more fear.

"Please, though, not a crewcut," Ted begged, as he complied with Jeff's order to take a seat.

The cape was on in a flash.

Jeff picked up with edger. He steadied Ted's head with one hand and had a blast removing the thick, massive mustache that had given Ted real flair and panache! In mere seconds, the mustache was on the cape. Then, the edger was employed to completely remove the mod sideburns.

Ted's lip trembled, and he tried hard to keep from outright pouting.

"You see, Vince, I own this shop," Jeff explained as he began demolishing Ted's gorgeous feathered hairstyle. "I've been doing Ted a favor, letting him work in the shop for free, without paying rent for the booth. But, what's been happening? People like you come in and make a judgment about me because of my MPB. It's hard enough going bald prematurely....but when people start avoiding you when it comes to getting their hair because of it....well, it's a double curse."

Jeff plowed the clippers right down the top of Ted's head. Hair fell in sheaves to the cape.

"So, you were the straw that broke the camel's back today. I decided, that was it! I'm stripping off Ted's advantage! No mustache, no sideburns, no groovy feathered hairstyle! Then, I'll take him in back and we'll remove those bell bottom pants and platform shoes. A full, traditional barber outfit, complete with tunic that buttons on the shoulder, just like my father wore when he ran this shop. Get ready for a full return to a classic, traditional barbershop -- exactly the way things were in the 1950s when barbers were men -- yes, many with MPB -- who made men look like men!"

I was ready to explode. Yes, this would be my barbershop, for sure! And, Jeff would be my preferred barber. But, I would take whoever pointed at me and bleated out, "NEXT!"



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