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***This is the second part of "Take the plunge", but can be enjoyed as a standalone story if you just want a quick… read.***
I looked myself in the barbershop mirror, I was so nervous my whole forehead was covered in sweat. My quiff looked a little damp and it was starting to deflate. The barber’s voice reminded me of what was about to happen: "Just a trim then?".
I looked at Aidan and his big smile, he was sitting on the counter facing me and somehow it already felt like we were pals. I couldn’t stop looking at his fresh whitewalls, he looked so good with his extremely cropped combover it was I miracle I could even think with him standing right in front of me.
It was the first time I could take a good look at him, he was around my age or a little older, but still in his thirties. And I could tell he was even beefier than I first though now that he had his arms crossed over his chest. Every single muscle there bulging out of his polo shirt.
"First time here, right?" Aidan was not looking at me, he was only looking at my hair, studying it. I just nodded "Yes, first time". "Here, let me take care of that for you". He fumbled around on the counter, was he really going to start the cut just like that? He turned to me with a tissue, "It’s a hot one today, is it?". He patted my forehead dry and tousled my quiff with his fingers: "You’ve an amazing texture, do you wear it in a pomp all the time?". I was starting to relax because Aidan was really warm and friendly. I felt secure. Until I remembered how he had scalped his previous client. He took a comb and started assessing the length of my hair: "How did you find the shop?".
I stammered, I couldn’t tell him I had seen his Instagram because there were only military cuts in there. And why would I book and appointment with him if I didn’t want one of those myself? I was quick on my feet: "I work nearby, I was searching for a barbershop on Maps this morning and I saw your place, great reviews by the way". Again, he flashed me a smile: "Thanks, I take pride in my work". He started to cape me and that worried me, usually a haircut that starts with dry hair means the barber intends to use the clippers right away. Aidan fastened a paper strip around my neck: "Maybe I should look into that, I have an ad on Instagram, but I’m not sure I’m getting any new clients from that". Was he teasing me? Maybe the booking webpage had a referral link and he knew I was lying. Or maybe it was all in my head. Again.
Aidan put his strong hands on my shoulders and looked at me in the mirror: "Do you really love this hairstyle?". OK, here we go. I knew it, he was going to try and convince me to get a scalping. The one I really wanted. But my fear was stronger and I was already in auto-pilot mode: "Well, I like a version of this hairstyle. My last haircut wasn’t my best to be honest. But I like it long. Like, I had it cut a month ago". Aidan nodded, "I mean, the quiff looks good on you. But maybe you wanted to try something new".
I knew I had to ask, even if I was giving him a little leeway: "What do you mean?". He kept staring at me: "Something shorter, especially on the sides and back. You must spend quite some time with the blow dryer in the morning to get it looking like that." I instantly replied, feeling almost like I had to defend myself: "Just a quick blow dry, but I don’t mind". Aidan pushed a little more: "It’s going to be a scorching summer, you might mind in a couple of weeks. Besides I think that something shorter, a cut that shows off your natural texture, would look fire on you".
I wanted to ask how short, follow him down the rabbit hole. I knew he was teasing me, but it was already too risky and I pulled back at the last second: "I’d really love to stick with the long quiff for now". Aidan’s smile fainted a little, but he nodded: "You got it, dude". I couldn’t help but feeling like I was disappointing him. Why did I care? I was here to get MY hair cut.
He started to section my hair with precision, carefully combing each section. I was still expecting him to take off way too much, or at least much more than I’d asked for. He picked up the Osters. I was ready to say something, but he stopped on his tracks before I could: "I’m sorry, I usually do clipper-over-comb for longer styles, but you said you prefer it scissor cut, right?". He put the Osters down and grab his scissors from his leather tool belt. He started cutting on the back and that made me nervous, I couldn’t tell how much he was taking off, he could be giving me a scalping with the scissors too and there was no way I could tell. I looked to see if there were any mirrors behind me to take a peek at my nape, but I was out of luck.
Aidan made small talk: "Your accent doesn’t sound from around here". I was tense, but didn’t want to seem rude so I did my best to sound friendly: "I moved here less than a year ago". "That must be why you don’t fear our extreme summers yet", he sentenced with a wink. Was he going at it again? I didn’t know how much persuading I could resist, I was so turned on under that cape… He moved to the sides and I took a deep breath, time for the truth.
He took a look section from the temple and grab it between his fingers: snip, snip, snip. I stopped breathing. It wasn’t really short, but it was like an inch shorter than I usually got it cut. I knew he would have to take the top much shorter to blend it with that short section. He seemed to read my mind: "I think I know why you were a little disappointed with your previous cut. This layer here was too long, it was weighting down the quiff when you combed it over". My brain was screaming: "LIES. He’s lying to you. He’s going to do as he wants with you. You’re not getting a trim. But you knew that when you book an appointment with a military barber. Didn’t you? You deserve to be scalped". I tried to keep my cool and reassess the situation, I spoke with way more confidence than I felt: "I like my hair long and full actually". Aidan didn’t answer back, he was too concentrated on his work, trimming the other side even shorter. I wanted to die.
Because once you’re on a barber’s chair that’s it. They might give you an illusion of control, but you don’t control s**t. You are no one, you don’t decide anything, you are at their mercy. And they know it. And I bet, in some way or another, they all enjoy it.
Aidan sprayed my hair wet and moved to the top. I opened my mouth to try and save some of my length, but he spoke first: "I know, just a trim. You’re a jumpy one, aren’t you?". Some barbers take offense when you try and direct their work, but Aidan was just as friendly as before. He looked me and I felt at ease: "Don’t worry, I know trust is earned. I also tried to micro-manage all of my haircuts until I started cutting it myself. I recognize another perfectionist when I see one". He took some hair off the crown, it was hard to tell how much length was left with it being so wet. And he was doing that old barber trick where they only take half and inch off each time, but then they come back again and take another half inch, and another… Or that’s what it seemed, because he was working so slowly and meticulously that it seemed he would never stop cutting.
He was so concentrated he didn’t say a thing for minutes and that tensed me even more. Was he ignoring me? He combed my fringe right down, I couldn’t tell how much he was cutting either. Snip, snip, snip. Some hair fell on the cape. Snip, snip. More hair. He started connecting the front with the short side, but he was right in front on me and I couldn’t see the mirror. Snip, snip. Aidan announced: "Almost done, I’m just going to cut a couple layers a little shorter in the front to put some direction into it. I’ll make it easier to comb in the mornings".
Sure, I knew what "a little shorter" meant, I knew there would be no fringe to speak off once I could see myself in the mirror. And there was nothing I could do to stop him. It was a mixture of frustration and anger, and excitement. I wanted to cry of impotence. No, I wanted to scream, but I also was extremely hard under the cape…
He took the blow dryer and a round brush, still blocking the view of the mirror, and dried my hair into shape. I felt the brush tugging and was kind of surprised, I didn’t think there was much hair left up there to comb by now. The blow dryer stopped and Aidan finally moved over. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I examined my fresh cut. Aidan was looking proudly at his work, waiting for my reaction. I smiled, confused. He had barely given me a trim on top, I couldn’t believe it! The sides were shorter, but full and they blended like butter with my long top. The shape was absolutely amazing, and the shorter sides looked more in balanced. "What do you think?" I could tell Aidan was kind of nervous too. It was like he was actually looking for my approval. And I was taking so long that he started to worry: "You don’t like it? You seem disappointed. I can fix it if anything is…". "No, it’s perfect", I cut him.
I was actually quite disappointed that he didn’t went to town on me, but I was also relieved. I looked at Aidan: he was so big and macho, and yet right now he seemed somehow vulnerable. I wanted to reassure him: "No, really. It’s just I have no words. I think this is the best haircut I’ve gotten in my life".
The smile came back to Aidan’s face with a vengeance: "That’s great to hear, man. OK, let me clean your neck and the edges for you". He picked up the balding trimmers, but I didn’t jump back this time. I didn’t understand Aidan at all, but I trusted him fully.
He carefully gave me the slightest of tapers on my sides and back and then cleaned up my neck with a straight razor. Then he grabbed a mirror to show me his handwork. Every detail was perfect, as could be expected. He stopped for a second: "It looks great, right? But… I think it’s a pity".
I didn’t understand: "What is?". Aidan bit his tongue before continuing: "It’s just that this long textured top would look so darn sharp with a tight fade... I know you like it longer, but there’s not enough contrast to really show off how hot the quiff looks on you".
Was he hitting on me? He was also flirty with his previous customer, but not quite as much. Or maybe it was me trying to see things… Aidan draw an imaginary fade up my sides with his finger: "Nothing too radical, maybe a number two up to the temples, and fading it as short as you felt comfortable. I could take it as slow as you wanted, make sure you like it". I was about to explode, I was so ready to say YES to him and let him do whatever he wanted… Then, Aidan noticed the clock on the wall: 18.28. My appointment was nearly over.
"Well, maybe next time.", Aidan said with a hopeful look on his eyes. He took off the cape and brushed every single hair off my shirt. He was so close I could see the pores of his freshly shaved scalp. I couldn’t help but take a whiff of him, he smelled like strong classic aftershave I don’t know what else was I expecting. I think he noticed, I was kind of weird. But he continued helping me put my suit jacket back on and gave me a smile.
"Looking sharp, man. I hope you’ll be back". I handed him a fifty and he thanked me, "With this hairstyle you can probably go without a trim for… three weeks. But not anymore, OK? Don’t be a stranger". I smiled back, "I won’t".
Three weeks? He told the guy before me to come back way sooner. It was stupid, but I couldn’t help but feel jealous. He didn’t reach one last time to fix my hair just before I walked out of the shop like he did with the silver fox either. Maybe my hair was already perfect, or maybe my hair was far too long to receive Aidan’s last touch of approval. Anyway, it was too late to change my mind. I said goodbye and walked to the door.
"Wait!". I turned back so fast I felt a little dizzy. Aidan was looking at me, I could tell he was uneasy: "Could you do me a solid? Do you mind hoping back on the chair just a second?". I had already said yes before he had finished asking. He guided me to the chair and I sat down not knowing what to expect. He grabbed his phone: "Do you mind if I take a couple pics of your cut for the barbershop Insta? I barely do any long haircuts and yours looks terrific".
It was worse than if he had hit me with a wrecking ball, I though he was finally going to give me the full Aidan treatment. That he was going to honor the "take the plunge" slogan that he proudly announced on this Instagram. And he wanted to take pics?
"Sure, I’d be honored, Aidan". Who was the liar here? I hated myself for expecting something unreal. He had actually tried to convince me into getting a short cut and I had refused, repeatedly. I couldn’t blame him. I blamed myself. I was a coward, I was too afraid of… what? Of what I really wanted? OK, but next time... Next time I would say yes to Aidan. I would say "do whatever you want, I trust you". I… I already know I wouldn’t. I would stick with the safe choice and go home to jerk off to "what it could have been", as usual.
Aidan showed me the pics, I looked real good. He uploaded it: "I’m sure this will help with the ad. I think some guys fear that I only give short cuts. Damn, this pic is great. You look sick man: the haircut, the suit… Can I tag you?". I gave him my handle and he hugged me like a bear: "Thanks, man. Really appreciate it". I prayed he didn’t notice how thankful I was down there too.
I was about to walk out again when a message chimed on Aidan’s phone. I heard him mutter behind me: "F*** me". I looked back: "Excuse me?". Aidan looked at me a little mortified, "I’m sorry man, I was talking to myself. My next appointment just cancelled, I hate when that happens". He looked so down, I hated seen him like that and I wanted to hug him again: "Well, his lost, right?".
Aidan nodded: "Yeah, thanks. it’s just it really messes up my flow. Now I have to find something to do to kill my next half hour".
Was this a signal? Maybe if I asked for the fade right now I would not chicken out, I was so excited that maybe I would go through with it, finally. Aidan interrupted me: "I’m sure you have other plans, but if you’re free I can give you a bear trim. On the house, of course, it’s the least I can do in exchange for the pics".
I doubted for a second, I didn’t want a bear trim. Well, I wanted Aidan to get up close and personal with me, but I didn’t want a beard trim. I wanted that fade: "the best fade in town". I wanted it so bad, and I just had to ask for it. Now. Ask for it!
"A bear trim would be great, Aidan. I’d love it". Aidan was so happy to hear it: "Thanks, man. At least it’ll keep me moving until the next client".
I got back in the chair one more time and Aidan caped me in no time. He went behind the chair and push the lever to incline the chair back. My mind was reeling, my thoughts going a thousand miles per hour. Aidan rubbed my beard with his hands: "You must take really good care of your beard, man. I was admiring it before, during the cut. You really don’t need that much of a trim unless you want to try another style. But I think a full short beard it’s the best one for you. Maybe I can give you a straight shave on the cheeks and the neck to make it crisp as f***. What do you say?".
I could barely talk: "Actually, I think I want to try something new". I spoke so softly that Aidan didn’t seem to hear me: "I’m sorry, man, what was that?".
I took a breath and took the plunge: "Is it too late to ask for that fade you were telling me before?".
Aidan’s eyes lit up, he took the barber chair back to the vertical position faster than I thought was possible: "It’s never too late for a fade".
I looked at him in the mirror, then looked at myself. A little proud of me, but also terrified as hell. It was going to be my first fade ever. And I knew Aidan would take it slow. Which could actually be bad for me, because I feared I would stop him again if I had the chance.
No, this time I was going all the way. Aidan said it himself: it wouldn’t be nothing too radical, and I was sure he would make me look great no matter what.
That was it. That second I decided that no matter what Aidan suggested from that moment on, I was going to say yes. No exceptions.
***SPOILER ALERT: Part 3 will be called "Take it shorter"***