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A Confusing Cut (A True Origin Story) by haircoward
This is the true story about the afternoon that forever changed the way I viewed getting my haircut. The day I discovered there was a little bit "extra" for me when it came to having my hair cut. It was a Summer afternoon between terms in middle school.
Growing up, my hair length was controlled by my mother. Being a boy, it was odd that for much of my childhood, she would keep my hair on the longish side. Looking back, it almost seemed like a game to her. Perhaps there was "more" to haircuts for her as well. Cuts were so infrequent, and such strange importance was placed on hair length, that I’d actually become scared of having my haircut. An early memory of this has to do with my mother deciding out of the blue that I needed to have my hair cut short, and threatened me with a perm if I didn’t go through with it. I was so scared (and oddly captivated) by this, I almost opted to get the perm. Looking back, I kind of kick myself that I didn’t.
This story, however, is from when I was probably 13 or so. I was back in (forced) grow-out mode, and my hair had reached a few inches past my shoulders. The feelings I had about my hair were complicated, and I couldn’t quite explain them. I knew I enjoyed wearing it long. I’d started picturing myself in different (femme) styles… curls, braids, updos… even just a simple ponytail. I loved the way it felt on my neck, I loved how when I looked up it would reach near the middle of my back, I loved the way it looked and felt tucked behind my ear. I couldn’t wait to grow it out even longer. It was a very confusing time.
Then, on an ordinary day, everything changed.
It was the summertime, and I’d just gotten home from hanging out with a friend. My mother had a couple of her girlfriends over, and they were sitting at the dining room table having some coffee. One of her friends, who I’d always had a fun relationship with, mentioned that it’d been a long time since she’d last seen me… and commented how long my hair had gotten. She joked that it looked like it needed a "good chop", which I’m sure caused me to blush. I remember tucking my hair behind my ear, as though I was trying to "hide" it. I was so conflicted… part of me wanted her to keep talking about my hair, while at the same time, I was mortified and hoped to slink out of the room unnoticed.
She could tell I was embarrassed, and even commented to my mother that I was. At this point, I knew I had to get out of there, so I went to head upstairs. This turned out to be the worst possible thing, as it gave my mother’s friend the full view of just how long my hair was in the back. On the sides, it only grazed my shoulders, while in the back it was several inches longer. As I trudged up the stairs, I heard a "Wow, it’s SO long", along with a snicker.
Then, my mother spoke… and she said the three words that changed everything.
"Well, it’s going."
I froze up on the steps. I couldn't believe what I'd just heard. My hair... was going to be cut? I wanted to protest, but I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to seem "girly" or "weird" about my hair. I’m sure I tried arguing against it, but I can’t remember what I might have said… not that it would’ve mattered or done me any good. I’m not sure if she was embarrassed that her son’s hair was so long, or by the fact that it was her decision for me to have such long hair in the first place. Or, maybe she just wanted to entertain her friends.
I stood there on the stairs in a state of disbelief and fear. It felt like I was standing there motionless for hours, though it was likely just a few seconds. I was shocked back to reality when her girlfriend made it clear that she REALLY wanted to see the cut happen. Both of her girlfriends seemed to be quite interested in it. I wasn’t given even a moment to react, my mother stood up and told me it was getting cut… now. As in, right this very minute.
She called me over and sat me at the table before leaving me with her friends for a couple of minutes. The one friend I always got along with stood up and said that she HAD to try something before it was too late. She got behind me and started braiding my hair. Unfortunately, it was a bit too short on the sides to make a decent braid. Her friends continued playfully teasing me about what was about to happen. All I remember is feeling numb.
Then, my mother returned with her sewing shears. It was so strange, almost as though it was the first time I’d ever saw a pair of scissors. With one of my sister’s hair ties, she tied my hair up in my first-ever ponytail. I couldn’t believe I finally had a ponytail. I always coveted ponytails, wanted more than anything to wear one, and now… if for only a moment, I did.
Her friend got up again to try braid the ponytail. It was still a no-go… but, it definitely led to braiding and braidcutting becoming a huge focus of my hair interests.
Mom had me stand up so she could turn the chair around, giving her friends full view of the shoulder blade-length ponytail that she was just seconds away from severing. She sat me down, holding her hand on my shoulder for a few moments… pressing down, as though she was afraid I was going to try and get up and run away. Part of me wanted to. Surprisingly though, part of me really wanted this to happen. I almost ached for it. I never saw it coming.
I felt her wrap her fist around my ponytail.
She tugged it, while telling me to tilt my head down.
Then, I felt the scissors at my nape.
The first crunch made me feel like I was going to pass out. Her friends were VERY into this, and were laughing hysterically as my mother sawed away above the hair tie.
Moments later, she plopped my entire ponytail on the table. Her friend picked it up and played with it. She actually got up and pressed the snipped end into the back of my head where it was attached just a moment before, to tease me even more. I was completely numb, but knew in that moment, that haircuts were always going to be "different" for me. I was sent upstairs to take a shower, and mom would finish my cut after.
I remember the first time I looked in the mirror with this sawed off lip-length "bob" cut. I remember the first time I felt the back of my head, where I’d just had my first and only ponytail cut off. It was an alien feeling, some hair was long, some was short… and I couldn’t explain why… but, I loved it. I wished I could grow it back immediately, only to experience having it cut short all over again.
After my shower, my mother’s friends had left. One of them asked to take my ponytail with her. I remember wishing she hadn’t, as for reasons I couldn't possibly explain, I really wanted to keep it for myself. Mom sat me back down and finished up my short cut. It was pretty unremarkable once the initial length had been removed. That weekend, she took me out shopping "for no reason". I’m pretty sure that was her way of apologizing for what she’d done. Outside of a random trim or two, that would actually be the last time she’d cut my hair.