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Chris's Journey by Deke Cutter

Chris thought he had the situation all sussed out. His father had ordered him to get his hair cut. This had been an ongoing argument between them. Chris loved his chocolate brown hair that fell in soft waves, covering his ears and his collar. His bangs, when combed straight down, would reach his nose. But Chris kept them slightly parted so that they did not appear to obstruct his vision. At 16, he was on top of the world. His parents were letting him stay home alone this weekend while they went to a wedding out of town. His father had been very clear that Chris was to get a haircut before they returned on Sunday evening.

Being a manipulative kind of person, Chris had planned some malicious compliance. He would get his haircut, slightly, at his favorite salon, adding some money he had saved from his birthday to the meager amount his dad gave him, figuring Chris would be going to Joe’s Barber Shop. He ‘d be safe for another month, at least.

The salon wasn’t too busy when Chris arrived on Sunday morning. The 19-year-old girl who washed his hair was hot and she knew it. She cooed over Chris’s hair and made a real fuss over how beautiful it was. Chris lay back in the chair feeling her fingers massaging his head. She wore a revealing top, and he would open his eyes as she stood over him and take in the sights. This was so much better than the old barbers his dad went to. When the stylist had him caped up, he explained that he just wanted enough off the sides to show the lobes of his ears, an inch of the back and the bangs taken up to just cover his eyes when combed down. Her touch was so light. He loved the way she gently followed his directions. When she was done, she used a diffuser on the blow dryer so that his waves would look nice and full. Chris couldn’t believe how good he looked and how he had a perfect haircut, just enough off to prove to the old man that he got a cut.

Chris spent much of the afternoon admiring his reflection in the mirror in the bathroom. He had just sat down to start working on a school assignment when he heard to front door open, indicating his parent’s return. "Hi mom, hi dad," he yelled down the stairs, "I’m crashing on a school project."

"Hi honey," his mom replied. "Dad just ordered pizza, it will arrive in 15 minutes. See you then."

"Christopher," his dad called from the bottom of the stairs, pizza’s here. Down here, now!" Chris took a look in the mirror, smoothed his bangs and headed downstairs. As he sat down at the kitchen table, he saw his parents scrutinizing him.

"How was the wedding? I can’t believe your cousin finally got hitched. What’s the groom like?"

His mother replied that Cousin Susan had just waited for the right man to come along. "He’s just switched from active duty to reserve status in the U.S. Army. That is why they have waited. It let Susan get established in her career while he got sufficient training and seniority to parlay his skills into the private sector. "

His father said, a little ominously, "yes, Colonel Dan is a very squared away kind of guy." He and his groomsmen would make a great recruiting advertisement in their uniforms, military from head to toe."

Nothing was said about Chris’s hair during the remainder of the meal. He was thinking that he had got away with it, as planned. He returned to his room to continue working on his assignment. At around 10:00 PM, just as he was getting ready to switch from school work to social media, there was a knock on his door, followed by his father entering his room. "It looks like you and I have had a bit of a communication issue, Chris. We clearly have different ideas about what I expect when I tell you to get a haircut."

"Gee dad, I got quite a bit cut off. You can see the bottom of my ears, and it’s shorter all over. She took over two inches off my bangs."

"And how much did that hairstyling (because that is not a haircut) cost?"

Well, I did use some of my birthday mon…"

"How much?"

"Thirty-five dollars, but that is with tip."

"Christopher, that could have paid for three haircuts at Joe’s. This is simply unacceptable. Not only did you waste all that money, but now, you are going to spend another ten dollars tomorrow when I take you to Joe’s after school." With that, his father turned around and walked out of his room.

Chris was beside himself. His entire plan had failed, and he faced the double embarrassment of being taken to the barber by his dad, but also getting a shorter haircut. He drifted off into a troubled sleep. When his alarm went off the next morning, he showered, did his hair, for one last time, and went downstairs. His parents had both left for work. On his cereal bowl was "Post It" note stating simply, ‘Front entrance of the school. Be on time.’

As the school day moved on, Chris became morose. When the final bell rang, he moved quickly toward the front of the building to find his father waiting in his car. Chris got into the car and buckled his seatbelt. Not a word was spoken until they pulled into the parking lot of the strip mall where the barber shop was located. "All I wanted was for you to show some respect and get yourself a proper haircut, nothing severe, just a regular haircut. I’ve told you a million times, ‘off the collar, mid-ear, bangs above the eyebrows.’ You disappointed me and now you will rectify that. We will go into that shop, and you will ask for a short crewcut, number two, tapered, with the bumper no longer than an inch, sideburns to the top of the ear opening. This will be your "usual," until you show me more respect. Am I clear?"

As tears welled in his eyes, Chris replied, "yes."


Stunned, it took Chris a moment to realize what his father wanted, "yes sir," Chris replied meekly.

The father and son walked into the barber shop. Father had a tight smile on his face, the son, a look of despair. "John, I wasn’t expecting to see you so soon, how was the wedding?"

"The wedding was very nice. Carol’s cousin was a beautiful bride. The groom is an Army Officer and looked the role. But I’m just accompanying my son, Chris, who is here for a big change."

The barber ushered Chris into the chair and caped him. "So, Chris, it’s nice to see you. What are we doing today?"

"A short crewcut, number two, tapered, with the bumper no longer than an inch, and take my sideburns up to here," indicating the top of the ear opening.

"Well that will be a big change, but I think it will look good on you."

The barber combed Chris’s hair down so that his bangs covered his eyes. He then turned the chair so that it was facing the waiting chairs where his father sat with a satisfied look on his face. Snip, snip snip, and Chris’s bangs were now ending high above the middle of his forehead. Chris involuntarily took a breath, as the barber started cutting the hair above his ears and off his collar, continuing around his head. With each cut, Chris could feel his eyes watering. He closed them tightly and tried to compose himself. Just when he thought he was back under control, the clippers clicked on, and Chris felt his head tipped forward. As the clippers moved up his neck, Chris felt like his stomach had flipped over. "Oh Gawd," Chris thought, "he is really scalping me." The clippers continued their destruction of the soft waves that had covered the back and sides of his head. The chattering of clippers seemed to penetrate deep in his brain, tearing away at his self-confidence and much of his self-esteem.

The barber looked over at Chris’s dad. "I’m going to use the clipper over comb on the top. This will deal the waves and let the hair lay flat. It may be a bit shorter, but I think you’ll like it dad."

"You’re the expert, Joe."

At this point, Chris zoned out. His entire sense of self was gone. He was aware of the clippers running over the comb and of hair falling onto his shoulders, but it was like it was happening to someone else. Next he saw the thinning shears chopping away at his truncated bangs. By the time hot foam was placed around the sides and back, Chris felt completely spent. "OK, young man. Let’s turn you around."

Chris looked in the mirror. "Oh crap," he thought, "it looks like the crewcut Jimmy down the street used to have when we were little kids."

Chris’s dad stood up, as the cape was removed. "Now that is what I call a good haircut, Joe. Chris will be coming in regularly to keep his hair looking this sharp. Chris, thank Joe for this great haircut," his father said, as her rubbed his hand against the stubble on the back of Chris’s head.

Once they got back into the car, fat tears were rolling down Chris’s cheeks. "Oh, stop it, Chris. You had ample opportunity to get a less severe shearing. Get used to this because you’ll be looking like this for a good little while."

"But dad, I’ll be laughed at and made fun of."

"I hope that if you are laughed at, it builds character. You need to be a more responsible and respectful young adult. I’ll be watching your progress."

And so, it went. Chris became known as "butchy boy" or "the crewcut kid." He adjusted to being down lower on the popularity scale at school. After the third trip to Joe’s, Chris became resigned to his haircut and convinced himself that, at least, it saved time. Kids started to accept him as he was. As the Spring came around, Chris and his father were at the barber shop together. Chris was no longer embarrassed being in the shop. When he saw Mr. Lawson, the English teacher come in, Chris greeted him. Mr. Lawson sat down next to Chris and Chris introduced him to his father. "Chris is doing well in English literature. Chris, you have really buckled down."

The father and son both beamed at the praise.

"You know Chris, have you considered going out for the golf team? I’m the new coach. You look like you could be a good golfer and I like my athletes to have a clean-cut look. You are already there."

Chris’s dad, an avid scratch golfer, spoke up. "I’ll tell you what, I’ll take Chris out to the range and see how he does and how he likes it."

Back in the car, "Chris if you make the team," I’ll give some serious thought to you growing you hair out…some."

Chris made the team. But could he keep up his new ways and get the chance for longer hair? Time would tell.

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