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The Urge by Tim


I am, by nature, a conservative man. I don't drink, don't gamble, and take few risks in life. As a successful CEO at my own company I have few worries of money, and my work is my life. Yet every once in a while I need to experience a bit of excitement in my life, something a little out of my control and a little unpredictable. That happens approximately every six weeks when I go and get my hair cut. And one such occasion is the subject of this story.

My hair has been in the same fashion for as long as I remember. It is parted very deliberately on the right (a left part permits my cowlicks to take control, while the right allows it to lie flat and smooth) with the sides just covering the tops of my ears, and the back neatly above the back of my collar. Despite all the changes in trends and styles over the years, I've kept this same look and must say have never considered changing it.

For my little escapism thrill I get my hair cut in a barber shop. I certainly could afford the finest stylist, but the unpredictability of a barber shop is what excites me. All I ever ask for is a 'light trim', and it is amazing how different the results of this simple request can be. To make it more exciting, I never visit the same shop twice and, since this city has well over one million inhabitants, am quite sure I'll never run out of shops to visit. I much prefer the older shops, perhaps ones that have been around for decades. Since I have quite expensive tastes, it seems odd that I should prefer the more run-down of these establishments. Yet I do, and I seem to favor older barbers who tend to take a bit too much off. Also, shops that face the customer toward a blank wall during the cut rather than facing a mirror are much more enticing. Being helpless to see what is happening and totally at the mercy of the barber is so much of the experience to me. Usually I get exactly what I ask for, so in another six weeks I'm ready for another visit to a shop. However about a third of the time, more often with older barbers, I find they take a bit too much off, perhaps totally outlining my ears and blocking the back a bit too high off the collar. Once I even ended up with what I considered 'whitewalls' around my ears and the back tapered fairly short. I was absolutely dismayed when I saw this outcome but had to admit the experience (as I could tell it was going to be too short while it was being cut) was quite intoxicating. That cut took a good 10 weeks to grow out before I was to visit a shop again.

But it is my most recent experience that I now focus upon. The shop was a smaller, older one-chair shop in the downtown area. I was quite excited at the prospects of an older barber, and as I parked the car in front of the shop and stared through the window a smile came to my face. First of all, I saw the gray hair and wrinkled face of the barber, and then I could see that patrons were facing a blank wall, unable to keep tabs on the efforts of the elderly gentleman.

As I locked my car I became a bit concerned as 2 highway patrol cars pulled up next to me and four officers quickly entered the shop ahead of me. I wondered if there was a problem, but relaxed as I saw one step into the vacant barber chair and the remainder take a seat along the opposite wall. The first thing I noticed as I stepped in the shop and sat down was that none of the officers seemed to be in need of a haircut. All of them wore perfectly groomed flattops that seemed to be the normal style for people in there profession, at least in this city. Yet this man was up there getting what little hair he had taken down even further.

I tried to lose myself in a magazine from the rack as I waited, but couldn't help from noting what was transpiring on the chair. The barber was seemingly taking everything off the sides and the back, leaving only hairless scalp behind. And the flattop itself was taken down so short that only a feint horseshoe of hair was left behind, standing straight and at attention, while most of the crown area matched the sides and back. Then, ample portions of shaving cream were dispersed on the sides and back insuring, after the skilled use of a straight razor, that the areas would remain hairless for some time to come. It was a 'severe' haircut, for lack of a better word, yet it really seemed to fit this gentleman and I must admit actually looked better than how he looked before sitting in the chair. Over the next 30 minutes or so the other three officers took their turns sitting in the chair, getting the exact same cut. I was mesmerized, and by the time the fourth was being caped gave up trying to read a magazine and just sat and watched. What's more, the lively banter between the four officers and the barber (I learned his name to be Larry) brought a grin which I couldn't hide, and I found myself chiming in on occasion. I found myself really respecting, and even liking these fine officers, and had to admit all of them looked quite superb in these extremely short cuts. But there was more to it than that.

As I watched them get their cuts, I occasionally caught glimpses of myself with my hairstyle, which looked absurdly long compared to the officers. In fact I found myself actually thinking I looked quite absurd, and for the first time seriously contemplating getting something other than my usual 'light trim.' At that instance there was only one style that even entered my mind as a possibility, and that was the one these public servants were receiving. I don't know what I possibly could have been thinking, but as the officers left the shop and I found myself being seated in the chair, I was ready to do something very out of character.

The robe was soon cinched in place and the barber stepped in front of me. "What will it be today, Sir?" I loved how casually barbers ask for instructions, and how casually most of their clients generally respond. My usual 'light trim' directions certainly followed the norm in these shops. Yet for some reason those words weren't coming out.

"I think I'm ready to try something a bit different," I found myself saying.

"What did you have in mind?"

"I was considering getting the same cut those four officers just got."

The barber was silent for a second. "That would definitely be a bit different. (He stressed the words 'a bit') Have you ever had a flattop before?"

It was strange to be asked such a question, but on retrospect probably no more unusual than my own request. "No, I haven't. Why do you ask?"

"It's just that theirs is such an extreme version, I was thinking you might want me to give you a regular flattop first, and then if you wanted me to go shorter I could. With a cut as short as they have, like it or not, you're going to be stuck with it for quite a while."

That statement knocked a little sense in me. "How long do you think it would take to grow it back to the style I have now?"

Larry ran his comb along my top hairs, noting their length. "Probably a good six months at least. Maybe more."

A statement like that should have brought me to my senses, but for some reason I was set on matching the officers, perhaps under the guise that I would look just as virile and confident. I remembered them in what I assume was a 'regular flattop' when they first entered the shop, and how much better they looked upon leaving. In fact there was no comparison. In my mind it was clear that a 'regular flattop' was not what I was looking for.

"Thank you but no. I'd rather just get it done like theirs."

"Well, all right." With that he walked back to his tools, and I sat there almost in a daze, unsure if I had actually said what I did. Thus far this adventure had a surreal quality to it. It would not have surprised me to wake from a dream at that point.

The deep register of a pair of clippers coming to life filled the shop; more specifically my right ear as he prepared to attack my right temple.

He paused for a second, then switched the clippers off and held them out in front of my face. "I'm using a very long guard first just to take down most of the bulk, so you still have a little time to change your mind."

I stared at the device and noted the huge black guard. I figured it would leave more than an inch of length after making it's run. This barber was certainly giving me every opportunity to end up with something other than the extremely short flattop.

The clippers were switched on once again, brought to my right temple, and pushed into my hair. A chunk of clippings fell to my lap, much longer than any I had ever recalled seeing fall, even that one occasion I ended up with 'whitewalls'. I took a deep breath as I felt the machine run around my ear and watched another large mass of my former hair join the first.

He went over the side several times clear up to my still intact parting, and then headed towards the back. He tilted my head forward so all I could see is the gathering quantity of cuttings in my lap as I felt the machine start up the back. In no time I could tell nothing was touching my neck. That was not that unusual a sensation to me though. However, feeling the clippers run clear up the back of my head to the crown certainly was. Yet for some reason I was quite enjoying all this.

He made quick work of the back (I even wished he would slow down) and soon was attacking the left, outlining that ear and running up quite high on the side. Then I felt a comb lift some top hairs up and the clipper run over it. Cuttings several inches long bounced off my nose on their way to my lap. I stared dumbfounded. Was this really happening?

He lifted section after section as he ran to the back of my crown, and then he silenced the clipper and combed what was left straight back. About the only thing I was certain of now is that I no longer had my traditional side parting, though I could feel the remaining length, conditioned by years of training, trying still to lie from right to left across the top of my head. However the barber's quick use of a water mister bottle mixed with more aggressive combing insured that the top hair was now all directed backwards.

Had I been in a shop with a mirror to see what had thus far been done, I probably would have opted for the regular flattop. But I wasn't, and the only vision that filled my head was that of the officers leaving the shop looking so sharp and….manly. I really don't like using that word but it seems fitting in this case. I was still dead set on having that look, so when Larry once more asked me if I truly wanted that cut (since I was now at the point of no return), I simply nodded and said yes. A different pair of clippers with a much higher pitch sounded out, and I felt my head tilted forward again. Then the cool blades were placed against the base of my neck and started up into my hair. It was immediately obvious to me that these were taking off basically everything, but then these were the same clippers he had used on the officers so I shouldn't have been surprised. Still, it is quite an unusual sensation if you've never experienced it, especially as they creep higher and higher up the back of your head. Feeling the crown area stripped clean, a section we middle-aged men are so concerned with seeing thinning or possibly balding, was both terrifying and exhilarating. Quickly the sides were done; first the right and then the left, and then he went over the back and both sides again until I heard nothing further being cut, making sure to get every last stray. At this point my head felt so much lighter and cooler, and it made what length was left on top seem almost heavy. I felt my heart pounding in my chest yet my hands were relaxed. This was a fabulous ride experience.

Next came the top. He started in the back, inserting his comb tight against my scalp and then running his clippers over it. I felt more clippings bounce down my back. He inched forward a bit with his comb, and then repeated the motion. Again and again this happened until he worked clear to the front. I could actually feel the top being made flat. I found myself unable to contain my grin. I thought myself nearly done but he repeated the top treatment several more times, being meticulous about getting it perfectly level and not letting any individual hairs ruin the final look, then he worked on blending the sides into the top, laying the comb on the side of my head. Then he set his comb down and made a few slow, deliberate few passes freehand with the clipper to make it just right. It was thrilling! And then the clippers were silenced.

As the warm shaving cream was being spread seemingly all over my head, the reality of what was happening was now hitting home, and I found myself quite nervous and starting to grip the arms of the chair. Fortunately he was extremely proficient with the razor and I escaped unscathed. But as he toweled off the remnants of shaving cream my head felt very cool and, quite honestly, FELT bald. Was I crazy?! What had I done?!

The clipper snapped to life once again, doing a once over to make sure it was all perfect. This had taken much longer than any of the officer's, but then this was a first cut rather than just a trim. Finally, the clippers were silenced and a whisk broom over my head and face removed any last cuttings that wished to stay behind. My entire head felt so totally different I was both excited and dreading seeing my image.

"OK Sir, here you go," Larry said as the chair whirled around and I came face to face with my new reflection.

I'm not sure if my expression was simply of shock or horror, but it certainly wasn't one of the glee I was experiencing as the cut was happening. For all basic purposed I was now bald, gleaming shiny bald, and my pale sickly skin looked horrid. True, I did have the same small horseshoe shaped ridge of hair forming the flattop, but it seemed like nothing compared to the vast tracts of bare flesh. I looked at the top of my head, noting my horseshoe seemed smaller than most of the officers had ended up. Of course they were bigger men than I, probably with bigger craniums, so logically mine should look smaller. But nothing prepared me for this.

I immediately put forth an act so as not to upset the barber, pretending to like it. It was an Oscar worthy performance. I paid and even tipped him very well and was quickly out of the shop. It wasn't till I had driven home and locked myself into my bathroom that I just sat and stared at what I had just done. I was miserable for days.

And days.

But about a week later the baldness was going away, and about three weeks down the road I was sporting a 'regular' flattop. What's more, I was really liking it. I liked the feel, the look, the sensation of touching it, blowdrying it into shape each morning. This was a change I cold handle. In fact, it was a change I could live with.

And I have, willingly, since then. I've never had the urge to go back to that extreme version, but in retrospect am glad I got it. At least that way I'll never have that urge again. Of course if I do start balding back on my crown I know the cut that will hide that. Maybe then I'll get the urge.



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