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Alvaro by Manny

“I know they think it’s funny,” said Alvaro, “but all the ribbing about my clothes and looks, my accent and manners and all, well it gets tiresome. And, I really don’t think it’s funny. I wish they’d just accept me as one of the guys.”

“Well, they sure think it’s funny, and knowing them, it’s not going to stop any time soon. So, you either need to get a thicker skin or get off the ranch. It’s that….or, make some concessions to try to blend in more,” Bill said, eager to see how Alvaro would respond.

“Like what, start belching frequently, or cursing like a drunken sailor? No, thanks!” Alvaro seemed to think there were no other options. But, of course there were….including one that Bill was very anxious to pursue. The trick was to gently guide Alvaro in that direction.

Bill replied, “Would it be so horrible to ditch the pressed khaki pants for some worn jeans? I have an extra pair that are too small for me but probably would fit you. Ditto on the button-down Oxford shirts. An over-sized tee-shirt would go a long way towards building bridges with the guys.”

Alvaro looked down at his high-priced apparel. The loafers and matching belt, the perfectly coordinating slacks and shirt. Everything pressed and spotless. That was Alvaro. But….perhaps, just for the outdoorsy summer, he might opt for dressing down a bit. Of course, it would take some effort on his part, but Bill seemed to be willing to help. “I guess it might be worth a try. Dig out the jeans, and let me see if they fit.”

Bill was elated that Alvaro had nibbled at the bait. He brought out the pants and a tee shirt. The makeover was just beginning.

Alvaro emerged from the bedroom, carefully smoothing his perfectly coiffed blond tresses into place. You could tell he was eager to get his hands on a brush to get every perfect lock just right. “What do you think?” he announced, with a bit of an awkward laugh.

“Good! Much more in line with the guys. Are you willing to adopt this as a sort of uniform?” Bill asked.

“Sure, these clothes feel a lot more comfortable. None of my Argentine friends will see me anyway, out at the ranch.” Alvaro seemed confident about the change of wardrobe. Bill pondered what his reaction would be to the next step.

“Got some extra money for a pair of hiking boots?” Of course he knew money was no problem for a little rich boy like Alvaro.

Then he stopped what he was doing and stared Alvaro down from top to bottom. “One more thing, Alvaro. The hair. You need to ditch the “pretty boy” look if you’re going to have any rapport or credibility with the guys.”

“What do you mean by a ‘pretty boy look’ – I’m not familiar with that expression,” he answered.

“To put it plainly, you need a haircut. That long hair, in these parts, is considered “girlie” – real sissy like,” said Bill.

The “bald truth” came as a bit of a shock to poor Alvaro. His hand instinctively reached for the locks, as he nervously searched for a mirror. “What’s wrong with my hair?” he stammered.

“What’s wrong with it?! You look like you just stepped out of a beauty salon! With your perfectly shaped locks, styled just right with a blow-dryer!” Then, in an affected girlish tone, Bill added, “It’s just an adorable look the way your bangs are swept back, sort of feathered over the ears, and that length to just below the collar suits you perfectly! And, the sheen!! What brand of shampoo do you use….”

“All right, all right! I get your point,” Alvaro said with the flash of irritation. “Are you suggesting that I trim my hair a bit? I can’t do anything about the sheen. It’s natural….”

Of course, Bill had another opinion, but he didn’t express it just then. “Yep, that’s what I’m suggesting. Get a man’s haircut. I can take you to the place the guys and I use.”

Alvaro looked at Bill’s hair. It was a traditional man’s haircut. Off the ears and collar, parted on the side. A few inches on top. A bit of a taper in the back. Kind of non-descript. The dullish, brown color too. It wasn’t a terrible haircut, but simply one that did not match Alvaro’s image. Of course, neither did the frayed jeans and baggy tee-shirt he was wearing. But, they would help him fit in at the ranch. So would, he presumed, a shorter, less-flamboyant haircut. It would probably be a lot cooler too – since he wasn’t used to being out in the elements with the wind blowing his hair around constantly. He’d tried a cowboy hat, but it made his head feel too hot and no one else was wearing one.

“Maybe,” came Alvaro’s response, after a bit of a pause that seemed excruciatingly long. He wasn’t considering anything quite as short as Bill’s haircut, but he would decide later just how short to go…if indeed, getting a “man’s haircut” – as Bill had put it – was something he would even pursue. His gut feeling, at the moment, though, was that yes he would agree to a bit of a haircut. He just needed some time to get used to the idea….

Dressing down was an easier decision to make than cutting his “to die for” hair. Alvaro had always considered the beautiful color and texture of his hair one of his best assets – that and his huge, deep green eyes. Gorgeous blond hair was a real rarity where he came from… A haircut, to try to please a few jerks?! What next, joining in on their “farting contests”?!

“Let’s go out and get something to eat for lunch,” suggested Bill.

“Dressed like this?” asked Alvaro, raising his hands to show off his sack-like, old tee-shirt.

“Why not? Most of the other guys out there look just like you,” said Bill. “Except for the hair,” he added with a chuckle….he just couldn’t resist the jab.

As they got in the car and headed for the mall, Bill contemplated his next step with regard to Alvaro’s pretty boy hairstyle. From the first time he had set his eyes on Alvaro, the little rich kid whose parents owned a huge cattle farm in Argentina, Bill had determined that he would engineer a severe cropping before the summer was over. The plans ranged from getting everyone drunk in the barn and then pinning Alvaro down for a botched home-style haircut – using the clippers that they used on the horses’ mane, to boot! -- to gaining his confidence and helpfully directing him to a barber who was not timid with the shears.

Bill was pleased with the amount of ground that had been made that day in advancing plan B – Alvaro’s trip to Jim’s Barber Shop, the old-fashioned joint where no one came out looking anything like a pretty boy. Jim was rather heavy handed, both with the clippers and the shears. Mounds of Alvaro’s lovely locks would end up in the trash bin, regardless of the instructions that were given. The challenge was to keep the momentum going and get Alvaro to step into the shop….

Thinking about the impending situation at Jim’s, Bill actually began feeling a bit sorry for his friend Alvaro. He was really such a nice, sincere guy. Bill felt guilty too about his fascination with seeing longhairs shorn by old-fashioned barbers. He always chose for himself, the absolute busiest time to get his haircut, hoping to see Jim thrust the clippers into some overgrown thatch. Back to school time was a great time to hang around Jim’s.

Bill noticed Alvaro trying to catch a glimpse of himself in the reflection of the windscreen. He was fiddling with his hair. Smoothing it down in back, kind of with a worried expression on his face. From what Bill could observe without being too obvious, Alvaro was feeling the thick hair that hung from his nape, trying to determine the length. Sectioning off bits that perhaps he was willing to part with – an inch or two.

So Bill determined then and there that if Alvaro didn’t mention the haircut again, Bill would follow-up on the issue only as they were finishing their lunch – some casual comment like -- “Where to next, the barbershop?” – but no hard pressure. If Alvaro went along with the idea, then Bill would instruct the barber to give Alvaro a “short back and sides” traditional haircut, like his own.

But, if Alvaro raised on his own initiative the haircut, well then, something quite a bit more radical would happen. Bill would goad the barber into administering an ultra-short haircut. Mounds of blond locks would succumb to the power of the clippers! Little Alvaro would be shorn down tight….and “for his own good” Bill told himself to ease the guilt. Surely, every guy should, once in his life, feel the clippers tight on his scalp?! Being inducted into the army made sure of that in the olden days… Ironically, Bill himself had never taken the plunge and ordered the clippers to “take him down to the wood.” It made him feel like a coward, in a way, always hoping to see someone else get butched but never instructing Jim to clip himself down short.

Bill’s wondering mind was jerked back to reality when he heard Alvaro clear his throat, and then hesitatingly say, “I’m not quite hungry just yet.” Pause. “What do you say I get a bit of a haircut before lunch?” He had spoken his words softly, in a low almost wheezing tone.

Bill was taken by surprise. He had not at all expected this, especially not so soon. He struggled to sound casual in responding. “A bit of a haircut….?!”

“Well, let’s say, enough of a haircut for me to fit in at the ranch with the guys.”

“A man’s haircut, you mean?” asked Bill.

“Yes, a man’s haircut,” Alvaro confirmed, as if having it pried out of him.

“By a barber, I presume. I don’t know any beauticians in town,” Bill added.

“A barber, yes, so be it,” came Alvaro’s reply, rather irritated. Bill could tell he was trying to sound calm and matter-of-fact. But the tension and nervousness could not be fully disguised.

There was silence in the car as Bill made a bit of a U-turn and headed towards Jim’s. His heart beat quickly. Oh my, if his little fantasy were to be played out by the rules he had set for them in the car….poor Alvaro! No he didn’t deserve a crewcut. Not if he didn’t want one…. What to do? Bill felt caught between feeling sorry for Alvaro and feeling elated that he would be able to watch the treasured blond locks being shorn off by Jim. Neither of the fellows said a word as the car moved closer and closer to the barbershop.

Bill edged the car into a space near the shop. The red and white pole whirled away and the faint glow of neon could be seen through the plate glass window from the bit of distance. “Well, here we are,” announced Bill. “Jim is the best barber in town. The guys and I all use him.”

“So, are you going to get a haircut today too?” asked Alvaro.

“Might as well. I’m getting a bit shaggy,” said Bill. Ugh! That wrinkle created a dilemma. What if Alvaro insisted on Bill going first….and then he got cold feet in the process? Bill made a mental note as they strode towards the shop that his objective was to get Alvaro under the cape as quickly as possible.

Bill noticed the lack of clients in the shop as he pushed the door opened – good, no waiting time for Alvaro to develop second thoughts! He made sure Alvaro followed him in. Jim quickly got up from the back chair where he’d been reading the paper and greeted the two fellows. “Howdy, Bill. You in town for a break along with the rest of your buddies? How’s the ranch these days?” He glanced at Alvaro a few times during the chit chat that followed. “Well, which of you is here for a haircut?” he asked.

“We both are,” said Alvaro. Bill was surprised that Alvaro spoke. He thought he’d be too nervous to say anything. Quickly, though, Bill felt the need to take control of the conversation.

“Yes, but my friend Alvaro will be first. Alvaro is from Argentina; he’s spending the summer with us to see how real cowboys ride the range. And, he’s in much more desperate need of a haircut than I am!” quipped Bill, tussling Alvaro’s tresses.

“So I noticed,” deadpanned the barber. “This middle chair here will be fine, then, Al. Have a seat.”

Alvaro looked at Bill sort of pleadingly – like, do I really have to do this? -- but Bill nodded towards the chair, directing his friend to take a seat. Poor guy. Alvaro gulped a bit and sat down.

Jim busied himself about the counter and emerged with a folded white cape that he snapped open and cast about Alvaro’s shoulders. It was huge and spotless, completely cloaking the fellow and virtually the whole chair, except for the chrome pedestal that flashed near the shop’s floor. Alvaro looked quite sheepish as the barber brushed his long, blond hair and smoothed it down into place. Basically, all that was visible was a lot of cape, a lot of hair and a little face.

Finally the inevitable question was put forth by the barber. “So, how do you want your hair cut, Al?”

Alvaro stammered. “Um, well, Bill can you, uh….”

Bill’s heart skipped a beat. Alvaro looked so miserable that he gave up on the idea of a crewcut. “Just a traditional cut – you know, ‘short back and sides’,” instructed Bill. He’d left Alvaro off the hook….well, relatively so. At least no instructions for a tight butch cut! Anyway, he knew that Jim would make short work of the pretty boy locks.

Jim smiled approvingly. Then he swirled the chair away from the mirror so that Alvaro could no longer see himself, but was left squarely facing Bill. Alvaro’s face was astonished, even terrified, by the barber’s unexpected maneuver. He would not be able to watch his transformation from “pretty boy” to “regular Joe”….

Bill delighted in the misery that Alvaro was experiencing; his conscience allowed him to do so since Bill had let him off rather lightly. Of course, Alvaro might consider a “short back and sides” outrageously cropped – and it would be compared to the fluffy locks he still sported! Bill smiled as he saw Jim pick up a huge set of Oster clippers. The pretty blond locks were on the “endangered species” list now, Bill thought to himself with a tempered giddiness. Within moments the clumps of the treasured hair would begin cascading down to the black-and-white checkerboard floor of the shop.

Click. Low hum. Alvaro seemed too preoccupied to notice that the clippers had sprung to life and that his first barbershop haircut was going to be a whole lot shorter than he ever imagined!

Then Jim deftly snagged a heavy lock near the nape with his comb and held it out perpendicular to the floor before running the clippers across the comb. The first clump of shimmering blond hair – a wad about 4 inches long – fell to the floor.

Bill felt disappointed. He had wanted Jim to shove Alvaro’s head forward and put the clippers directly to the nape and then scoop off a huge mound, gradually moving the clippers higher and higher up the back of the fellow’s head. But Jim opted for a less radical approach. Lift and buzz, lift and buzz. Gently. Lock by lock. Yes, tremendous amounts of hair were falling to the floor, but it wasn’t that shocking drive of the clippers up the back of a hairy head that Bill loved to witness. Nor had copious amount of hair fallen onto the cape and slid down provocatively into eyesight of the poor lad being shorn. Alvaro hadn’t even been subjected to the usual humiliation of head forcefully curved into a prostrate bow by the barber.

Instead, he sat virtually paralyzed in the chair – like a dentist was drilling on his teeth. The cape had slipped off his arm, revealing his hand tightly clenched to the chair. From the front, he still looked to Bill like the pretty boy Alvaro, with his long stylized hair. But in the mirror, Bill saw another persona emerging – a medium taper was developing up the back of his head. Nice and cleancut!

Jim moved to the side and snagged the first heavy lock that flowed over Alvaro’s ear. Lift and buzz. A huge clump of golden hair landed on the cape and slid into Alvaro’s lap. He looked down. Alvaro’s eyes nearly bulged from his head as he saw for himself the first evidence of the dramatic makeover underway.

Bill suppressed a huge smile. How exciting! As Jim moved the comb and clippers up the side of Alvaro’s head, more and more hair covered the cape. The ear was clearly exposed. Yes, Jim was whittling down the abundant mane into a crisp, medium taper. Lift and buzz, lift and buzz. Then the barber moved to the other side and pruned back the huge left wing in a similar manner.

Only the forelock hung down in a luxuriant growth, covering the lad’s green eyes. But, not for long. The barber exchanged the clippers for a pair of shears. He combed the forelock straight down, momentarily covering Alvaro’s huge green eyes. Then, Jim quickly snipped the bangs off to the middle of Alvaro’s forehead. Confused strands, cut loose, swirled around Alvaro’s face while the bulk of the shorn hair added to the heap now covering the cape. Alvaro squirmed nervously and moved his arm around underneath the cape. This caused the blond hair to slide down from the shoulders and collect in a huge mound on his lap. Frustrated, he knocked the whole pile to the floor. Alvaro looked almost unrecognizable in his short-back-and-sides taper.

Jim tidied up the taper with the shears, carefully paring around the ears and establishing a nice block cut at the back.

Then, Jim exchanged the regular scissors for a pair of thinning shears. This excited Bill tremendously. He loved to see a thorough thinning done with the special scissors -- watching a full mane be reduced to the bare minimum. Jim started with the bangs. Vigorously he ran the thinning shears through the truncated locks repeatedly from root to tip, bringing them down to a paltry, thin fragment of their original splendor. Then the barber went all around the sides and back with the thinning shears and comb. Finally he tackled the top, dedicating extra efforts to thinning away the once-dense mane of golden hair. At the end of the thinning session, Alvaro was left with far less hair than Bill had first expected. Jim finished by combing the remaining hair on top a bit to the side. It was about two inches in length, somewhat shorter than Bill’s.

“So, Bill. How does your friend look? Satisfied with this haircut?” asked the barber who assumed the pose of a trophy hunter atop the mounds of shorn hair at his feet. Poor Alvaro cowered silently.

Bill got up and surveyed the haircut. He had not gotten over the disappointment of the lack of direct contact between the clippers and Alvaro’s scalp. Furthermore, Bill was disappointed to see that the back was not really as short as he expected. And, Bill never cared for blocked backs. He was inspired to call for round two with the clippers! Poor Alvaro. Bill was suddenly seized with the moment. No Alvaro would not be getting out of the chair just yet. Bill was determined the clippers would be called back for another round. “Jim, back here, it needs to be tapered closer and higher – all around, actually. None of us guys sport a blocked back either. Alvaro wants to fit in with us.”

“Well, if he wants to fit in with Bret and Chad, then I’d better so ahead and give him an ivy. They were in here this morning – the both of them. Tight ivies are what they asked for -- and got.” He paused, then addressed Alvaro, “So, what about it fellow, should we just make it an ivy for you too?”

Alvaro, still a bit stunned by the whole barbershop experience, looked at Bill. “Should we?”

“It’s your call, buddy. I’ve always been partial to the ivy,” answered Bill, incredulous of Alvaro’s response. The day was going much better than he ever hoped for.

Alvaro reached his hand out from under the cape and felt his hair. He explored the short stubs at the nape and the whispy bangs. “Can I see how it looks so far?”

Jim swirled the chair back to face the mirror. Bill’s stomach was in knots, expecting a bit of a tantrum. Alvaro’s green eyes grew wide as the cleancut look came into site. His abundant lashes were almost as long as the remaining fringe, Bill noticed. Unexpectedly, Alvaro cracked a bit of a smile, a confused, tentative smile. “Well, since I’ve come this far, why not go all the way…? Yes, make it an ivy, whatever that is!” With this decision, the trio broke into broader smiles.

Jim grasped the clippers again, and promptly forced Alvaro’s head forward so that his chin nearly touched his chest. Bill rejoiced secretly over the turn in events. The clippers hummed to life and were driven straight from the nape clear up the back of the head, taking the remaining blond hair down to a quarter inch. The shorn pelt left behind was a darker hue than the fluffy remnants on the cape and floor, almost brown. Gone was the long hair, and gone was the shimmering blond sheen. Jim repeatedly pushed the clippers tightly up the head all over the back and sides and then over most of the top itself.

“Ah, taking it down nice and tight,” Bill commented, approvingly.

“Just the shortest tad of a fringe, that’s how I like my ivies,” the barber announced. The shears sliced off the remaining bangs towards to top of Alvaro’s forehead.

And that was all that remained of Alvaro’s “pretty boy” hair when the haircut finally came to an end – a quarter inch all over with a half-inch bumper! Alvaro appeared somewhere between incredulous and exhilarated that he was now sporting a military-like haircut. Never in a million years did he think, when he agreed to a trim at the barber’s, that he would end up virtually buzzed down to the scalp. And the fuzzy pelt was so much darker than his normal hair!

Before Alvaro could leave the chair, Bill baptized the new hairstyle by administering a “Dutch rub” on Alvaro’s clipped pate. “Hey, you look great! This will be one easy style for you to maintain on the ranch, dude!”

Alvaro smiled sheepishly before responding in a joking-mean tone, “Let me out of this chair! Don’t want any more ideas about going shorter from the barber or from you! The ivy is definitely me! And now, Bill, it’s your turn – and it’s going to be an ivy for you too!.”

“So it is,” commented the barber. He patted the seat vacated by Alvaro. Bill had been so busy taking in Alvaro’s mow down that he forgot about his own encounter with the clippers. He sat down, without a comment.

As Jim fastened the cape snuggly into place, Bill’s elation and Alvaro’s courage inspired him to issue a firm instruction: “Clip me down, Jim – make it an extra, extra-tight ivy!”

Meanwhile, Alvaro stared incredulously at the huge mound of shorn blond hair that covered much of the floor under the middle chair. It was hard to imagine that so much hair had ever adorned his now scalped head.

After wrapping the huge cape around Bill, Jim changed the guard of the Oster-machine and the clippers sprung to life. Bill’s head was pressed forward forcefully and the clippers screamed straight up the back. A fine dusting of eighth-inch hair was all that remained in the wake of the clippers…. In an unexpected move, Jim plowed the clippers through the crown of Bill’s head and forward, finally pushing a massive clump of shorn hair straight down in front of his astonished face and into his caped lap. Bill’s eyes were wide as saucers as he saw the first fruits of his instruction for an extra, extra-tight ivy! He felt an excited queasiness as the barber refocused his attention to the side of Bill’s head.

Alvaro had huddled closer to see the next stage of his silent (yet secretly happy) new friend’s severe mow down!

Jim made short work of transforming Bill’s traditional businessman’s style into a Spartan ivy. The barber seemed to enjoy very much wielding the clippers recklessly through the inches that had accumulated on top of Bill’s head. Any length of hair at all was quickly stripped away and the bangs were reduced to mere suggestions. When the barber was done cutting, Bill looked like he had been inducted into the military that very day!

Both Alvaro and Bill left the shop, light-headed, amazed at their transformations at the hands of Jim and excited about the camaraderie that had developed between them. To himself, Alvaro imagined how the folks back home would react when they say his shorn head and he told them about allowing a small-town barber to tackle his honeyed tresses with an electric hair clipper. The stylist at the posh salon where he was a regular would surely blanche to see him looking so military-like. That is, if he felt the urge to never let his long, stylized hair grow back. Perhaps his relationship with a stylist might be severed forever, Alvaro thought casually to himself.. For the time being, he was a convert to the barbershop scene – especially the feel of the clippers being driven tightly up his nape and scalp.

Bill, also, privately congratulated himself that he had finally taken the plunge and demanded a close clipper cut. He would not soon forget the clippers running across the top of his head or seeing the huge clump of his brown hair fall unceremoniously into his lap.

As they rode back to the ranch that afternoon Bill marveled at the new Alvaro, clad in his old jeans, and minus the thatch of blond locks. “I’m going to have to re-introduce you to the guys, Al!” he said as he rubbed his hand across Alvaro’s velvety pate. “But, compared to me, you’re still a longhair!”

“Yes, that’s right. And I’m jealous of your minimalist look, Bill,” he replied with a twinkle in his eye.

“That settles it, then. Next time we’re in town will have Jim shear us both down to the wood. I’ve always thought an old-fashioned butch was the best cut of all!”

“It’s a deal? When’s our next trip into town. I can’t wait to see Jim again,” said Alvaro with a wink and a pat on Bill’s prickly pelt.

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