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I Was a Teenage Hairwolf by Mike L
I had managed to avoid getting a haircut for the entire summer, and now it was well into fall. My father was threatening me constantly that if I didn't do something about the "bird's nest" on my head, as he put it, that HE would. But I was 12 years old, and I wanted what I wanted. I had painstakingly grown my hair out until it came to just above my shoulders. Sometimes, on really summer hot days, I'd tie it back into a pony tail. When fall came, I'd hide it inside a baseball cap.
But now it was nearing the end of October, and my 13th birthday was on Tuesday, October 31st -- Halloween. I had been born Halloween morning at exactly 6:04am. Dad had told me a hundred times "If you don't get a decent haircut by the time you're a teenager, I swear I'll drag you into the barbershop myself!"
Did he really mean it?
On Halloween morning, I planned to get up early and race out to school before Dad could see me (just in case). I didn't bother to tie my hair back, and to my horror, when I snuck downstairs my father was waiting in the hall. He saw me, my long, bushy hair revealed in full view. I swallowed hard. I began to sweat. I had turned 13, and there was no escape.
I Was A Teenage Hairwolf!
"Look at you!" My father began to yell at me. "A teenager now -- and you look like a girl. Except for that peach fuzz on your chin you look like a girl. Come on, we're going."
"Where?" I answered weakly.
"Barber shop. I warned you."
It was just a 20 minute drive to town, but it felt like 20 years. The morning haze was lifting, and all too soon my father pulled the car up near the barbershop.
" Here's some money for your haircut," Dad told me, and handed me a bill. "The barbershop's right over there."
"You're ... not coming in?" I asked.
"Nope," he shot back.
I walked in the direction of the barbershop, expecting my father to drive off. He didn’t. I turned around to see him watching me cross the pavement. He caught my eye and waved. Still the car didn’t pull away.
As I neared the door of the small barbershop, I saw a man going inside. His two kids followed silently after him. As they filed past me, I held the door. I returned my father’s wave. He gestured for me to go inside, and I was committed. I had to go in.
As I closed the shop door behind me, I watched my father drive away. At least, I thought, at least he won't be watching.
I followed two boys and their father into the barbershop. The boys sat in chairs to wait, and I sat down a few chairs away from them.
"See if you can turn these mop-head boys into men," the father told the lone barber, "I’ll be back in an hour. I've just got a few errands to run."
With that he left. The barber glanced at the three of us, lined up like sacrificial lambs in those chairs. The barber stood expectantly, waiting for someone to climb into his chair. The elder boy nudged his younger brother, who dutifully took up the position. "Whew!" I thought. I had dodged the bullet a few minutes longer.
The barber shrouded the kid with a white pinstripe cape, then reached for a pair of hair clippers. He clutched the clippers firmly with one hand, and grabbed the boy’s head with the other. It took only a couple of minutes for him to strip the boys hair away, leaving only long bangs and a short stubble on the top. The bangs were easily clipped with scissors, then the barber slapped hair gel all over the kid and combed his hair into shiny, neat, perfect little rows.
The barber dismissed him from the chair, and he wandered back to the bench. He sat down, cautiously running his hand over the freshly-cut stubble on the back and sides of his head.
His brother reluctantly rose to his feet.
The shop remained silent as the brother took the chair. He looked about 16, and as he was wrapped in the cape, he looked like he might have burst into tears. His hair was longer and thicker than his brother’s had been, but I wondered ... for how long?
He sat with his head stooped down, staring at the cape covering his knees. I thought I saw him shudder when the clippers were turned on, and there was a definite gulp as when the barber pushed his head down further, and forced the clippers right through the several inches of straight brown hair he was so disappointed to be losing.
The barber moved the clippers over the unfortunate kid's head, creating the same butch style that he’d inflicted upon the younger brother. However, as he came to the top, he seemed to relent a little, and left the hair longer, though admittedly not much longer. The little extra length made all the difference.
He had my sympathy, It must be really humiliating to be treated in such a manner. I was glad my parents had never made me undergo such a crude scalping. I tried to imagine what it would be like to be that lad in the chair.
The brother's whole haircut had lasted only a few minutes. The cape was removed, and the lad got up and resumed his place in the waiting chairs without taking any time to review the damage inflicted by the barber. After all, there was nothing he could do about it now.
The brothers sat patiently, waiting for their father to return, they seemed to be sitting more proudly now, but perhaps that was my imagination. As I rose to my feet, I glanced out into the street, the sun was out in full force now.
My moment had arrived -- all too soon. I started to take the few short strides necessary to reach the chair, but my legs felt weak. I was aware that I was starting to tremble. I flushed red, certain that everyone had noticed, but they didn’t appear to. I nestled on the edge of the chair, while the barber shook out the cape, causing sad tufts of hair to fly around me. I sat deeper into the seat, as he wrapped a white cape around my neck.
I was facing the mirror. I looked at myself wrapped in the cloth. Sitting in the barber's chair. About to get a haircut. The shop was getting hotter. The sun rose higher and higher into the sky. The barber had broken out into a slight sweat, as had I.
"Just a trim please," I told the barber.
I couldn’t resist turning my head back for a moment and grinning at the two brothers. The older lad scowled back, rubbing his prickly scalp.
The barber reached for the scissors, and with a single swipe cut through the rubber band securing my ponytail. My hair dropped down over my shoulders.
I took a moment to glance around the shop. It had seen better days. There was room for half a dozen customers to comfortably sit waiting for a haircut, and only one barber chair. The walls were sparsely decorated with an assortment of pictures of men with neatly coifed hair, and most impressively was the display of clippers, scissors and combs strewn around the sink directly under the wall mirror.
The two lads on the bench still sat perfectly still, perfectly silent. My legs had began to tremble more and more. The anticipation was terrifying. I hadn’t been in a real barber’s chair for years. My hands were clammy, and my brow now heavy with perspiration.
The barber was ready.
He picked up the clippers he’d used so cruelly on the audience now sitting on the bench. A flick of a switch later and they nestled in his palm, humming loudly, the silence was gone. The barber laid his free hand on the top of my head, pushing sticky lengths of hair into my eyes, the salt from the sweat caused a mild sting. A shudder ran down my spine, as my head was forced forward, the back of my head must have been almost horizontal now.
Somehow I knew what the barber was going to do, the split second before the clipper blades struck, chewing through my hair with electric ease. My heart sank, and my pulse raced. I was angry, yet trapped in the viselike clutch of the barber.
Unable to watch in the mirror, my mind conjured up an image of what was happening. The clipper teeth paused, yielding me some hope, but it was soon dashed as they returned to the nape of my neck. I felt that tingling buzz again. I imagined the two boys on the bench laughing to one another. I flushed with embarrassment, and reddened even deeper when I heard the door open.
The barber paused for a moment.
"Wow, excellent haircuts men!" boomed the voice, instantly recognizable as the father of the two lads. "I’ll just pay the barber and we’ll go."
Terrified, I kept my head in the position it had been put -- but curiosity was burning inside me. Unable to stand it any longer, I looked up. Initially I was relieved. I didn’t look any different. Hair still concealed my ears, and nestled on top of my shoulders. I wave of relief washed over me. It was going to turn out all right after all.
But the father was arguing with the barber. "You charged me for three cuts!" he complained.
The barber turned an caught my eye. "You're not with them?" he asked.
I shook my head, and as I did long piles of thick hair, my hair, dropped from behind my neck onto my cape. I stared in horror as my glorious locks of hair came to a rest around me. My face betrayed my feelings as the two lads both rubbed their heads in unison, rising to their feet ready to leave, each looked me over, pulled a look of mock pain and the laughed.
The shop emptied, leaving me and the barber alone.
"Sorry guy, I thought you were one of them," the barber mumbled his apology almost grudging. "I started giving you a crewcut -- now I'll have to finish it."
The grip upon my head returned, and my gaze was forcibly directed to the cape and the sorrowful swathes of hair it held. I found I couldn’t focus upon them, as my eyes began to water. The clippers were running up the back of my head, working ruthlessly toward my left ear.
I grew detached from the incessant whirring hum of the clippers, as my head was firmly maneuvered around their head. The pressure of the barbers head tightened markedly as my head was pushed around, allowing the clippers to be pushed directly behind my ear. When the shearing on the left side of my head was completed to the barber’s satisfaction, he quickly swung the chair around, cheating me of a glimpse of his work in the wall mirror. His hand never lifted from my head. Next, my head was firmly repositioned, exposing my right side to the mercy of the clippers.
Soon the barber seemed content, his grip loosened a little, and I managed to glance up, finding myself facing the shop door. The sun was streaming in through the window, making me drop my gaze once more. At least the clippers had been switched off, leaving the shop in silence.
Scissors came next, as I was allowed to lift my head and sit straight. The sun’s rays forcing me to close my eyes. Furiously the barber snipped above me, I could only imagine what was happening. Suddenly I felt cooler, the barber began applying a cooling spray. Drops ran gently down my neck, a welcome relief from the heat.
The scissors clicked away more slowly now, each cut sounding sharper and crisper. The barber carefully lifted the hair between his fingers, before gently trimming away the excess.
The experience was bewildering. The barber had been rough, but now he displayed the hands of an artist, carefully molding and sculpting a new model. The barber moved in front of me, giving welcome relief from the blinding sunlight. Bending forwards, his face etched with concentration, he combed forward long strands of hair down over my face. The hair was limp and wet, so expended down reaching over my lips.
The barber lifted the scissors to the side of my right eye, and cut a line well above my brow. The first snip appeared achieved little, nor the second, but after the third the barber took his comb and clipped away the curtain covering my eyes. It fell down into my lap. My eyes blurred as I studied the dark strands lying curled before me. The barber took to the left and my bangs were no more.
With his hand he ruffled the hair he’d spared, and to my horror, began cutting it some more, with painstaking care. It was several minutes before he was finally satisfied.
The barber stopped for a moment to wipe his brow, he turned to switch on the ceiling fan directly above the chair, and then turned the chair back to face the mirror.
Initially, my eyes were unable to focus upon my reflection, the sun having done its work, but within seconds I could make out the image of an attractive young man’s head, a head surrounded by thick bunches of deep drown hair, the hair was everywhere. As my brain tried to take in the pictures it was receiving so rapidly the fan began to work up to speed. I felt the cooling blast of air against the back of my head, it was a welcome relief. The cool draft blew the accumulated mass of hair from my shoulders, down into my lap, and then seconds later to the floor.
My hair was all but gone, perhaps an inch of so remained on top, neatly brushed forwards to create a sparse fringe, the sides clippered to almost nothing, my ears prominently on show. I couldn’t imagine what the back would be like.
I took a sharp intake of breath, still unable to assimilate all of the information flowing into my brain. Did I like it? Did it suit me, or did I look a dork? How would I explain this one to my friends? Boy was I in for it.
The barber cranked up the chair higher, and came at me again, with a second set of hair clippers. These were a little smaller than the earlier set, and buzzed with more intensity. Working around me head, with great care, he managed to shear away yet more hair, this time small tiny showers of tiny hairs glistened in the suns rays as they sprayed from the clippers head.
It took forever to satisfy the barber’s perfectionism, which continued further with a straight razor scrapping away at my neck. Finally, it was over. I faced the mirror.
I closed my eyes and imagined myself as I’d been before entering the shop. Quickly I opened my eyes to study my new image. I did this several times, until I was no longer alarmed by the short style, my recollection of my former look was disappearing all ready.
I glanced up at the clock, amazed to see that over 40 minutes had passed since I had first sat down in the chair. This had been one of the longest haircuts of my life, and also the shortest. The barber loosened the cape, and with a small soft brush, briskly flicked away the remaining small hairs. He puffed some talc around my sore neck, and followed it with the brush. Triumphantly he removed the cape, and passed me the paper tissue he’d placed over my collar at the start of the haircut.
Liberated at last, I found that I hadn’t the energy to move. I was emotionally drained. The barber stood patiently by the chair, eventually taking a hand mirror and holding it up allowing me to see the back of my head. The neckline was tapered close to the skin. Instantly I had the urge to run my fingers over the velvet fuzz I now sported. My touch sent an electric shudder racing down my spine, an exciting feeling that recharged my body. I stood up, my eyes never leaving my reflection.
I paid the barber, who said nothing as his filled his till. As I turned to leave, I picked up my baseball cap from the bench, and marveled at the piles of hair all around the barbers chair. Long strands in large clumps. For some reason I found myself stooping down and rescuing a fistful of my cherished ponytail from the waste.
I left the shop feeling lonelier than I had ever felt before. I began to worry about what others would say when they saw me. I knew I would be the source of open ridicule amongst the local kids, teasing that would be easier to take had I planned such an obvious haircut in advance.
Suddenly struck with a loss of confidence, I took the hair I was holding and carefully tied it with a band to the back of my cap. Now anyone seeing me would assume I still had my ponytail. It wasn’t an ideal solution I knew, but would buy me a little time.
I spent much of the rest of the day wandering around town, alone. The heat of the day was more bearable without the mop I had woken up with. Soon, I summoned the courage to remove my hat. I was sure that every person I passed was staring at me, but after a while realized that no one had even given me a second glance.
I caught the bus home, and as I neared home, the butterflies returned to my stomach, and the cap, complete with fake ponytail found its way back in place.
I rushed from the stop into the house, mercifully passing no one I knew. I ran upstairs, shouting a curt hello to my mother, who was busying herself with making dinner. Relieved to have made it safely into my room without being noticed, I was momentarily happy.
I felt sticky from the exertion, and decided to take a shower. I threw the cap onto the bed, and went into the shower room, jolting from the shock of my reflection. I turned on the shower, removed my T-shirt, which was covered with prickly hairs. Once in the shower, I panicked as I put my head under the water, the strong jet bounced straight off. I reached up instinctively to run my hands through my hair, and was shocked when my hands found nothing to pull. I continued my routine with shampoo, which seemed a waste of time as my hands massaged my scalp with fury.
Refreshed, I towel dried my hair, more gently now I was growing used to the feel. I stood examining myself in the mirror, stunned to see my hair almost dry once more. I wanted to take a comb through it, but there was little point. I applied some wax, but it made no appreciable impact. This haircut was here to stay.
I stayed in my room until I was called for dinner. As my mother called me down, I realized that I had eaten nothing since breakfast, I was really hungry. I bounded into the kitchen, the baseball cap and fake ponytail in place. My father studied me carefully, so I deliberately turned to fix a soda from the refrigerator, giving him a clear view of the back of my head. I turned back, to see the dying traces of disappointment on his face.
We ate quietly, my mother questioned my father about his day. Then my father asked "What happened to the haircut?"
"I got it," I replied nonchalantly, filling my mouth with forkful of carrots. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, your ponytail just dropped onto the floor!" he retorted.
I blushed scarlet, as I felt the back of my head with my hand, instantly realizing the game was up. How did I ever expect to keep up such a pretense?
"I think the barber got a little carried away," I announced, pulling my cap off with a flurry, ready for a barrage of laughter.
Surprisingly, nothing came. There was only a proud smile on my father’s face. "That really suits you son. I bet you’re really proud of that. It’s not what I expected, but I am impressed. You look much more grown up."
Mom, echoed his comments, and my awkwardness eased. There was only my friends to endure now, and that could wait until tomorrow. I’d been through enough today.
Next morning, I realized how much time I used to waste with my long hair. Now, just running wet hands over my scalp made my look great. It was cool and refreshing. I looked good, and I was growing in confidence every time I caught my reflection.
I heard the doorbell chime, and my mother answered it. I froze as I heard the voices of my friends, my heart missed a beat as I heard the front door slam shut, and the sound of young legs pounding up the stairs to my room. Horrified, I had no time to think. The door burst open, and I was faced by three longhairs standing openmouthed before me.
The awkwardness of the moment ensued for painful seconds, before Josh, spoke.
"Wow! What did you do?" He approached me with an open palm, and ran his hand over the back of my head. "Wow! That looks awesome! Where did you get it done? What does it feel like?" his question blurted out in a fast torrent, to which I had no time to reply.
John, my best friend reserved his judgment. "I’d never let anyone give me a haircut like that, no way!" he told me. I had expected his comments to hurt, but strangely, they didn’t. I realized that I had stopped regretting the haircut, and was actually starting to like it.
We were interrupted by a car horn beeping furiously outside the front of the house. We all ran down to the front door to see the cause of the disruption. Outside on the drive, was my father standing along side a new red jeep, only a few years old. It was well cared for the paintwork gleaming in the bright sunshine.
My father walked across to me, and taking my hand pressed the keys into my hand. "There you go son, a birthday gift from your mother and I. We were so impressed that you were responsible enough to get a decent haircut, we thought you deserved this! Happy Halloween -- and Happy Birthday.’
A broad smile on my face displayed my gratitude. I climbed into the car, with my friends closely following. A short drive was in order. I took them into town, pointing out the small barbershop where I had gotten my haircut.
In the rear view mirror, I thought I caught John staring at the shop as he ran his hand up the back of his head. My brief career as a "Teenage Hairwolf" was over. Was John's about to come to an end too? Happy Hallowen!