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Robert's Risky Business Backfired by Manny
I glanced in the hand mirror one final time to admire my plush mane of lush dark hair that cascaded down liberally past the base of my shirt collar. The tresses shimmered underneath the naked bulbs of the bathroom light over the vanity. I tossed my head a bit to the side to observe for one last time the way my cultivated locks danced about at my command. They'd been my constant companion and source of identity for as long as I could remember.
But I was resigned to the fact that my playboy mane could not endure forever..... In the back of my mind I always knew the day would come when the long hair would become history. The big chop! For starters, I was career oriented and intent on eventually climbing the corporate ladder to the very top. In addition, I knew that as I aged, my hair would thin and gray a bit as had happened to my uncles. Whether it would come off gradually or all at once had been my only question. Secretly, I had always favored the big chop. Watch it fall in torrents and shock everyone with a new image -- cleancut and groomed. Yes, that would be a perfect antidote to the sexy long mane -- a very trim and tidy look. When my imagination would go into overdrive, I would even picture myself sporting something that bordered on military-short!
There had been many times when I'd come very close to shedding my prize. Those hot, windy days when the locks were a total aggravation. As I struggled to keep them under control, I'd hiss to myself, "I've a mind to have the nearest barber take his clippers to you! The old geezer will show the girly hair no mercy -- you'd end up as a nice short taper around the ears, just like what most of the other men at work sport." The thought of it would send a chill down my spine, I'd break out into a sweat and then I knew my tresses were safe for another spell.
Ah yes, work. The only thing that kept me from getting the oft anticipated short-back-and-sides was my desire to buck the trend. That's why I remained a longhair in the office. I liked standing out, and I had the glossy locks to pull off the sexy male model look. Other guys were envious of me. The chicks all were wild about my hair. I liked being the center of attention, and I liked being in control. Which is why I also like to toy around with ordering the big chop!
I had a career goal of making it into the executive suite at my company by the big 3-0 and had just turned 28 when the creation of a new division opened up a chance for me to make it ahead of schedule. I had a solid work history and was well liked. When the name of the committee of three who would select the new executive came out, I knew I had a strong chance. Two of the men were my former bosses who loved my work. The younger one had told me many times as my mentor it was his personal goal to get me a corner office near his at the first opportunity. The older man was enthusiastic about my work but had counseled me (on the side, of course, "as a friend") that I needed to clean-up my image if I wanted to climb the corporate ladder. Of course, I knew what he meant -- my hair needed to be cut short. It couldn't have been my clothing, because I dressed impeccably in the most expensive, conservative suits and nicely pressed shirts, always with French cuffs and exquisite cuff links. I thought that the contrast between the playboy hair and businessman's attire was a nice paradox that represented my complex inner self.
The third man on the committee, Robert Holdred, was an enigma. He was the newest member of the executive team -- an outsider who also bucked the standard mode. He was a forceful man -- young and confident, who dominated meetings. Everyone said he was the future of the company. And, he was the only man on the executive that did not have a standard businessman's haircut. No, his head was shorn -- close to stubble all over. A single, tightly clipped length. The convict-type haircut was very intimidating. And the shorn head was not about covering a thinning pate -- no, his hair was dark and dense and he looked like an ethnic from a rough-and-tumble neighborhood who would box your ears in if you questioned him. He would sit in the meetings and run his hand up the back of his head, across the stubble, in a very aggressive manner. He, like me, enjoyed cultivating a maverick image.
While I knew who else was applying for the position and knew that I was the best qualified, I was worried about the role Robert would play in the committee. He might bully the other two men to select his candidate. The one most likely to fold was old man Gilbertson who might hold my long hair against me. That's why I decided to cut my hair before the big interview.
Yes, after work, I would go for the big chop at a nearby barbershop that many of the men who I worked with used. It was a traditional joint where the barbers wore matching tunics. I'd reheased the instructions multiple times, "I would like a very short, conservative businessman's haircut. Taper it short around the ears and up the back." I half-hoped the barber would use a heavy hand as be took the clippers to me -- that was a scary thought! -- but half-hoped that it wouldn't be cut too short.
This evening the short haircut and tomorrow morning the interview, I thought to myself as I flipped off the bathroom light and grabbed my suitcoat. My big fear was that I would shed my long hair for a chance at the promotion but end up staying in cubicle land. That would really suck!
After lunch, I started feeling butterflies in my stomach about the upcoming haircut. It wasn't going to be as easy as I had thought to simply stride into a barbershop and order the big chop. I found myself pawing at my long locks more persistently than normal throughout the day. I dropped the second line for the script, about the short taper up the back. By 3 p.m., the instruction had been emasculated significantly to, "I need something a bit more conservative for a job interview -- off the collar in back and around the ears. Fairly long on top. No clippers, please." That was conforting, but disappointing. All my life I'd dream of one day shocking everyone with a very short makeover. And I'd always dreamed of having my head forced forward by a stern barber and feeling the clippers at my nape for the first time....watching torrents of my shimmering dark hair falling to the cape. I needed to change the last line from, "No clippers, please," to "I'd like the back tapered with the clippers, please." There was enough ambiguity there to end up with either a very short or a medium taper.
As I was rethinking everything, an IM popped up on my screen from Robert! "Let's chat about tomorrow -- just the two of us. Stop by on your way out....is 6 pm okay?"
Six?! Hell, I was always pulling out of the parking lot at 5:05. And if I waited to 6 pm, the barbershop would probably be closed. But I couldn't say no. Reluctantly, I typed back, "Sure. I'm looking forward to the interview tomorrow." From that time on, I sat in my office with my stomach in knots and my fingers nervously plying their way through my long, silken locks. Well, it was clear that my hair would not get cut tonight. Maybe that was for the best....
I was curious about Robert reaching out to me in advance of the interview and by himself....what did he want to "chat" about?!
A few minutes before 6 my legs felt like jelly as I nervously walked down to Robert's office. The executive wing was pretty dead. I steeled my nerves and reminded myself I was the best candidate for the job. Then I knocked lightly on Robert's semi-open door. "Come!" came a commanding voice. I gingerly pushed the door open and saw Robert at his desk, head buried deep in papers. I got a full view of the stubble that covered the top of his head.. It seemed shorter than normal -- like sand paper -- but it was so dense, no scalp could be seen despite the minimal length. I cleared my throat and stood around awkwardly. He didn't budge. It was a powerplay. He was making me wait, and I was feeling very nervous until he acknowledged my presence and established eye contact.
FInally, he looked up at me -- glared, actually -- and snapped, "Sit."
As my knees crumpled under me, I complied with his command. He cocked his head a bit and stared straight at me. The silence was deadening. It seemed like he was commanding me to start the conversation. Finally, I eeked out, "You wanted to talk....."
He stood, and strode over to me, towering above me. I felt small and insignificant. I hated Robert Holdred! And admired him.... I wanted to learn from him. I wanted him to choose me and make me into a tough executive....one that could knock people around and make them feel as vulnerable as I felt at that moment.
"So, you're a risk taker," he dead-panned. "You had the nerve to write on your resume that you are a risk-taker. What the hell does that mean besides some phony malarky crap?"
"I'm not afraid to go against the grain," I began. The words poured out quickly and powerfully. "I call things the way I see them. I don't buy into orthodoxy. I don't accept common assumptions. I like to re-phrase the question so it makes sense, my kind of sense. I'm not afraid to make the first proposal." As I spoke, I stared Robert straight in the eye. "I don't mind being different."
His face melted a bit and he cracked a slight grin. "That's what I heard from the others on my committee....and what I'm hearing for myself as you speak. You're off to a good start with me...."
My heart felt lifted and I blushed just a tad. Then Robert walked behind the chair I was sitting in and continued, "Not only am I hearing it, but I'm seeing it very clearly, as well..."
As he spoke, I felt his hand grasping a huge shank of my soft hair, at first carressing it lightly and then yanking it firmly so that my head felt trapped. My heart skipped a beat. I panicked. My natural instinct was to try to pull away and break free. But I forced myself to overcome the urge. I made myself sit still and submit to Robert's unorthodox approach to me.
"....all this hair makes your stand out from your peers. The rest with their cookie-cutter haircut.. But not you, Ralph. There thick flowing locks," he purred as he fondled my hair.
I sat speechless, enjoying the attention, but very nervous.
Robert continued. "But old man Gilbertson wants it cut...." he entoned in a blank, flat tone.
Then he yanked it tight, so that it hurt. Without releasing my mane from his grip he squatted down so that his face was inches away from mine. "So you're a risk taker," he repeated provocatively. "I want a risk taker by my side as I take over this company. The old men are going to be swept away with golden handshakes and I want a cadre of Young Turks by my side ready to take their place with just the type of thinking you described yourself as having. Will you sit by my side and be my lieutenant in this bloodless coup?"
Beads or persperation formed on my forehead. "That would be a privilege, a real thrill," I eeked out.
"Good!" he exclaimed. Then with both hands he began to stroke and carress my long hair. "And as I introduce you to the team as our newest executive, you'll be identified with me.....shorn down to stubble, down to the wood....this long mane shed as you leave your cubicle behind and become my loyal, subordinate. And each morning when you see your shorn head in the mirror as you get ready for work, you'll remember your first loyalty is to me -- not to the board of directors, not to the company....but to me! Do you understand?"
My mouth was dry. I wasn't listening to the loyalty talk....my mind was stuck on the fact that he would have me shorn down to the nubs like a silent, submissive lamb. Clipped down tight to sandpaper! I had never dreamed of such a crop for myself. I looked into his eyes and measured the stubble on his head at a 1/16th of an inch. My locks would fall in Niagara-like torrents. The thought excited me. "Yes," I eeked out, "I'll shed it all, every bit of it because that's what you want of me."
Then, without a thought, my hands sprung forward to grasp his shorn head and I rubbed the stubble all over. He squirmed, but I subdued him and made his submit to a Dutch rub. "We will be loyal to each other!"
His face blushed, and he quickly recovered control, "Yes, you are in fact a real risk taker. I wouldn't have dared that last move when I was at your stage of my professional development. I want you!"
"And you'll have me....shorn too, down to the wood just like you!" I affirmed in a clear, commanding voice as if the decision was mine.
As he stood and returned to his desk, my thick, long forelock ran through his possessive fingers. I watched him through a dark veil of hair as he pulled open a drawer. Then he reached for something and commented, "You're a risk taker, and I'm a trail blazer." He held up a huge set of balding clippers and a folded cape. I could see it plain as day, despite the veil of hair. "I want to blaze a trail of stubble straight across the top of your head through that prissy hair of yours and continue on until you've been stripped clean. This will be a real treat. My first recruit."
Robert shook the cape open as he walk toward me. I cowered and my breathing grew heavy as he cast the cape around my neck. My bravado melted away. I felt like captive prey, and I sat still and submissively while he fastened the cloth straightjacket tightly around my neck.
"Such beautiful hair," he murmured as he stroked my locks. "It's been a long time since you've been to the barber. Why the delay?"
"I've just been waiting for the right one...." I said bravely.
Robert released my hair and then reached for the clippers. He brandished them in front of my face. "And now you've found the perfect one to put an end to this luxuriant mane!" He plugged in the clippers. "You're not nervous about walking out of here bald?"
The truth of the matter was that I was petrified! My mouth was dry and my tongue stuck. Robert snapped on the machine and the menacing steel teeth chattered to life. He grasped me by the hair in back and yanked my head so that I stared straight up at him. The clippers came towards the thick forelock -- my crown jewel. "When was the last time a set of these plowed straight down the top of your head?" he sneered.
"I've never had a clippers taken to my hair...." I gasped.
"Like a virgin, shorn for the very first time," he sang softly to the Madonna tune as he brought the machine into my dense locks. The thatch put up a brief resistance before I sensed the vibrating teeth scraping close to the scalp as it move determinedly forward from forehead to crown. My whole body heaved and shivered at the sensation.
I felt that silken locks brush my cheek tenderly as they tumbled down past my frightened eyes. It was their final farewell to me....my lifelong companions being put out to pasture by greedy, abusive Robert. He knew how to take control of a situation and of a person, and I was taking close notes. I'd become his pitbull lieutenant as we drove out the old guard and instilled loyalty to us among the lower ranks. And I would wield the clippers in putting an end to all the fussy businesscuts in the company!
A second drive with the clippers doubled the amount of hair on the cape. My hand reached out from under the suffocating cover and I grasped at the silken strands. They seemed out of place and purposeless on the cape.
Robert laughed cynically as he unveiled my long-concealed ear with the clippers. The vibration near the sensitive ears further unnerved me. "So, now I know why the long hair! Your ears stick out hideously from your head! From a suave, sexy look to pure dork! Ha, ha, ha!!" he sniggered.
My stomach churned. I felt sickened. Was it true? Did my ears protrude?! Robert grabbed me by my chin and forced me to look him in the eyes. "Getting cold feet about this transformation, Buddy?" he said mockingly. Tears welled in my eyes which elicited and even more cutting laugh. He drove the clippers through another remnant of my mane and flicked the shorn lock so that it fell dramatically in front of my stunned face. "As the old saying goes, there's no use crying over cut hair!"
Then he mashed my head forward so that my chin touched my chest. Robert took his punishing clippers to my nape. I was glad for the opportunity to grieve in semi-privacy. Robert was like a maniac stripping away all my cherished hair. Drive after drive with the powerful machine cleared away the mounds of shimmering hair that had flowed past my collar.
Finally the clippers were snapped off. I started to sit up straight but he smacked my head down. "Recruit! Don't get out ahead of me. You are submissive/responsive! Understand?"
"Yes, sir," I mumbled instinctively, as my bewildered eyes gazed down in amazement at the cauldron of cut hair in my lap. Such beautiful, shimmering stuff.....lifeless and limp.
Then Robert wrenched me by the ear and forced me to look up at thim. He let out a hearty, bellowing laugh. "Baldy!" he exclaimed. "You're unrecognizable, Baldy!" He rubbed his hand briskly over my stubble. "Not a macho mean look, like mine, but rather a goofy pathetic look with big ears sticking out. It'll take more than a bit of courage for you to walk out of here with your dignity intact." Then he flicked my ear with his fingers and the stinging pain made me whince. "You'll be in my bootcamp quite a while before you're granted any authority. Do you understand? In meetings, you'll agree with me and visibly show that youf every decision is really mine. You'll be my gopher and my task boy. People might even start rumors and suggest certain things....which will please me to no end! Do you understand? You'll speak about me with total awe and admiration."
"Yes, sir," I mumbled.
He slowly coiled the cord around the clippers and put in back in the drawer. Then he pulled a paddle out, "And don't think disobedient boys won't get spanked! If I hear the slightest thing that makes me suspect you're getting out of line....."
Even in my numbed estate, that statement was shocking. Spankings? A grown man getting spankings?! My face did not conceal the disbelief.
"I suppose that adult ass of your's is a virgin too. Just don't cross me, or you'll feel an intense stinging pain after I've turned you over my knee and paddled the crap out of you. Understand?!" he demanded.
"Yes, sir," I eeked out. I felt totally vulnerable and dependent on his mercy.
Robert unfastened the cape and I watched all the shorn hair fall to my feet. It was amazing the amount that had previously adorned my head but was now quite useless spread around the floor of Robert's office. I touched my shorn scalp for the first time and was nearly overwhelmed by the sensation -- the stimulation of rubbing my hand over the stubble was surprisingly wonderful and alarmingly terrible all at once.
"So you like the way your new look feels, eh Dumbo?" Robert laughed.
"Well, if you've finished, I guess I should be on my way," I murmured, stumbling towards the door. As I neared the threshold of Robert's office, I heard and felt a hideously strong whack on the seat of my pants. I was propelled forward a bit before staggering around to see Robert with paddle in hand and a pleased look on his face. "Where did you think you were going?" He pointed to the floor around the makeshift barber chair. "That all needs to be cleaned up. And since you were the genesis of the mess, it's your duty to clean it up! What's a gopher-boy for anyway?!" he asked.
"Yes, sir," I mumbled. "I'll go out to find a broom or vaccuum right away, if that's okay."
"That's good! You're learning to ask my permission before sauntering off! Be sure to turn out the lights here when you're finished. I'll see you bright and early at your formal interview tomorrow." Then Robert playfully rubbed my head, "We're going to become great pals, I'm sure. And don't you look sweet, sporting this innocent baldy look?! No more sassy, Mr. Sexy look for you! Just a dorky, awkward egghead!"
I stumbled about in a daze looking for a broom and simultanesouly hiding every time I heard someone approaching. No one could see me like this -- bald! I was still trying to digest everything that had happened. I resorted to rubbing my shorn pate frequently to convince myself the longhair was a thing of the past. Sweeping up the mounds of shorn hair was a difficult task -- I vacilated between regret and excitement about becoming Robert Holdred's lieutenant. How often would he take the paddle to my butt, I wondered? A grown man getting spanked! It was almost too much. But, I began feeling that the humiliation was strangely endearing and even comforting to know someone else was in control.
Once the old mane was disposed of, I was on my way home. Fortunately, I was able to creep across the parking lot in the dusk before the lights flashed on, unnoticed. Safely in my apartment I rushed to my bathroom and saw myself for the first time shorn. It was unbelievable! Like a different person altogether, staring at me from the mirror. I rubbed my head and enjoyed watching the scene and sensing the stimulation from the hand moving the stubble against the grain. As my new reality sunk in, I realized that my ears did not stick out at all. In fact, they were quite shapely and perfect. Robert had lied to make me feel more vulnerable under the cape! And the bald look was.....well, stunningly attractive. My head was perfectly shaped and round. The lack of head hair emphasized my thick, well arched brows. I felt like a manly stud! As I gazed in the handmirror at my shorn nape, I reflected back to the last glimpse of the morning when my tresses danced about my shoulders. It was good to be rid of the mop!
I loved the feeling of the shorn head on the pillow. And, I dreamed of more mentoring and molding by the domineering Robert Holdred! I wanted him to yank down my pants and turn me over his knee for some undeserved swats on the rear -- just to put me in my place! One day I would enjoy giving as good as I got from the master.
I woke up feeling very happy that the big chop would be a dramatic event to unveil to all my friends and colleagues at the office. The 30 seconds spent on my shampooing, drying and "styling" was a huge contrast to the labor intensive mane-maintenance. I felt totally invigorated. And, I was right on time crossing the parking lot with dark shades on, heading straight to the executive conference room where my interview was first thing. I would emerge the latest executive.....and Robert's loyal lieutenant. Some flunky would be sent down to retrieve my things from my old cubicle!
I pushed the door open and was surprised to see only two men from the panel waiting to conduct the interview. Robert was no where in sight.
"He's being escorted out of the building now, as we speak, by our security personnel. Mr. Holdred's been fired! The board got wind of some plan of his to sweep away the old guard," explained Mr. Gilberston.
"And so it'll be just the two of you making the decision on the new VP for Innovation?" I asked incredulously with a tinge of hope in my voice.
"That's right," said the old men. Then, the slight smile disappeared from his face. "I'm sorry, Ralph," he said, addressing me. "How I wish you had been more responsive to my mentoring and advice," he continued sadly.
"But I cut my hair!" I stammered.
"Yes, and did you ever! But that baldy cut is not appropriate for the executive board," he said with a disapproving tone. "It's a little too, uh, cutting edge," he said with a slight laugh.
Mr. Ibsen added, "And that shorn convict look reminds us too much of that dreadful Robert Holdred. To think he was going to recruit some young nobodies from cubicle land and sweep us away....."
"In short, you are not our candidate, but your cubicle is awaiting for you, so please get down there as soon as possible if you're intent on keeping your present job," he said. As he accompanied me to the door, Mr. Gilbertson took my arm and softly said, "I'm really sorry about how this turned out. When your hair grows out a bit, why don't you visit a decent barber and ask for a tidy short-back-and-sides? These wild swings in hairstyles are not good for your reputation. I just hope you weren't in on the Holdred attempt. I'd be so disappointed....you were such a promising young man with career promise."
I mumbled somthing incoherent and began the long tortuous walk back to my desk. People emerged from all over to see my shorn head. The women shrieked "How could he have?!" and the fellows called out to me, "What happened, Pretty Boy?" And then, increasingly, I heard people whispering, "Was he part of Holdred's band -- what else could have triggered that baldy cut. He was so vain about his girly hair...."
When I got to my desk, there was a note on it, "Please report to HR -- gather all your personal belongings and bring them with you."
Not only was my hair shorn and dumped into the trashbin, but now my fast-track career and general employment was in the dustpan as well, ready to be dumped.
I would leave the building in disgrace, with my tale between my legs and shorn BALD! My baldy cut was my new badge of shame.